Part one, section 3

Wide Sargasso Sea pages 9 - 12: Antoinette's household ... The darkness of the sky

Synopsis of part one, section 3

Antoinette makes friends with a black girl, Tia. They play together, swim in a pool, light fires and cook. But it is a tense, ambivalent relationship reflecting adult relationships between black and white. They have an argument and call each other names. Tia repeats local black opinion that regards Antoinette as a cockroach, a poverty stricken and outdated white colonialist. Antoinette uses the degrading term nigger by way of reply.

Tia also plays a trick on Antoinette by stealing her frock. Antoinette goes home wearing Tia's shabby dress to find that her mother has visitors. These are new incoming planters who have taken over an abandoned estate nearby. Annette re-enters white society and is happier but her daughter Antoinette remains fearful and isolated.

Commentary on part one, section 3

  • A cockroach is a blackish brown insect, commonly regarded as a pest which infests dirty kitchens.
  • A calabash is the shell of a dried gourd, used as a container for holding liquids and food.
  • The term nigger is an abusive corruption of the word Negro.
  • Fish that had been preserved in salt was food for slaves. Wealthier people ate fresh fish. Like wearing Tia's dress, eating it is another sign of Antoinette's childhood connections to black culture.
  • A glacis is another term for a verandahChain gang
  • Christophine says that the new incoming planters are really no less brutal and exploitative than the old ones. A chain gang is a line of slaves or convicts doing very hard physical work while chained together.
  • Used in Britain in the early nineteenth century as a punishment, the treadmill provided hard labour for convicts and slaves who worked the mill by treading on boards set around a cylinder. The lack of safeguards meant that feet were often mutilated.
  • The first of a sequence of dream sequences features Antoinette walking through a forest.
  • Antoinette walks past the remains of old sugar-making machinery. This reminds us that Coulibri was a sugar estate; these are ruins from the time when it was more prosperous.


Investigating part one, section 3

  • What do you think about Antoinette's attitude towards Tia?
    • How would the relationship be seen from Tia's point of view?
  • What does the episode at the pool tell us about Antoinette's sense of her own identity?
  • Re-read the final paragraphs of this section
    • How does her description of the natural world contribute to our understanding of Antoinette's state of mind?


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