Wide Sargasso Sea: Part Two continued (III)

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Christophine leaves the room and Antoinette asks Rochester if he heard what Amélie was singing. He says he does not always understand what ‘they’ say or sing. She explains that the white cockroach was a reference to her and that she has also heard English women call her ‘white nigger’. These comments leave her wondering who she is and where does she belong. They also make her question why she was born.


He goes out and asks Baptiste to bring him some food. He notices his mournful expression and considers how he was six, or five or even younger, when he learned to hide his feelings. He always accepted that it was necessary to do this.


He walks and thinks how his father, brother, Richard and the girl ‘with her blank smiling face’ ‘all knew’. He gets lost and becomes ‘so certain of danger’ he does not answer at first when he hears someone shout. When he shouts back, Baptiste appears and tells him they have been looking for him for a long time.


Back at home, Antoinette’s door is bolted and he drinks rum and reads a chapter called ‘Obeah’ in one of the books left in his room (in The Glittering Coronet of Isles). There is a quotation from the book that defines a zombie as such: ‘A zombi is a dead person who seems to be alive or a living person who is dead.’ It goes on to say it can also be a spirit of a place, usually malignant, and can be ‘propitiated with sacrifices or offerings of flowers and fruit’.


The narrative switches and Antoinette takes over the narration. She visits Christophine and tells her she thinks ‘he’ hates her as he sleeps in his dressing room now and the servants know. Sometimes he does not speak to her for hours and she cannot endure it. She asks what she should do.


Christophine tells her to pack up and go and Antoinette says she will not do this as everyone will laugh at her. Christophine says they will laugh at him not her, but she resists still and Christophine asks why she has asked her advice if she does not want the truth. She tells her again to leave him, because if a man treats her badly she should pick up her skirts and leave.


Antoinette doubts this and says she is not rich now either as everything belongs to him because of English law. Christophine asks sharply what she means and goes on to blame the ‘Mason boy’ for fixing it. She advises Antoinette to tell her husband she is feeling sick and wants to visit a cousin on Martinique and to ask him for money. She should stay away and ask for more. He will give again and finally come after her and want her back when he sees her fat and happy. She reiterates that she should leave that house.


Antoinette says she might go to England instead and will be ‘a different person’ there and different things will happen to her. She thinks of the places she has read about, such as Essex and the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Wolds and the seasons. She knows the house she will be in has red curtains round the bed and has ‘slept there many times before, long ago’ and thinks how she must not think like this. Christophine asks if she thinks there is such a place as England and how she has heard it is cold and that people steal off others.


She doubts her advice and says she knows that Christophine knows what she wants. Christophine says she cannot make him love her and laughs loudly when Antoinette says she can make people love, hate or die. She calls obeah a fairy story (tim-tim) and this is not for white people to meddle with anyway. Antoinette asks again and Christophine says even if she can make him come to her bed, he will hate Antoinette afterwards.


Antoinette says he hates her now and calls her Bertha as he has found out that Antoinette was her mother’s name. She insists if she goes away she will cause a scandal and he hates scandals and would force her back.


Christophine says he keeps away from her as he does not know who to believe and she also knows Aunt Cora is too old to help now and has turned her face to the wall. Aunt Cora had wanted Richard to ensure a lawyer’s settlement for Antoinette on marriage and not hand everything over to her husband. Richard thought she was lucky to get him and Antoinette heard all of this. Her aunt literally turned her face to the wall and was too ill to come the wedding. She gave Antoinette two valuable rings and told her to hide them from her husband.


Analysis – Part Two continued

It is explained in this section how Antoinette is now under the care of her husband as the law means her wealth is his. The racist patriarchal ideology that Rochester has revealed in his narration is seen to be supported by law. As a wife without a safeguard in place, Antoinette has become the child he considers her to be. The law entails that the husband assumes all control and her wealth is no longer her own. She has become one more possession, or object, and through Christophine’s observations similarities may be observed between slavery and marriage.


Antoinette has come to Christophine for help as obeah offers one of the few means to gain parity with Rochester. As she explains, he has turned away from and she is now desperate to secure what she thinks is his love for her. The dominant ideology offers her no recourse, such as the law, and it is only through Christophine that she believes she can bring Rochester back to her.


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