Part two, section 13

Wide Sargasso Sea pages 77 - 80: A tablecloth ... Rochester rides away

Synopsis of part two, section 13

Rochester visits Daniel Cosway and learns his bitter version of the family history. As an illegitimate mixed race son of old Cosway he is alert to the hypocrisy of the planter class. However, he is also very envious of Alexander, his mixed race half-brother, whom he feels was old Cosway's favourite. So, he is prepared to tell Rochester things that others seem to be keeping from him. He intimates that Sandi and Antoinette have been lovers and says that Christophine has been in jail in Jamaica for practising obeah. He wants £500 to keep quiet about Antoinette and in his parting remarks plays on Rochester racial anxieties by reminding him that Antoinette is a relative.

Commentary on part two, section 13

  • Daniel Cosway's speech is punctuated with biblical echoes such as tears and lamentations (found in Jeremiah 9:18 Ezekiel 2:10), a result of his education and his former life as a Baptist preacher.
  • Part of a famous biblical teaching, God's words, ‘Vengeance is mine' teach humans that they should not take revenge into their own hands but rely on the justice of God (Romans 12:17-21).Jacob and Esau
  • In the Old Testament story Isaac and Rebecca have two sons. Daniel identifies himself with Esau, the elder, who is cheated out of his inheritance by his younger twin brother, Jacob. See: Big ideas > Inheritance and heirs
  • The crest which commemorates old Cosway is similar to a plaque about Jean Rhys' great-grandfather.
  • Because Daniel sees the sins of Old Cosway being passed down to his children, he invoked Jesus' warning to those who harmed children (Matthew 18:6) that it would be better if they had a stone tied round their neck.
  • Old Cosway deals with his slaves as if he was trading farm animals.
  • Daniel's allusion to bitterness comes from the Bible. Proverbs 14:10
  • Daniel uses the pejorative term for negro because he sees himself as racially superior since he has a white Creole father
  • Daniel reminds Old Cosway that he is his son. However, in law, illegitimate mixed race children had no rights to any of their father's property.
  • Like many planters, Cosway coerced so many of his female slaves to have sex with him that he could not recall who they were.
  • Daniel considers Annette as sly, cunning or two-faced.
  • Social superiority - and thus respectability – was in part determined by how light-skinned someone was.

Investigating part two, section 13

  • What does Rochester learn during this visit that he doesn't know already?
  • How do we learn Daniel's story?
    • A clue; look at the use of letters and extended dialogue.
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