Wide Sargasso Sea: Part Two continued (IV)

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Christophine tells her she will have to do battle herself and tell her husband ‘calm and cool’ about her mother and Coulibri. She is not to cry or make ‘crazy faces’ but speak calmly. Antoinette says she has tried this and thinks it is too late for the truth. Christophine says if she will talk to him first she will do what she has asked her.


Antoinette sees chicken feathers inside Christophine’s home and Christophine notices she looks frightened. She also says to not pay her and is doing this ‘foolishness’ only because she has begged her. She tells her what to do but this is not revealed in the narrative. Before she leaves, Antoinette hears a cock crow and thinks that the sound denotes betrayal and asks herself who the traitor is.


The first-person narration switches back to Rochester. Baptiste tells him the mistress has been paying a visit and will come back tonight or tomorrow. In the afternoon, Amélie brings him a second letter from Daniel and he is asking why he has not answered him. Rochester asks for Amélie to come to him and says to tell Daniel that his letters annoy him and if he gives her another one he wants her to give it back to him.


She says he should go and see him as Daniel is ‘a bad man’ and will come and make trouble for him if not. She also says he has a brother, Alexander, who is very wealthy and she once heard Miss Antoinette and his son, Sandi, married but knows this is ‘all foolishness’. In a low voice, she says she is sorry for him. He asks what she said and she says “‘I don’t say nothing, master’”


The narrative shifts to Rochester’s visit to Daniel. Daniel describes his father as buying and selling people and as having a heart of stone. He tells him how at the age of 16 he walked to Coulibri to see his father. It took him five or six hours to get there and although he received him his father said how he pesters him for money. Daniel says he said this as sometimes he asked for help to buy shoes ‘and such’. He told him he had his rights and his father laughed in his face and called him “‘what’s-your-name’”. He also said he could not remember “‘all their names’”. He told him he was Daniel and was not a slave like his mother. He denied being his father and Daniel bawled at him and said how his new wife was too young for him. Cosway threw an inkstand at him and missed, and sent him money but no letter. That was the last time Daniel saw him.


Daniel goes on to talk about Antoinette and says she “‘start with Sandi’” and accuses her of being a liar like her mother. He also says Christophine is an obeah woman. Daniel says he will keep his mouth shut about his wife for £500 and disgust and rage rises in Rochester. Daniel tells him to leave and says he, Rochester, is not the first to kiss Antoinette and that she is not yellow like him (Daniel) but is his sister all the same.


The narrative moves to the house and Antoinette and Rochester. She asks him why he hates her. He says he does not hate her, but is distraught. He thinks this is untrue, though, and is actually calm inside. She asks why he does not come near her and he says he has a reason but does not explain it. Her expression reminds him of Amélie and he wonders if they are related, and thinks it is possible and probable here.


He tells her about the letters from Daniel and that he has seen him. She accuses Daniel of being a liar and of hating all white people. She insists they talk now as she guesses correctly that Daniel has accused her and her mother of being mad and of her brother of being born ‘an idiot’. 


She explains that her mother was poor and alone for five years after the death of Antoinette’s father. She says things changed when her mother saw her in Tia’s dress and planned to alter their lives. For this, Antoinette blames herself. She says how their house was destroyed and he wonders how true this story is. She explains further that she was ill after the fire and after the stone was thrown at her. Pierre died and her mother hated Mr Mason. She thinks she tried to kill him and he bought her a house and hired a ‘coloured’ man and woman to look after her. She describes visiting her and seeing her drinking and talking, and saw the man kiss her.


She tells Rochester how she has tried to make him understand and laughs. He tells her to not laugh like that and calls her Bertha. She says this is not her name and asks why he calls her this. He says he likes the name and thinks of her as Bertha. She says it does not matter. He asks where she has been and she says to see Christophine. She answers his questions and says Christophine told her to leave him and he agrees.


He goes into her room with her and notices white powder on the floor. Candles are lit and he thinks the light changes her and she has never looked so gay or beautiful. He swears he wants to bury his face in her hair before he has a drink. He remembers putting out the candles on the table near the bed and this is all he remembers.


He wakes after dreaming he has been buried alive. Once awake, the feeling of suffocation persists. Her hair is lying across his mouth and he throws it off, but still feels he cannot breathe. He feels cold and sick and in pain and staggers to his dressing room. He looks in the mirror and turns away at once. He thinks he has been poisoned and vomits for what feels like hours. He goes back to her bedroom and thinks coldly that yes she is beautiful.


Analysis – Part Two continued

Rochester’s re-naming of Antoinette, to Bertha, demonstrates the control he assumes to have over her. There is a strong element of power invested in this act and is akin to the power Adam was given in naming the animals. By re-naming her, it is demonstrated once more how Antoinette is subject to his will.


She does, however, have the ability to attract him if only occasionally and he regards this loss of control with some fear and anger. When he wakes up next to her, he feels suffocated and thinks only coldly that yes she is beautiful. For a rational man who takes pride in his logic and cool demeanour, he is quick to presume his loss of control must be caused by obeah, poison or some other foreign body. His refusal to take responsibility is characteristic of him both in this novel and in Jane Eyre.

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