Part one, section 2

Wide Sargasso Sea pages 6 - 9: The Doctor's visit … Antoinette's distancing from her mother

Synopsis of part one, section 2

Antoinette's mother is beautiful but distant and very preoccupied with Antoinette's brother, who, due to a congenital condition, is not developing properly. Antoinette spends a good deal of time alone, in the wild garden or with Christophine, her black nurse.

Commentary on part one, section 2

  • The garden is compared to the Garden of Eden which contained the Tree of Life. Early explorers of the New World often used this analogy to describe what they found.
  • The tropical tree fern has a woody trunk and can grow as tall as a tree.
  • Patois is the term for a local dialect or language. (See: Social / political context > Creole identity and language)
  • Christophine, as a Martinique woman, speaks a variety of Creole patois related to French which Antoinette found hard to comprehend. These references show us the differences between the islands in terms of their history and culture. They also show Antoinette's separation from her nurse's culture too.
  • Adieu means farewell in French / à dieu means that people are committed into the hands of God.
  • The ‘giving' of Christophine as a wedding gift to Annette illustrates how slaves could be given or traded according to the whim of their owner. She is now free after the Emancipation Act.
  • Antoinette's mother makes a distinction between:
    • White Creole planters whose families have a long history in the islands
    • The new English colonists coming recently to exploit the post-Emancipation situation and the economic decline of Creole estates. (See: Social / political context)
  • Curs is a pejorative term for dogs. The proverb ‘let sleeping dogs lie' refers to not stirring things up if you don't have to.

Investigating part one, section 2

  • Consider the paragraph in which Antoinette describes their garden
    • Make a list of the descriptive words used
    • How do the descriptive words used develop your understanding of the place and its significance for Antoinette?
    • What is the relevance of the biblical reference?
  • Note down the songs that Christophine sings to Antoinette. How do they contribute to your understanding of the child's situation?
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