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Wide Sargasso Sea. Jean Rhys  David, Ginger, Emily, Thomas and Yvette. Outline. Introduction Gender and R ace : - Relations Between Characters Anette, Antoinette, Christophine, Aunt Cora, Mr. Mason and Tia The R iot. Introduction. Jean Rhys Sargasso Sea

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wide sargasso sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys 

David, Ginger, Emily, Thomas and Yvette

  • Introduction
  • Gender and Race:

- Relations Between Characters

Anette, Antoinette, Christophine, Aunt Cora,

Mr. Mason and Tia

  • The Riot
  • Jean Rhys
  • Sargasso Sea
  • The Emancipation Act
jean rhys 1890 1979
Jean Rhys(1890-1979)

Rhys once declared, “I have only ever written about myself".

jean rhys 1890 19791
Jean Rhys (1890-1979)
  • Rhys was born at Roseau, Dominica, and spent her childhood there, educated at the Convent school and moved to England when she was 16
  • Her mother was a Creole
  • Rhys was a third generation of Dominican Creole of Scottish ancestry
  • Mother of Caribbean literature.
jean rhys
Jean Rhys
  • She was made fun of because of her accent and outsider status; inability to speak proper English troubled her very much
  • Three husbands in her life
  • Acquired alcoholism
  • Resent patriarchal society + feelings of displacement
  • Jean Rhys died on May 14, 1979
sargasso sea1
Sargasso Sea
  • “The identification and naming of the Sargasso Sea are inextricably linked with the history of colonialism. The sea is a tract of the North Atlantic Ocean lying roughly between the West Indies and the Azores, in the Horse Latitudes. It is a relatively still sea but is the centre of a great swirl of ocean currents”  heat, humid
sargasso sea2
Sargasso Sea
  • Columbus was becalmed in it on his first voyage; its name derives from the tracts of floating weeds on it surface.
  • One of the myths about it was that ships could become entangled in the weed and be unable to escape  death
the emancipation act
The Emancipation Act
  • The Emancipation Act was passed in 1833; a transitional phase of seven years’ apprenticeship for the slaves before they attained liberty was originally intended.
  • The British government awarded owners a compensation rate of L19 per slave, the market value of slaves was L35.
annette and antoinette
Annette and Antoinette
  • Annette  Daughter to a slave-owner, wife to a slave owner  Do not share the racist views of other whites, knows the dependence her family has on the servants, has certain respect for them which is mixed with fear and hatred (Antoinette shares the same attitude)  the power structure based on races is easily challenged and overthrown
annett s opinions on the servants
Annett’s opinions on the servants
  • Fear and respect to Christophine, “I dare say we would have died if she’d turned against us…”
  • Godfrey and Sass “because they wanted somewhere to sleep and something to eat…” (12)
  • “The people here hate us. They certainly hate me.” “Do you suppose that they don’t know all about your estate in Trinidad?...”
  • “You don’t like, or even recognize, the good in them…” (19)
  • (1)Beauty & Martinique born (the French Caribbean island of Martinique)  An outsider among other Jamaican ladies (Whites born in England are distinguished from the white Creoles, descendants of Europeans who have lived in the West Indies for one or more generations) ※ See P. 9
  • (2) Poverty after the Emancipation Act
beauty martinique born
Beauty & Martinique born
  • “But we were not in their ranks. The Jamaican ladies never approved of my mother, ‘because she pretty like pretty self’” (9)
  • Target of gossipers “A fantastic marriage and he will regret it…but Annette’s such a pretty woman. And what a dancer…” (17)
  • Annette’s solution 1. Look to her only son Pierre, arrange doctor ※ See P. 10 “She persuaded a Spanish Town doctor to visit my younger brother.”
  •  2. Rests oneself in isolation and melancholy “I don’t know what the doctor told her or what she said to him but he never came again and after that she changed. Suddenly, not gradually. She
  • grew thin and silent, and at last she refused to leave the house at all.” (10)

“She wanted to sit with Pierre or walk where she pleased without being pestered, she wanted peace and – quiet.” (11)

  • 3. Participate actively in social events like a “dance or moonlight picnic”, attracts men’s interests with her beauty  An absent mother in Antoinette’s childhood
annette antoinette
Annette  Antoinette
  • Impatience and negligence (1) Annette pushes Antoinette away ※ See P. 11 “A frown came between her black eyebrows, deep – it might have been cut with a knife. I hated this frown and once I touched her forehead trying to smooth it. But she pushed me away, not roughly but calmly, coldly, without a word, as if she had decided once and for all that I was useless to her.”▲ British law only allowed men to inherit properties, so Antoinette is technically “useless” for Annette.
impatience and negligence
Impatience and Negligence

“I could see the beads of perspiration on her upper lip and the dark circles under her eyes. I started to fan her, but she turned her head away. She might rest if I left her alone, she said” (13)

“My mother never asked me where I had been or what I had done” (13)

“I put my arms round her and kisses her. She held me so tightly that I couldn’t breathe…and she said , ‘No,’ quietly. Then ‘No nono’ very loudly and flung me from her.” (28)

impatience and negligence1
Impatience and Negligence

(2) Gets angry when Antoinette questions about Christophine and other black servants ※ See P. 12 “Does it matter? Why do you pester and bother me about all these things that happened long ago?”

(3) Feels embarrassed seeing Antoinette wearing Tia’s dirty dress ※ See P. 15

“All that evening my mother didn’t speak to me or look at me and I thought, ‘She is ashamed of me. What Tia said is true.’”

annette s favor of pierre
Annette’s favor of Pierre

(4) Only thinks about her son Pierre, never mentions her Antoinette’s name  a. Arrange the appointment with the doctor

b. When Antoinette has a nightmare “She sighed and covered me up. ‘You were making such a noise. I must go to Pierre, you’ve frightened him.’”

c. After Mason refuses to get away, Annette threatens to leave with Pierre

annette s favor of pierre1
Annette’s favor of Pierre
  • “Very well. As you refuse to consider it, I will go and take Pierre with me.” “’I will not stay at Coulibri any longer’ my mother said. ‘It is not safe. It is not safe for Pierre.’”
  • d. During the riot, “My mother was not listening to either of them. She said ‘Pierre is asleep and Myra is with him, I thought it better to leave him in his own room, away
annette s favor of pierre2
Annette’s favor of Pierre
  • From this horrible noise.’”
  • e. After Pierre is found burned and perhaps dead, “But she did not even look at him. ‘His crib was on fire,’ she said to Aunt Cora.” “’She left him, she ran away and left him alone to die,’…” (24)

Obeah Woman




obeah and christianity
Obeah and Christianity

*West Indies, refer to folk magic, sorcery, and religious practices

derived from Central African and West African origins.

Obeah can either be a form of 'dark' magic or 'good' magic.

*In some Caribbean nations Obeah refers to African diasporic folk religions;

in other areas, Christians may include elements of Obeah in their religion.

*Obeah is often associated with the Spiritual Baptist church.

biblical allusion the garden
Biblical Allusion: The Garden

Antoinette compares the garden at Coulibri Estate to the biblical Garden of Eden

 Excess, lost innocence.

The garden has “gone wild,” brilliant colors, strong odors, and tangling overgrowth.

The flowers look vaguely sinister; The orchid’s “snaky looking,”

Biblical fall and man’s decline into greed and sensuality. (P.19)

christophine and her powers
Christophine and her powers

The girls from the bayside who sometimes helped with the washing and cleaning were terrified of her. That, I soon discovered, was why they came at all – for she never paid them. Yet they brought presents of fruit and vegetables and after dark I often heard low voices from the kitchen. (p.21)

Anette: I dare say we would have died if she’d turned against us and that would have been a better fate. (p.21)

Antoinette: “Would Christophine go if you told her to?” I thought. But I didn’t say it. I was afraid to say it. (p.22)


As a servant: Cooking, Washing

More than a servant: Wisdom, Power,


As a mother: Antoinette and her son

Advisor: People (women) consultant

Protector: Anette, Antoinette

christophine antoinette
Christophine Antoinette

Feared (Mysterious)

Ageless, Practice Obeah

Has a history, Intuition…etc


Knowledge (Religiously,




Fearful (Insecure)

Dislike people, Nightmares

Abandonment, Friendless…etc


White cockroach, Fatherless


Observant, Sensitive, Quiet



<Close to Nature>

antoinette s description of christophine
Antoinette’s Description of Christophine

She was much blacker – blue black with a thin face and straight features. She wore a black dress, heavy gold earrings and yellow handkerchief – carefully tied with the two high points in front. No other negro woman wore black, or tied her handkerchief Martinique fashion.

…She could speak good English if she wanted to, and French as well as patois, she took care to talk as they talked. But they would have nothing to do with her and she never see her son who worked in Spanish Town. She had only one friend – a woman called Maillotte, and Maillotte was not a Jamaican.

(p. 20)

christopine as mother figure
Christopine as mother figure

When evening came she sang to me if she was in the mood. I couldn't always understand her patois songs – she also came from Martinique…Her songs were not like Jamaican songs, and she was not like other women. (p.20)

When I was safely home I sat close to the old wall at the end of the garden…Christophine found me there when it was nearly dark, and I was so stiff she had to help me to get up. She said nothing, but next morning Tia was in the kitchen with her mother Maillotte, Christophine’s friend. (p.23)

But Christphine told her loudly that it shameful. She run wild, she grow up worthless. And nobody care…While Christophine scrubbed my face and tied my plaits with a fresh piece of string, she told me that those were the new people at Nelson’s Rest. ‘Old Mr Luttrell spit in their face if he see how they look at you. Trouble walk into the house this day. Trouble walk in.’ (p.26)

I was going to see my mother. I had insisted that Christophine must be with me, no one else…(p.28/47)

christophine s room
Christophine’s Room

I know her rooms so well – the picture of the Holy Family and the prayer for a happy death. She had a bright patchwork counterpane, a broken down press for her clothes, and my mother had given her an old rocking chair. (p.21)

Yet one day when I was waiting there I was suddenly very much afraid…I was certain that hidden in the room (behind the old black press?) there was a dead man’s dried hand, white chicken feathers, a cock with its throat cut…Drop by drop the blood was falling into a red basin and I imagined I could hear it.

annette vs mason
Annette vs. Mason
  • Annette: a great dancer

“There was no need for music when she danced.”

  • Mason: a rich Englishman

“He didn’t come to the West Indies to dance - he came to make money as they all do”

  • Primitive vs. Sophistication
  • Desire vs. Reason
the marriage
The Marriage
  • Wealthy Mr. Mason vs. Poor Annette
  • People are saying:

“Why should a very wealthy man who could take his pick of all the girls in the West Indies, and many in England too probably?”

“Then if why should he marry a widow without a penny to her name and Coulibri a wreck of a place?”

“She never did anything to stop him – She encouraged him.”

  • Describe Annette being promiscuous
  • The marriage is a “mystery”
power relation
Power Relation
  • Mason dominates and don’t really take Annette seriously
  • “He would laugh ever louder than he did when my mother told him that she wished to leave Coulibri.”
  • “Annette, be REASONABLE. …Things were at their worst then. But you were never molested, never harmed.”
  • “How do you know that I was not harmed?” “we were something to laugh at.”
  • “…You imagine enmity which doesn’t exist”
different views
Different Views
  • On the black people:
  • Annette: “You don’t like, or even recognize, the good in them, and you won’t believe in the other side..”
  • Mason: “They’re too damn lazy to be dangerous.”
  • Annette: “They are more alive than you are…”
  • Mason: “No, I don’t understand.”
  • Annette are rooted in the land
  • Mason, an outsider, doesn’t know anything and holds the native in contempt
the daughter s view
The Daughter’s View
  • “Mr. Mason, so sure of himself, so without a doubt English. And at my mother, so without a doubt not English, but no white nigger either, not my mother. Never had been. Never could be.”
  • Loss of identity
  • Solid vs. Frail
antoinette and tia
Antoinette and Tia
  • Tia is the daughter of Christophine’s friend (Maillotte), a black girl.
  • “Soon Tia was my friend and I met her nearly every morning at the road to the river. Sometimes we left the bathing pool at midday. Sometimes we stayed till late afternoon. Then Tia would light a fire (fire always lit for her, sharp stones did not hurt her bare feet, I never saw her cry).”
  • “She had small eyes, very black, set deep in her head.”
antoinette and tia first betrayal
Antoinette and Tia-first betrayal
  • “I wrapped myself in torn towel and sat on a stone with my back to her, shivering cold. But the sun couldn’t warm me. I wanted to go home. I looked round and Tia had gone. I searched for a long time before I could believe that she had taken my dress-not my underclothes, she never wore any-but my dress, starched, ironed, clean that morning. She had left me hers and I put it on at last and walked home in the blazing sun feeling sick, hating her”
antoinette and tia second betrayal
Antoinette and Tia-second betrayal
  • “Then, not so far off, I saw Tia and her mother and I ran to her, for she was all that was left of my life as it had been. We had eaten the same food, slept side by side, bathed in the same river. As I ran, I thought, I will live with Tia and I will be like her. Not to leave Coulibri. Not to go. Not. When I was close I saw the jagged stone in her hand but I did not see her throw it. I did not feel it either, only something wet, running down my face. I looked at her and I saw her face crumple up as she began to cry. We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass.”
antoinette and tia1
Antoinette and Tia

“But when I looked over the edge I saw the pool at Coulibri. Tia was there. She beckoned to me and when I hesitated, she laughed. I heard her say, You frightened? And I heard the man’s voice, Bertha! Bertha! All this I saw and heard in a fraction of a second. And the sky so red. Someone screamed and I thought, Why did I scream? I called “Tia!” and jumped and woke.” (from Part three)


It’s unlucky to kill a parrot


White cockroaches!

Sea of blackness

Look the white


*The fire

*Coco’s death

*Racial Conflict

the riot
The Riot
  • “He was pale when he came in again, but he tried to smile…”
  • “Annette, you are hurt…”But she did not even look at him.

→She seemingly doesn’t care about Mr. Mason

  • “It was more dreadful when she began to scream abuse at Mr. Mason, calling him a fool, a cruel stupid fool . . . You would not listen, you sneered at me, you grinning hypocrite, you ought not to live either, you know so much, don’t you?”

→the ultimate clash

  • “I did not see my mother move she was so quick. She opened the door of my room and then again I did not see her, nothing but smoke”
  • “It was very hot on the glacis too, they roared as we came out, them there was another roar behind us. I had not seen any flames, only smoke and sparks, but now I saw tall flames shooting up to the sky, for the bamboos had caught ”
riot the parrot s death
Riot-the parrot’s death
  • “Our parrot was called Coco, a green parrot. He didn’t talk very well, he could say Qui est la? Qui est la? and answer himself Che Coco, Che Coco. After Mr. Mason clipped his wings he grew very bad tempered, and though he would sit quietly on my mother’s shoulder, he darted at everyone who came near her and pecked their feet”
  • Qui est la means “Who is there?”
riot the parrot s death1
Riot-the parrot’s death
  • “I opened my eyes, everybody was looking up an pointing at Coco on the glacis railings with his feathers alight. He made an effort to fly down but his clipped wings failed him and he fell screeching. He was all on fire”
  • Coco enacts Antoinette and Annette’s doom. (his wings clipped by Mr. Mason)
  • “She wanted to go back for her damned parrot. I won’t allow it.” She did not answer, only fought him silently, twisting like a cat and showing her teeth.
  • Parrot → a symbol of her identity
  • Animalistic behavior demonstrated → great contrast to Mr. Mason, who acts as a constraint
animals death in wide sargasso sea
Animals death in Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Annette’s poison horse, left to rot and swarming with flies.
  • Coco’s death  leads Annette to madness
  • Moths that burn themselves in the flames
riot racial conflict
Riot-Racial Conflict
  • Portrayal of the Black: “Still they were quiet and there were so many of them I could hardly see any grass or trees. There must be many of the bay people but I recognized no one. They look all the same, it was the same face repeated over and over, eyes gleaming, mouth half open and shout.”  no individuals
  • “So black and white, they burn the same, eh?”