Wide Sargasso Sea Contents
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Literary context of Wide Sargasso Sea
- Part one: Antoinette's first narrative
- Part two: Rochester's narrative
- Part two: Antoinette's narrative
- Part two: Rochester's narrative resumes
- Part three: Grace Poole's narrative
- Part three: Antoinette's narrative
Part two, section 1
Wide Sargasso Sea pages 39 - 42: Everything completed ... The soothing calls of women
Synopsis of part two, section 1
Part two of the novel is told by Antoinette's unnamed husband. If we know about Jane Eyre, then we give him a name, Rochester. Jean Rhys does not do this; right through the story he has no name.
In this first section readers are dropped straight into Rochester's impressions of the place where he will spend his honeymoon. This is not Jamaica, but one of the Windward Islands, unnamed but resembling Dominica. In this first person narration, of course, we see this island and its people through his eyes only.
Rochester finds the place sad and alien, however, he seems to be suffering from a combination of culture shock and the after-effects of fever. He is also wondering if he has done the right thing in marrying Antoinette. There are intimations in fragments of an unwritten letter that he has a difficult relationship with his father in England.
Commentary on part two, section 1
- Rochester recalls, rather ironically, the words of the Anglican marriage service: ‘For better, for worse, For richer, for poorer…' Liturgy The solemnisation of matrimony:The declarations
- The mango tree has large, sweet tasting yellow-green fruit.
- Someone of mixed Anglo-European and African descent was described as half-caste.
- Massacre is a village north of Roseau on Dominica. The place name is another that hints at a buried history. The massacre the name records concerns the killing of a group of Caribs in 1674 or 5.
More on the Carib massacre: Among them was the illegitimate mixed race son of Sir Thomas Warner, the Governor of St Kitts. His name was ‘Indian' Warner, a reference to the ethnic origin of his mother, a Carib woman. His killer was suspected to be Colonel Philip Warner, his half-brother. ‘Indian' Warner chose to live as a Carib and often acted as an intermediary between them and the English.
Judith Raiskin, in her edition of Wide Sargasso Sea writes that ‘the reference is significant because “Indian Warner” represents in Caribbean history and mythology a position between two cultures, a space of alienation and possibility'. This history, hidden from Rochester, connects to the theme of racial identity that threads the novel as a whole.
- The Windward Islands are a group of islands in the Lesser Antilles. They include Dominica, Martinique, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.
- The estate mentioned is Granbois, Annette's family estate. Jean Rhys' father bought an estate, Amalia, high up in the mountains of Dominica, like this one. Jean Rhys wrote later that she tried to instil her own love for her birthplace into her description, although she shifted the location of the honeymoon to Dominica.
- A lady's riding habit was usually a suit of a dark colour with a skirt made especially for riding side-saddle.
- A tricorne hat has a three cornered brim. This was a fashionable style in the eighteenth century and it seems to have been retained in the islands into the 1830s.
- Rochester is becoming suspicious that Antoinette may be of mixed race rather than a purely English creole.
- Rochester's superior English attitude to the place and its people is encapsulated in his assessment that the patois spoken is degraded. He realises that the language Antoinette and Caroline speak together is not European French. However, his negative description does not recognise that it is the language of the island and as such reflects its history and experience of colonisation. It is significant that Antoinette, as a Creole herself, is able to speak it. The French legacy in Dominique is also shown in the French names given to some of the servants including Amélie and Emile.
- The blue cloth is used to make a pad for the top of Emile's head so that heavy loads can be carried. African people carry loads in the same way.
- The mention of a cock crowing is a biblical reference which raises the idea of betrayal. It refers to an episode in the New Testament when, before the Crucifixion, Peter, one of the disciples, denied three times that he knew Jesus Christ. Luke 22:60-61
- The French phrase bon sirop translates literally as ‘good syrup'. It probably advertises a nice, sweet drink.
Investigating part two, section 1
Make notes on Rochester's attitudes in this section to:
- The place and its people.
- Make a list of words / phrases which suggest the marriage has not started well.
The minister says to the congregation
First, I am required to ask anyone present who knows a reason why these persons may not lawfully marry, to declare it now.
The minister says to the couple
The vows you are about to take are to be made in the presence of God, who is judge of all and knows all the secrets of our hearts;
therefore if either of you knows a reason why you may not lawfully marry, you must declare it now.
The minister says to the bridegroom,
N, will you take N to be your wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?
He answers, I will.
The minister says to the bride ,
N, will you take N to be your husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?
She answers, I will.
Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
And also, speaking unto the persons that shall be married, he shall say,
I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgement when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God's Word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their Matrimony lawful.
Then shall the Curate say unto the Man,
[Name] Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?
The Man shall answer, I will.
Then shall the Priest say unto the Woman,
[Name] wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?
The Woman shall answer, I will.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
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