Wide Sargasso Sea-isolation - Mrs

Alienation and Isolation
‘They say when trouble come close ranks, and so
the white people did. But we were not in their
ranks.” (Opening line.)
She does not fit into her community or her
She has been kept from the land she grew up on
and understands.
Her husband is an ‘alien’ whom she finds it
difficult to understand.
Ultimately the motivation behind the Cosway’s
isolation is racially based. As the opening line
reveals, the family was excluded because they
were not white or at least the right type of
BUT they are also not black and the ex-slaves of
Jamaica despise all whites- although even they
know the difference between the English and the
Creoles. They also understand class/social
 “Old time white people nothing but white nigger
now, and black nigger better than white nigger.”
 For
Antoinette this has huge implications- her
family is not the right white and does not
have the money or poor to inspire respect in
the black community.
 Not
even friendship can transcend these
boundaries. As trouble erupts Tia turns her
back on Antoinette.
 The
parent-child relationship. Annette
rejects Antoinette on multiple occasions
preferring to shower her younger child,
Pierre with care and affection.
 Ultimately
Antoinette accepts her mother’s
rejection and becomes ‘wild’.
 The
marriage between this couple seems a
strange one- it is obviously arranged as
neither party has had any say in the matter.
Both Antoinette and Rochester seem to be
their parents’ cast-away child traded by their
 They
begin their marriage as strangers.
 Information is deliberately withheld.
 They lack any understanding of one another.
 They come from completely different worlds.
 Betrayal as a means of escape?
 Antoinette
is connected to the land- it is
something she understands.
 To Rochester the land is too much. He
associates the land with his illness,
irrationality and the trap he has fallen victim
to.- Rochester is an alien here.
 To Antoinette England is a foreign concept
which she cannot picture.
 For
the transformation from Antoinette to
Bertha to be complete Antoinette must
ultimately loose her identity:
 She must rely upon first her step-brother and
then Rochester for money.
 She is renamed ‘Bertha’.
 Her rooms are stripped of mirrors so that she
cannot reassure herself visually of who she
 Antoinette’s
loss of identity leads to her
 Ultimately where does this leave Antoinette?
 So
- Burning down Thornfield Hall and taking her own life.
what is Rhys’ message?
- We need each other.
 Jean
Rhys wrote other stories… BUT… many
were about this character- the name and
only minor details change (although each is
about a different stage of her life). Each is
about a drifting, unhappy, unstable woman.
Wide Sargasso Sea is the final account and is
said to be the most successful- some say it is
her only real novel as the others were far
less successful and seem to be drafts of this
 What is so fascinating about this character?
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