Part one, section 11

Wide Sargasso Sea pages 29 - 31: Memories of the classroom ... Aunt Cora's bedspread

Synopsis of part one, section 11

Antoinette's memories of the convent school are of a hot classroom, of embroidering brightly coloured flowers and her name, address and date (1839) in red silk. She learns about Roman Catholic saints, about the appropriate behaviour for a girl of her class and race and makes particular friends – Louise, Hélene and Germaine. She associates a white dress with a French saint and then her thoughts jump to her mother who also liked to dress in white. She has been told to forget her mother and pray for her as if she were dead. Christophine now lives with her son. Mr Mason seldom visits Spanish Town and Aunt Cora returns to England for a while, so Antoinette is alone.

Commentary on part one, section 11

  • Antoinette Cosway has taken the surname of her stepfather, now that her mother has married Mr Mason.
  • The convent is named after Mount Calvary which is the hill on which the crucifixion of Jesus occurred.
  • 1839 is the only date in the novel, placing this section six years after the Emancipation Act and one year after full emancipation. (See:  Social / political context > Slavery, slave resistance and the anti-slavery movement)
  • The term relic refers to the saint's bones revered by the nuns.
  • St Innocenzia is a believer in Jesus Christ, who is referred to as the bridegroom (spouse) of the Church in the last book of the New Testament Revelation 19:7, Revelation 21:2
  • Those revered for having died for their Christian faith are known as holy martyrs
  • When you insult … chosen ones: refers to Jesus' teaching about how his followers will be judged according to their compassion for others, in the parable of the sheep and the goats. Matthew 25:31-46
  • Coiffure is the term used for an elegant hairstyle.
  • Vetiver is an aromatic scent or oil made from a plant.
  • Patchwork is fabric created from small pieces of fabric hand-sewn into a pattern.
  • A (now archaic) term for a bedspread is counterpane.

Investigating part one, section 11

  • Consider the atmosphere and values of the convent school
    • What kind of education is it providing for Antoinette and the others?
  • What kind of refuge does the convent school provide for Antoinette?
  • Examine the use of colour in this section.
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