Part two, section 8

Wide Sargasso Sea pages 39 - 42: An early letter ... Antoinette dresses

Synopsis of part two, section 8

Rochester reads a letter from Daniel Cosway, who says he is Antoinette's illegitimate, mixed race half brother. In the letter, Daniel Cosway tells Rochester not only about the fact that Antoinette's father was a hated slave owner but that there is a strain of madness in the family. He intimates something else but does not specify what. He tells Rochester to confirm the truth of these allegations with Richard Mason and asks him to come and visit him quickly.

The letter simply confirms what Rochester had already suspected. He goes to Antoinette but finds her receiving from the maid, Amèlie, the news that Christophine is leaving. Amèlie, as Daniel Cosway's go-between, knows the content of the letter.

Commentary on part two, section 8

  • The fine, stylised handwriting common in the nineteenth century was known as copperplate
  • Daniel refers to his illegitimacy by a euphemism.
  • Reference to the colonial powers fighting like animals over the West Indies is a reminder of the troubled history of Dominica.
More on the history of Dominica: Even more than most of the other islands in the West Indies, Dominica was fought over for possession by the French and British. Also, because it was mountainous, the Caribs survived in Dominica longer than elsewhere. Britain won the island in 1763 but the French recaptured it in 1778: then it was British in 1783. Finally, the French sold it to the British after burning the capital, Roseau, in 1805.     

  • Daniel sees himself as an obedient Christian shouldering tasks given to him by God.
  • Daniel is capable of reading, writing and doing arithmetic.
  • According to Daniel, lies originate from Anansi, the trickster spider. (See:  Religious / philosophical context > Religion)
  • Someone who has returned from the dead is known as a zombie. (See:  Religious / philosophical context > Religion)
  • Antoinette's unrestrained behaviour reminds the reader that in Jane Eyre she bit people and famously ripped Jane's wedding veil in half.
  • A spunky person is someone who has strength, guts.
  • A plantain is a kind of banana
  • According to Antoinette, black people referred to the original white planters as cockroaches. This final paragraph condenses Antoinette's confusion about her identity.

Investigating part two, section 8

  • Daniel Cosway's letter offers another point of view on Antoinette and her family
    • Make notes on what the letter says
  • Can we trust Cosway's view on Antoinette and her family more than Antoinette's or Rochester's?
  • What is Rochester's immediate reaction to Cosway's letter?
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