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The Representation of Rochester's Character in Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea comes to a tragic end exactly where the protagonist, Antoinette, is left as a mad lady in an attic. Rochester asks “Have all lovely items sad destinies?”(Rhys 51). It is clear that Antoinette is a beautiful issue with a sad destiny, and that Rochester can't do something to handle it. The situations of the scenario and each of their backgrounds is what causes their tragedy. Rochester is not a tyrant who ruthlessly seeks out to destroy her, but a victim with his own dilemmas who tries to make his way in the globe. Rochester is often observed as untrusting and selfish, but he is justified in numerous techniques. He is hopeful in his scenario, he tries to reside up to the English standard, and he is given no other choice but to try to really like a madwoman.



Though Rochester speaks to Christophine and calls Jamaica an “abominable place”, that is simply because Jamaica is a reflection of the demented mind of Antoinette. She appears typical to start with, but as she progresses further into a state of insanity, Jamaica becomes a lot more menacing. When Rochester and Antoinette first arrive to their honeymoon residence, Rochester smiles at a small boy and the boy starts to cry. The town is referred to as “massacre” which currently has a connotation of death. The man referred to as The Young Bull tells Rochester “This a quite wild location-not civilized. Why you come right here?”(38). Jamaica is unwelcoming towards Rochester, and the hostility of the nation does not come from his imagination.

Even right after becoming thrust into a shocking new culture, Rochester manages to open his eyes to the beauty of Jamaica. Whilst he is walking via the village and observing the activity of the town, he says “I felt peaceful”(39). He describes the sea as serene, and when Antoinette asks him to taste the mountain water he says “it was cold, pure and sweet, a stunning colour against the thick green leaf”(40). In his letter to his father he mentions that it is quite stunning there. “Standing on the veranda I breathed the sweetness of the air. Cloves I could smell and cinnamon, roses and orange blossom. And an intoxicating freshness as if all this had never been breathed before” (41). He does not criticize everything about Jamaica, and he stops to acknowledge and admire beauty in the strange location he has been placed in. He tries to discover some reassurance in his predicament.

The foreignness of Jamaica adds distrust to Rochester’s wide range of emotions because he does not know precisely how to deal with himself. “Not night or darkness as I know it but night with blazing stars, and alien moon- night full of strange noises” (53). This passage describes how Rochester perceives the island and how it is not what he is used to. Clara Thomas writes that “Antoinette’s familiar therapy of Christophine and Antoinette’s whims, which to Rochester are so exotic and therefore troubling, bring distrust and suspicion into their idyll” (344). When the atmosphere is so new, a single is not going to really feel comfy and at ease. He does not realize the customs of the nation, and even the natural order of the moon and the stars appears strange to him. Clara Thomas writes, “There is the constant menace of the strange exotic land, the folks he distrusts, and something secret that he cannot fathom in Antoinette” (344). Following getting place into such a bizarre village, surrounded by its mysterious inhabitants, of course he would have doubts and suspicions because the island and his wife are keeping secrets from him.

A lot of Rochester’s removed feelings towards Jamaica are reinforced by his loyalty to England. Rochester finds his identity in England, and becoming taken out from his homeland impacts him deeply. “The two girls stood in the doorway of the hut gesticulating, speaking not English but the debased French patois they use in this island. The rain began to drip down the back of my neck adding to my feeling of discomfort and melancholy” (Rhys 37). Rochester is really distant with Antoinette and that is since they come from distinct cultures. Silvia Capello writes, “Antoinette’s husband is not depicted as a demonic tyrant but as a victim himself belonging to a patriarchal society, a victim of prejudices, incapable of understanding and acknowledging the ties linking his wife with the black culture and community, as a result unable to appreciate and understand the complicated personality of Antoinette” (51). It is all a huge cultural misunderstanding. Robert Kendrik writes that “Because Antoinette cannot fulfill the function of a appropriate English wife, that truth reflects on Rochester’s part as a appropriate English husband. She is neither English nor a correctly Anglicized Creole, and the possibility of madness and alcoholism in her family members additional distances her from Edward’s imagined normal”(235). Getting in an alien planet, Rochester desires to preserve a grasp on his identity. Laura Ciolkowski writes that “His identity is left uncertain by the English laws of primogeniture that leave the younger son with nothing to inherit. Only the English tastes and aversions that shape it continue to remind him of his cultural heritage and the colonial power to which it is linked. He defines himself by English tastes to help safe his identity” (348).

Rochester is not in the wrong by getting unable to conform to the techniques of Jamaica, because none of the islanders can even comprehend the English culture. Antoinette and Christophine go so far as to mock the English culture, when they can't even recognize what it is like. Rochester attempts to compare the red earth in Jamaica to the earth in England and Antoinette mocks him. “Oh England, England, she named back mockingly, and the sound went on and on like a warning I did not select to hear” (Rhys 40). When Christophine is serving coffee to him, she says “Not horse piss like the English madams drink, I know them. Drink, drink their yellow horse piss, talk, talk, their lying talk” (50). It is interesting how she says that she knows them when she truly does not at all. On page 69 she contradicts herself by saying “I do not say I don’t believe, I say I do not know, I know what I see with my personal eyes and I never ever see it”. The women ridicule Rochester for his English heritage. The two very distinct cultures are unable to recognize every single other. This confusion, and not Rochester’s actions, is what causes the dysfunction between Rochester and Antoinette.

Rochester is a victim of his circumstance. He entered into the predicament not because he wanted to drastically change his life, but since he had no other choice. As the second-born son to his father, Rochester was left with no inheritance and agreed to marry Antoinette so that he would be in a position to survive financially. Clara Thomas writes, “He has been duped by Mr. Mason, married to a girl who maybe has a taint of colour and maybe madness in her blood. He also has to deal with his personal self-contempt, the recognition, that following his father’s instructions, he married for money–he was bought”(343).The act of marrying Antoinette for financial gain was in fact selfless in a way. He is trying to please his father. In the letter to his father he writes, “I will never be a disgrace to you or to my dear brother, the son you really like. No begging letters, no imply requests. None of the furtive shabby maneuvers of a younger son” (Rhys 39). In yet another letter he writes, “All is well and has gone according to your plans and wishes” (43). Notice he does not consist of the word “my” or the word “our”. He tries desperately to uncover legitimacy and acceptance in his father’s eyes, and in undertaking so he puts aside his plans and wishes in order to avoid becoming a disgrace to the family members name with no indicates of support. Rochester simply has to make decisions according to his birthright.

The way that Antoinette treats Rochester is a signal to the fact that she is undeniably going insane. Antoinette went crazy prior to she even met Rochester. “I never ever wished to live just before I knew you. I constantly thought it would be greater if I died. Such a extended time to wait ahead of it is over” (54). Even even though she is married, in the present tense she says “say die and I will die. You don’t think me? Then attempt try, say die and watch me die”(55). Rochester says, “I watched her die many instances. In my way, not in hers” (55). Rochester reads that “a zombie, is a dead particular person who appears to be alive or a living individual that is dead” (66). Numerous instances Rochester tries to kiss her fervently, touch her face gently, but she provides no response. Rochester watches Antoinette as she sleeps and he notices how inanimate she appears. On page 88 he says “I drew the sheet over gently as if I covered a dead girl”. He describes her as cold in many passages. Antoinette is tough to adore due to the fact she is unresponsive and she is dead on the inside. Whilst Antoinette is walking through the garden at Coulibri she says “The paths have been overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living ones” (4). This foreshadows and symbolizes Antoinette’s planet as she is caught in between the living and the dead (Huebener 19).

There is a lot of truth in Daniel Cosway’s letter to Rochester when he writes “there is madness in that family” (Rhys 58). Antoinette is following in the footsteps of her mother. When Christophine instructs her to leave Rochester, Antoinette replies with, “Go, go exactly where? To some strange place where I shall never ever see him? No, I will not, then absolutely everyone, not only the servants, will laugh at me” (67). Antoinette’s mother was constantly worried about men and women laughing at her. Clara Thomas says “She can't neglect the causes of her mother’s ruin and degradation even though she does not completely realize them. She dreads the exact same fate for herself but at the exact same time, in a doomed way, she expects it” (358). The pattern according to the household history was inevitable, and Rochester is not to be held accountable for the reality that he was assigned a poor bargain.

It is not possible to place the “blame” of the tragedy on a single individual or event, due to the truth that each and every issue contributed to the demise of Antoinette in the end. Rochester is often put to blame, but he was also a victim of a tragedy that they could not foresee. An exciting image tells the story of Antoinette and Rochester. When they are sitting in the dining space, a moth flies into the candle and falls to the floor. Antoinette has been burned all through her life, but for a brief moment she is taken away from her past, she becomes rescued, and she is nevertheless. In the very same way that he examines the soft brilliant colors of the wings, just a page prior to Rochester notices that he can see the red and gold lights in her face. For a moment he can see her beauty, until she is gently disturbed with his handkerchief and she flies away. Antoinette is a fragile zombie, leaning towards death or life at any given moment Rochester is a victim who has attempted to prosper with the circumstances he was provided, but could by no means succeed.



Works Cited

Cappello, Silvia.”Postcolonial discourse in Wide Sargasso Sea: Creole discourse vs. European discourse, periphery vs. center, and marginalized people vs. White Supremacy.” Journal of Caribbean Literatures six.1 (2009): 47-54. Literature Resource Center. Internet. 6 Oct. 2013.

Ciolkowski, Laura E. “Navigating the ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’: colonial history, English fiction, and British empire.” Twentieth Century Literature 43.three (1997): 339-359. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.

Huebener, Paul. “Metaphor and madness as postcolonial sites in novels by Jean Rhys and Tayeb Salih.” Mosaic [Winnipeg] 43.four (2010): 19. Literature Resource Center. Net. six Oct. 2013.

Kendrik, Robert. “Edward Rochester and the margins of masculinity in ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘WideSargasso Sea.’.” Papers on Language & Literature 30.3 (1994): 235. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.

Thomas, Clara. “Mr. Rochester’s 1st Marriage: Wide Sargasso Sea.” Globe Literature Written in English 17.1 (Apr. 1978): 342-357. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 124. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Net. 6 Oct. 2013.
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