Part one, section 12

Wide Sargasso Sea pages 31 - 34: The security of the convent ... The trees become still

Synopsis of part one, section 12

The convent school provides a safe haven for Antoinette for eighteen months. She appreciates its calm order and its environment of alternating spaces of sunlight and cool shade. She learns prayers for the dead and applies them to her mother, although she is not sure of the location of her mother's soul.

Mr Mason visits her, bringing rather worldly presents of jewellery and frocks that she cannot wear while in the convent. She is seventeen, growing up. Mason begins to hint at arrangements for meeting a potential husband. Antoinette's response is dismay and a great sense of loss. However, she hides her feelings from Mason, as she has learnt to do in the past.

Unsettled and afraid, Antoinette experiences her dream for the second time. On this occasion she is in a dark wood, wearing a long white dress. A man is with her, his face full of hatred, and she is weeping.

Commentary on part one, section 12


  • A dormitory is a room in a school or institution used for sleeping.
  • Chemises are long slips or underskirts.
  • A refectory is a room in a school or institution used for eating.
  • Antoinette quotes a phrase from the Hail Mary, a Roman Catholic prayer that alludes to the hour of death.
  • Perpetual light is associated with the depiction of heaven in the Bible. The phrase comes from a prayer for the dead.
  • A figure of Jesus Christ fixed to the cross on which he was crucified is called a crucifix. Small ones can be worn around the neck or waist.
  • A mortal sin was an act considered to be so wicked that, unless repented of and forgiven, it condemned the offender to eternal damnation, causing the death of the soul.
  • The Mother Superior was the nun in charge of the convent.
  • At Mount Calvary convent, the rules for nuns and convents are relaxed and not followed very strictly.
  • The proverb referring to the devil means that there must be some evil in life.

Investigating part one, section 12

  • Antoinette experiences her dream for the second time. Compare this with the first occasion in part one, section 3
    • Can you see any significance in the timing of the dreams?
    • How does the second dream differ from the first?
    • How might the second dream be interpreted?

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