Wide Sargasso Sea

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cover of one version of Wide Sargasso Sea


Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Key Facts

  • Type:Novel
  • Language: English, bits of French patois and Creole dialect.
  • Time and place when written: Mid-1940s to mid-1960s; England.
  • Time of publishment:
    • First version of Part One published in 1964;
    • completed novel published in 1966.
  • Narrators:
    • The novel is split into 3 parts with different narrators.
    • Antoinette in Part One;
    • Her husband for most of Part Two except for a scene narrated by Antoinette (when she visits Christophine);
    • Grace Poole and then Antoinette in Part Three.
  • Tense:
    • In the sections narrated by Antoinette mostly is past tense but sometimes,esp. the end of the first part, shifted to present tense to show her madnesss;
    • Rochester's narration is past tense;
  • Time and places of setting: 1830s in Jamaica; Dominica; England.
  • Protagonists:
    • Antoinette;
    • her husband(Never mentioned as Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre even though regarded as him)
  • Symbols:
    • Birds especially the parrot;
    • forests and trees;
    • the garden...

Main Plots

Divided into 3 parts, the novel tells a story by different narrators.
In the beginning of part one, the narrator Antoinette, also the white daughter of ex-slave owners lives on a plantation in early 19-century Jamaica. Her father lost his fortune due to the the Emancipation Act in 1833. Antoinette's childhood with her widowed mother Annette and handicapped brother Pierre is shadowed by the hostility flares between the white aristocracy and the black servants. Except Cristophine a Martinique servant, other servants are cruel about their employers' misfortune and social disrepute. Antoinette's only companion, Tia turns against her.
Antoinette finds visitors calling on her mother from Spanish Town. Among them is Mr. Mason whom Annette marries rather abruptly. Mr. Mason has had the estate repaired and bought new servants. Racial tension is rising among the freed blacks, who protest and set the house on fire.In the fire, Antoinette is hit by Tia and Pierre is badly hurt.After being ill for weeks, Antoinette finds out Pierre has died and her mother's madness after the traumatic event led to Mr. Mason's abandonment. When Antoinette visits her mother, who when Antoinette approaches, violently flings her away.
Antoinette then enrolls in convent school.When Antoinette is seventeen, Mr. Mason means to present Antoinette into society as a cultivated woman, fit for marriage.
Antoinette's husband mainly narrates Part Two, the longest part. After the wedding, the couple spend their honeymoon at Annette's estate in Dominica. The husband begins to have misgivings about the marriage. The real reason that he has agreed to marry her is because Mr. Mason's son, Richard Mason, offered him £30,000 if he proposed.
When the couple arrives at Granbois, Antoinette's inherited estate, the man feels increasingly uncomfortable around the servants and his strange young wife. Hostility grows between the man and Christophine, Antoinette's old servant with great power. The man is soon fuelled by machinations of Daniel Cosway, old Cosway's illegitimate son. Via letter, Daniel says that the wife comes from a family of derelicts and madness in her blood. Antoinette, sensing that her husband suspects her, asks Christophine for help. That night, the couple argue passionately about Antoinette's past. He find he has been poisoned the next morning and he later sleeps with the servant girl, Amelie. Sitting in the next room, Antoinette hears everything.
The next morning, when Antoinette returns from Christophine's, she seems tally mad. Her husband changes her name to "bertha" without any explanation and she pleads to stop calling her "Bertha". With her precarious mental state, Antoinette then bites her husband's arm, drawing blood. Christophine rails at him for his cruelty. The husband decides to leave Jamaica with Antoinette.
Antoinette basicly narrates Part Three from England, where she is locked away in a garret room in her husband's house and called "Bertha". She draws a knife on her stepbrother, Richard Mason, when he visits her. Then she has a recurring dream about taking the servant's keys and exploring the house's downstairs quarters. In this dream, she lights candles and sets the house ablaze. The novel ends with Antoinette holding a candle and walking downstairs from the attic.

Character List

  • Antoinette

The story's principal character, based on the mad wife "Bertha" from Charlotte Brontë's gothic novel Jane Eyre. As a sensitive and lonely young Creole girl she is brought up with neither her mother's love nor her peers' companionship. In the fire, Antoinette loses her brother and cann't see her mother again. In a convent school Antoinette gradually becomes emotionally fragile. Her arranged marriage doesn't realize her dream of rosy England but exacerbates her mental problem. Eventually her husband brings her to England and locks her in his attic. In the end, Antoinette awakes from a vivid dream and sets out to burn down the house.

  • Annette

Antoinette's young and beautiful mother also the wife first to Alexander Cosway and later to Mr. Mason. She ostracized by white Jamaican women because of her beauty and status as an outsider. Annette shows signs of madness and melancholy in her daughter's earliest recollections. After the fire, Mr. Mason abandons Annette because of her madness. She dies when Antoinette is at the convent school.

  • Antoinette's English husband

A young man from England. Although never named in the novel, he narrates more than a third of the story and is supposed to be Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. As the youngest son of a wealthy Englishman he travels to the West Indies for financial independence. He is pressured into marrying Antoinette for her money. He soon realizes. Eventually, they abandon the Caribbean lifestyle and he has come to abhor his wife. They move back to England, where he locks his deranged wife in an upstairs attic.

  • Christophine

A servant given to Annette as a wedding present by her first husband, Alexander Cosway. Christophine, like her mistress, comes from Martinique and is treated as an outsider by local Jamaicans. A wise and powerful figure, Christophine shows loyalty to both Annette and Antoinette, and she exercises an unspoken authority within the household. Christophine practices a Caribbean black magic, with which she tries to help Antoinette regain her husband's love.

  • Mr. Mason

One of the English visitors who visits Antoinette's mother at Coulibri Estate and marries Annette for being captivated by her beauty. Mr. Mason comes to the West Indies to make money and intends to become even more prosperous by restoring Coulibri. He is confident in his authority to control the blacks. Mr. Mason effectively abandons Annette and her daughter after the fire but he leaves Antoinette lots of dowry.

  • Aunt Cora

The widow of a prosperous slave owner. Aunt Cora lives alone in Spanish Town. Cora nurtures and cares for Antoinette, and eventually enrolls her in a convent school. On her return from England, Cora tries to ensure Antoinette's financial independence by giving her a silk pouch and two rings. Eventually Cora tells her niece that she does not trust Richard.

  • Alexander Cosway

Antoinette's deceased father, also a debased ex-slave owner known for fathering illegitimate children, squandering the family's money, and drinking himself into a stupor. His family lived on Jamaica for several generations as detested plantation owners; according to his bastard child, Daniel, madness ran in their genes. By the time Mr. Cosway died, leaving his second wife and their two children on their own, the Emancipation Act had led to the ruin of his sugar plantation and the end of his fortune.

  • Amelie

A young half-caste servant who accompanies Antoinette and her husband to Granbois. The lovely and cunning Amelie snickers at her newlywed employers with a sort of knowing contempt, using her thinly veiled amusement to unsettle them. When Antoinette slaps Amelie for an impudent comment, Amelie slaps Antoinette back, calling her a "white cockroach" and smiling suggestively at her husband. Later, Amelie feeds and comforts Antoinette's husband, then sleeps with him. When he offers Amelie a gift of money the following morning, she refuses it and announces that she is going to leave Massacre and go to Rio, where she will find rich, generous men.

  • Sandi Cosway

One of Alexander Cosway's bastard children. Sandi helps his half-sister, Antoinette, when she is harassed on her way to school. Although Antoinette would like to call him "Cousin Sandi," Mr. Mason scolds her for acknowledging her black relatives. According to Daniel Cosway, Sandi is "more handsome than any white man" and is well received by polite white society. Daniel also suggests that Sandi and Antoinette were sexually involved as young children. Indeed, Antoinette's fragmented memory of a goodbye kiss with Sandi supports this possibility that the two may have been intimate at some point.

  • Daniel Cosway

Another of Alexander Cosway's bastard chidren. Daniel writes a letter to Rochester that informs him of the madness that runs in Antoinette's family. The half-white, half-black Daniel is a racially split counterpart to the culturally split Antoinette.

  • Richard Mason

Mr. Mason's son by his first marriage. After studying for several years in the Barbados, Richard moves to Spanish Town, where he negotiates Antoinette's marriage arrangements after his father's death. He persuades the nameless English gentleman to marry his stepsister, offering him £30,000 and rights over the girl's inheritance. Later, Richard visits the couple in England and hardly recognizes Antoinette as the madwoman locked in the attic. She flies at him in a delusional rage, cutting him with a secretly obtained knife.

  • Tia

Maillotte's daughter and Antoinette's only childhood friend. At the water pool, Tia betrays Antoinette by taking her pennies and stealing her clothes. Tia's disloyalty manifests the allure and corrupting power of money in the text. Like Mr. Mason and Mr. Rochester, she appears to covet money more than a loving relationship, whether it be a childhood friendship or a marriage.

  • Pierre

Antoinette's mentally and physically disabled younger brother. While not explicitly stated, it is suggested that Pierre's illness is a result of inbreeding and physical decline in the Cosway family. When the house at Coulibri is set on fire, Pierre is trapped in his burning room for some time, and he dies soon after.

  • Mr. Luttrell

One of Annette Cosway's only friends after the death of her husband. Mr. Luttrell lives at Nelson's Rest, the estate that neighbors the Cosway home. Suffering financial hardship in the wake of the Emancipation Act, in sudden desperation he shoots his dog and swims out to sea, never to be seen again. Distant relatives finally reclaim Mr. Luttrell's abandoned estate.

  • Grace Poole

A woman who answers an advertisement placed by Mrs. Eff for a servant to look after the deranged Antoinette. Grace is promised twice as much as the other household servants as long as she keeps her mouth shut and guards Antoinette well. Sharing the same garret space with Antoinette, Grace drinks frequently, often falling asleep with the garret key in plain view of her captor and charge.

Analysis of Major Characters

  • Antoinette

The character of Antoinette derives from Charlotte Brontë's poignant and powerful depiction of a deranged Creole outcast in her gothic novel Jane Eyre. By fleshing out Brontë's one-dimensional madwoman, Rhys enables us to sympathize with the mental and emotional decline of a human being. Antoinette is a far cry from the conventional female heroines of nineteenth- and even twentieth-century novels, who are often more rational and self-restrained (as is Jane Eyre herself). In Antoinette, her restlessness and instability seem to stem, in some part, from her inability to belong to any particular community. As a white Creole, she straddles the European world of her ancestors and the Caribbean culture into which she is born.</br> Her arranged marriage distresses her but her marriage is a mismatch of culture and custom. She and her English husband fail to relate to one another; and her past deeds, specifically her childhood relationship with a half-caste brother, sullies her husband's view of her. An exile within her own family, a "white cockroach" to her disdainful servants, and an oddity in the eyes of her own husband, Antoinette cannot find a peaceful place for herself. Going far beyond the pitying stance taken by Bronte, Rhys humanizes "Bertha's" tragic condition, inviting the reader to explore Antoinette's terror and anguish.

  • Christophine

As a surrogate mother, Christophine introduces Antoinette to the black culture of the Caribbean and instills in her a sensitivity to nature and belief in the practices of obeah. Significantly, it is Christophine's voice that opens the novel, as she explains Annette's exclusion from Spanish Town society; Christophine is the voice of authority, the one who explains the world to Antoinette and explains Antoinette to the readers. With her words gliding from a French patois to a Jamaican dialect and back into English, her command of language corresponds with the power of her words and her ability to invoke magic. She seems omniscient, intimately linked with the natural and tropical world and attuned to animal and human behavior.</br> Christophine, much like Antoinette and her mother, is an outsider. Coming from Martinique, she dresses and speaks differently from the Jamaican blacks. She is a servant, but, unlike the other black servants who live at Coulibri, she remains loyal to the Cosway women when the family's fortunes dwindle—an alliance at which the other servants sneer. Like Antoinette and her mother, Christophine becomes the subject of cruel household gossip, although she still commands some household respect because of her knowledge of magic.</br> A wedding present from the old Mr. Cosway to Annette, Christophine is a commodified woman, but is still fiercely self-willed. She provides a contrast to Annette in that she exercises complete independence from men and implicitly distrusts their motives. When Mr. Rochester arrives at Granbois, he immediately senses Christophine's contempt, and he associates her with all that is perverse and foreign about his new Caribbean home and his indecipherable Creole wife. A threat to Rochester's English privilege and male authority, Christophine calmly monitors his attempts to assert dominance. She instructs Antoinette that "woman must have spunks to live in this wicked world." Christophine adopts an increasingly assertive role in protecting Antoinette when Rochester begins to challenge his wife's sanity. Ultimately, Christophine advises Antoinette to leave her increasingly cruel husband, citing her own independence as an example to emulate. Having had three children by three different fathers, Christophine remains unmarried, saying "I thank my God. I keep my money. I don't give it to no worthless man." Christophine's final confrontation with Rochester establishes her as Antoinette's more lucid spokeswoman.

  • Antoinette's husband

He narrates more than a third of the novel, telling, in his own words, the story of Antoinette's mental downfall. His arrival in Jamaica and his arranged marriage to Antoinette is prefigured in the first part of the novel by the appearance of Mr. Mason, another English aristocrat seeking his fortune through a Creole heiress. However, unlike Mason, Rochester remains nameless throughout the novel, referred to only as "that man" or "my husband." In a novel in which naming is so important, Rochester's anonymity underscores the implied authority of his account. He is the nameless creator and, as a white man, his authority and privilege allow him to confer identity on others. For instance, he decides to rename his wife, calling her "Bertha" in an attempt to distance her from her lunatic mother, whose full name was Antoinette. Later, he takes away Antoinette's voice along with her name, refusing to listen to her side of the story. As he continues to fragment her identity, he creates the new name of "Marionetta," a cruel joke that reflects Antoinette's doll-like pliability. He ultimately refashions Antoinette into a raving madwoman and treats her as a ghost. Having totally rejected his Creole wife and her native customs, Rochester exaggerates his own cool, logical, and distinctly English rationale; he asserts his total English control over the Caribbean landscape and people.</br> His narration in Part Two reveals that he and his estranged wife are actually more similar than dissimilar. Both characters are essentially orphans, abandoned by their family members to fend for themselves. As the youngest son, Rochester legally inherits nothing from his father, who already favors the older child. Antoinette, who was persistently neglected by her mother in favor of her brother, Pierre, receives an inheritance that is tainted, at best. She is left with the burdens of a divided cultural identity, the hatred of the blacks, the contempt of the whites, and the responsibility of a dilapidated estate. Both Rochester and Antoinette struggle for some sense of place and identity, and enter the arranged marriage with apprehension and anxiety. Rhys creates further parallels between her two antagonists in their bouts with fever and their twinned experiences with dreamed or actual forests.

The writer

Her picture with signiture on the left.[1]
  • Brief biography

Jean Rhys was born Ella Gwendoline Rees Williams in the British colony of Dominica in the West Indies on 24 August 1890, the fourth surviving child of her parents. Her father, William Rees Williams, had arrived on the island in 1881 to practise medicine; her mother, Minna Lockhart, was the grand-daughter of James Potter Lockhart, who had bought the Geneva estate on Dominica in 1824 and who had been an important figure in the small white colonial élite on the island. After the emancipation of the slaves (1834) the Geneva estate entered a genteel decline, evocatively recreated in Jean Rhys’s best-known novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, which was only completed and published when she was 76. [2]

  • Jean's fame that Wide Sargasso Sea has brought her

JEAN RHYS was one of the twentieth century's foremost writers, a literary artist who made exquisite use of the raw material of her own often turbulent life to create fiction of memorable resonance and poignancy. Between 1928 and 1939, Rhys published four novels, Quartet, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, Voyage in the Dark, and Good Morning, Midnight, which brought her critical acclaim but not fame. After almost thirty years of obscurity, the successful publication of Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 led to her rediscovery. She died in 1979.

  • Author of books
  1. The Left Bank (1927, short stories)
  2. Postures (1928, novel, aka Quartet)
  3. After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1931, novel)
  4. Voyage in the Dark (1934, novel)
  5. Good Morning, Midnight (1939, novel)
  6. Wide Sargasso Sea (1966, novel)
  7. Tigers Are Better-Looking, with a Selection from the Left Bank (1968, short stories)
  8. Sleep It Off Lady (1976, short stories)
  9. Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography (1979, memoir, posthumous)
  10. Jean Rhys Letters 1931-1966 (1984, letters, posthumous)

The Sargasso Sea

Sea in red:A cover of one version of the novel
The location of the sea[3]
Some sargasso on Sargasso Sea

The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This system of currents forms the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre.

The Sargasso Sea is roughly 700 statute miles wide and 2,000 statute miles long (1,100 km wide and 3,200 km long). It stretches from roughly 70 degrees west to 40 degrees west, and from 25 degrees north to 35 degrees north. Bermuda is near the western fringes of the sea. The Sargasso Sea is the only "sea" without shores.[1] The ocean water in the Sargasso Sea is distinctive for its deep blue color and exceptional clarity, with underwater visibility of up to 200 feet (61 m).[2]

Charles Fort’s own theories are far more rational, plausible, and believable than those of the scientists whom he mocks, Knight suggests, citing Fort’s theory of the Sargasso Sea as an example. The Sargasso Sea encircles the earth, Fort says, and is a cosmic lost and found where all things that become missing are located, occasionally returning to the Earth via tornadoes. According to Fort, it was his theory of the Sargasso Sea that inspired Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity, although, Fort contended, “there wasn’t anything ‘special’ about it.”

The Emancipation Act

The Emancipation Act--Freedom, More or Less

On August 1, 1834, the Emancipation Act came into force, after fifty years of bitter debate in Britain over the morality and profitability of slavery. It did not abolish servitude, but it was the first significant promise of freedom.

This act did not make a difference to the more than half million slaves in Britain's Caribbean colonies, for although the Emancipation Act outlawed slavery in theory, the slaves had to wait another four years for the most elementary liberties.

The government was afraid of liberating half a million slaves without controls, while the planters did not want their estates to collapse, as forced labour would no longer be available.

The Emancipation Act simply transformed the slaves into apprenticed labourers for a further four to six years. The only slaves to be immediately free were those under six years old, while the incubus of slavery persisted for the others. [4]


The Oppression of Slavery and Entrapment

The specter of slavery and entrapment pervades Wide Sargasso Sea. The ex-slaves who worked on the sugar plantations of wealthy Creoles figure prominently in Part One of the novel, which is set in the West Indies in the early nineteenth century. Although the Emancipation Act has freed the slaves by the time of Antoinette’s childhood, compensation has not been granted to the island’s black population, breeding hostility and resentment between servants and their white employers. Annette, Antoinette’s mother, is particularly attuned to the animosity that colors many employer-employee interactions.</br> Enslavement shapes many of the relationships in Rhys’s novel—not just those between blacks and whites. Annette feels helplessly imprisoned at Coulibri Estate after the death of her husband, repeating the word “marooned” over and over again. Likewise, Antoinette is doomed to a form of enslavement in her love for and dependency upon her husband. Women’s childlike dependence on fathers and husbands represents a figurative slavery that is made literal in Antoinette’s ultimate physical captivity.

The Complexity of Racial Identity

Subtleties of race and the intricacies of Jamaica’s social hierarchy play an important role in the development of the novel’s main themes. Whites born in England are distinguished from the white Creoles, descendants of Europeans who have lived in the West Indies for one or more generations. Further complicating the social structure is the population of black ex-slaves who maintain their own kinds of stratification. Christophine, for instance, stands apart from the Jamaican servants because she is originally from the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Furthermore, there is a large mixed-race population, as white slave owners throughout the Caribbean and the Americas were notorious for raping and impregnating female slaves. Sandi and Daniel Cosway, two of Alexander Cosway’s illegitimate children, both occupy this middle ground between black and white society.</br> Interaction between these racial groups is often antagonistic. Antoinette and her mother, however, do not share the purely racist views of other whites on the island. Both women recognize their dependence on the black servants who care for them, feeling a respect that often borders on fear and resentment. In this manner, power structures based on race always appear to be on the brink of reversal.</br>

The Link Between Womanhood, Enslavement, and Madness

Womanhood intertwines with issues of enslavement and madness in Rhys’s novel. Ideals of proper feminine deportment are presented to Antoinette when she is a girl at the convent school. Two of the other Creole girls, Miss Germaine and Helene de Plana, embody the feminine virtues that Antoinette is to learn and emulate: namely, beauty, chastity and mild, even-tempered manners. Mother St. Justine’s praises of the “poised” and “imperturbable” sisters suggest an ideal of womanhood that is at odds with Antoinette’s own hot and fiery nature. Indeed, it is Antoinette’s passion that contributes to her melancholy and implied madness.</br> Rhys also explores her female characters’ legal and financial dependence on the men around them. After the death of her first husband, Antoinette’s mother sees her second marriage as an opportunity to escape from her life at Coulibri and regain status among her peers. For the men in the novel, marriage increases their wealth by granting them access to their wives’ inheritance. In both cases, womanhood is synonymous with a kind of childlike dependence on the nearest man. Indeed, it is this dependence that precipitates the demise of both Antoinette and Annette. Both women marry white Englishmen in the hopes of assuaging their fears as vulnerable outsiders, but the men betray and abandon them.



Madness in Wide Sargasso Sea is intricately linked with images of heat, fire, and female sexuality. Madness is Antoinette’s inheritance: her father was mad, according to his bastard son Daniel, as was her mother, Annette. Antoinette’s upbringing and environment exacerbate her inherited condition, as she feels rejected and displaced, with no one to love her. She becomes paranoid and solitary, prone to vivid dreams and violent outbursts. It is significant that women like Antoinette and her mother are the most susceptible to madness, pushed as they are into childlike servitude and feminine docility. Their madness consigns them to live invisible, shameful lives. The predominance of insanity in the novel forces us to question whose recollections are trustworthy. The fragmented memory of a madwoman like Antoinette opens up the possibility for alternate stories and imagined realities.

Disease and Decline

In the Caribbean portrayed in the novel, an atmosphere of sickness reflects the perverse and unnatural subjugation of blacks by whites and of women by men. Repression explodes into fevers, fits, and madness, so that the body says what the mouth cannot. Both Antoinette and Rochester suffer near-fatal fevers, as if to mark their feelings of persecution and fear of the outside world.</br> Images of disease, rot, and illness also suggest the moral and financial decline of Antoinette’s family. Disease works as a kind of moral retribution, in that the Cosway family, after generations of abuse, inherits a legacy of alcoholism, madness, and deformity (the young boy Pierre is degenerate). Antoinette naïvely believes her family’s cure lies abroad, in England. On the night of the fire, she leans over the crib of her sleeping brother to assure him that, once Mr. Mason takes them to England, he will “be cured, made like other people.” However, England offers no cure, as Antoinette herself further deteriorates when she is there.


Death seemingly hovers over Antoinette’s every moment. One of the first memories she recounts from her childhood is that of her mother’s poisoned horse, lying dead in the heat and swarming with flies. This image creates a mood of sinister anticipation and points to an evil undercurrent haunting Coulibri. The death of the horse also foreshadows the deaths of Pierre, Antoinette’s mother, Aunt Cora, and Mr. Mason, all of which leave Antoinette without a family. So attuned to death’s presence in her childhood tale, Antoinette foreshadows her own violent end.</br> At Coulibri, allusions to zombies and ghosts further contribute to the eerie mood. Christophine’s supernatural tales, drawn from voodoo legends, share Antoinette’s fascination with death. Antoinette incorporates these superstitions, using a stick as a protective talisman and believing that her mother has become a zombie—a body without a soul. It is Antoinette’s faith in an invisible world that accounts for her peculiar preoccupation with death.

Magic and Incantation

In his decision to take Antoinette away from Jamaica, Rochester bitterly thinks to himself, “No more false heavens. No more damned magic.” The Windward Islands, where Granbois is located, are home to the magical, syncretic religions of their black inhabitants. Christophine’s unique powers, which command respect from her peers, derive from her expertise in obeah practices and her knowledge in casting spells. Antoinette incorporates Christophine’s superstitious beliefs, leading her to read signs and symbols in the natural world. On the night of the fire, for instance, Antoinette shrinks in horror when she sees her mother’s parrot burn alive, believing it is bad luck to kill a parrot or watch one die. This knowledge of magic is Antoinette’s one source of power and independence.


Fires recur throughout the novel, representing destruction, damnation, and smoldering passions. In Part One, Antoinette describes the fire that burned down Coulibri Estate and triggered her mother’s collapse into madness. In Part Two, Rochester describes the use of candles at night, paying particular attention to the moths that burn themselves in the flames. These descriptions not only recall the grotesque death of Annette’s bird, but they also mirror Antoinette’s perverse fascination with fire and foreshadow her own tragic end.



Coco, Annette’s pet parrot, enacts Antoinette’s own doom. With his wings clipped by Mr. Mason—notably, an Englishman—the bird is shackled and maimed, mirroring Antoinette’s own flightless dependency. As Antoinette recalls, “[Coco] made an effort to fly down but his clipped wings failed him and he fell screeching. He was all on fire.” This passage presages the apocalyptic dream that ends the novel, including Antoinette’s fiery fall from the attic. As omens and warnings, birds invite Antoinette to invest meaning and significance in the natural world. When she sees a cock crowing alongside Christophine’s house, Antoinette thinks, “That is for betrayal, but who is the traitor?” As with the parrot, the appearance of the cock portends danger.

Forests and Trees

Antoinette’s recurring forest dream introduces a cool, dark, unknown landscape that contrasts sharply with Jamaica’s colorful brightness. A nightmare that is also a premonition, the dream takes place among “tall dark trees” that lead to an enclosed stone garden. Following a sinister and faceless man, Antoinette finds herself in a foreign place that portends her future captivity in England. Another forest omen resides in the name of the honeymoon estate, Granbois, which translates into “great forest.” Like Antoinette’s dream, this name foretells her move to the cold forests of England. It is here at Granbois that her husband loses himself in the woods, stumbling upon the haunting ruins of a stone house. Rochester’s eerie experience in the forest echoes his wife’s dream; in fact, it provides the second half of her nightmarish prediction. In the forest, he seems to be gazing upon the consequences of his own actions: a ruined house in the woods, a clear image of his English estate that will be burned and abandoned.

The Garden

Antoinette compares the garden at Coulibri Estate to the biblical Garden of Eden, with its luxurious excess and lost innocence. In her own words, the garden has “gone wild,” assaulting the senses with its brilliant colors, pungent odors, and tangling overgrowth. The flowers look vaguely sinister; Antoinette describes one orchid as being “snaky looking,” recalling the biblical fall and man’s decline into greed and sensuality. The decadent Creole lifestyle as portrayed in the novel—predicated upon exploitation, wealth, and ease—finds its natural counterpart in the fallen garden.

Comparison between Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre"

By Charlotte Brontë

Relationship between the two Novels

The concrete evidence that Wide Sargasso Sea is the prequel of Jane Eyre from the novels is Antoinette's new name Bertha by her husband is the same one of Mr. Rochester's lunatic wife in the attic and the last scene of the novel accords the scene in Jane Eyre. Additionally, The character of Antoinette's husband consists with Mr. Rechester.

Some Essays on this Topic

The Imagined Worlds of Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University
The majority of the comparisons of Brontë's novel to that by Rhys concern the ways characters in Wide Sargasso Sea differ from their depictions in Jane Eyre. The differing, if obviously related, characterization of Rhys' Bertha/Antoinette to Brontë's madwoman in the attic has prompted most discussion, but critics also emphasize the modern novelist's rewriting of her predecessor's Rochester and Grace Poole. Readers also compare Antoinette Cosway to Jane Eyre herself.
In contrast, Colette Lindroth compares the essential difference of the imagined worlds in which the action of each novel unfolds. According to Lindroth, although both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea "deal with social injustice and the issues of feminism," they do so in "entirely different" imagined worlds:</br> Clearly, Brontë sees a world in which, however gross the injustice, remedies exist and the individual has value. Good is good, evil is evil in Jane Eyre; Jane's sacrifices, her courage, her passionate espousal of virtue and justice win out in th eend and Jane triumphs. . . . For Rhy's characaters, good and evil and indistinguishable. Behaviour is unmotivated and incomprehensible, humanity mysterious and opaque, misfortune inevitable. Struggle is useless since there is no place like Brontë's English countryside where justice can triumph. Jamaica is a lost Eden was based on social injustice to begin with, and England is a cold "cardboard house where I [Bertha] walk at night." The struggle which gains so much for Jane would be useless here. [89]
One of the chief sources of such difference lies in Brontë's Christian beliefs, which pervade plot and imagery. Furthermore, whereas the author of Jane Eyre believes in a moral universe, Rhys, a disillusioned modern, clearly does not. Another, more ambiguous difference between the worlds of the two novels appears in class attitudes: Whereas both Jane and Brontë accept Victorian England's sharply delineated social hierarchy as natural and inevitable -- modern readers may even find Jane's condescending, dismissive attitude toward servants shocking -- Rhys's views are much less certain.


Poster for movie in 1993
Poster for movie in 2006

The first movie is made in 1993 while the second "movie" in 2006. The latter one is made by BBC and released on DVD. As a sexy adaptation of the novel, the 2006 version cut many plots happened in the first and thrid parts and emphasizes the exotic landscape in Jamaica and the erotic scenes between Antoinette, Amelie and Antoinette's husband.

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