Wide Sargasso Sea Summary and Analysis
by Jean Rhys
Part 2, Section 3
The novella's point-of-view then shifts once again, this time back to Antoinette. She rides her horse past an outcropping of rocks known as "Mounes Mors" - the "Dead Ones" - in order to visit Christophine and seek her advice. She arrives at Christophine's new house and reports that her husband has become distant and hateful, sleeping alone in his dressing-room and not speaking to her for hours on end. Antoinette asks Christophine what she can do to make him love her again, and the wise older woman tells her that she should take her money and leave him, but Antoinette will not consider deserting Rochester. When she explains to Christophine that under English law her wealth now belongs to her husband, Christophine is appalled. She herself has chosen to remain unattached and independent.
Christophine suggests that Antoinette ask Rochester for the money to visit a cousin in Martinique and use such a trip as a way to escape from her marriage. Antoinette, however, has other ideas; she tells Christophine that she wants to go to England, where she believes she will be "a different person" to whom "different things will happen." Christophine expresses doubt that such an ideal place as the England Antoinette envisions can possibly exist.
Antoinette then asks Christophine to use her obeah magic to concoct a love potion. Christophine warns that such a brew will only make Rochester feel desire for his wife, not love. She encourages Antoinette to talk to Rochester and explain her feelings and her past, but Antoinette insists that he will not listen - he will no longer even call her by her name, instead using the moniker "Bertha." Antoinette continues to beg for a magic spell, and finally Christophine relents, realizing that there is no one else who will help. She tells Antoinette that she will perform the necessary ritual if Antoinette will make an effort to talk to her husband. Antoinette agrees, and gives Christophine her purse, but Christophine says that she is not doing it for the money. When Christophine's son Jo-jo arrives, Antoinette takes her leave.
Antoinette then reminisces about some incidents that took place prior to her marriage. She recalls overhearing Aunt Cora argue with Richard Mason about his decision to give all of Antoinette's inheritance to Rochester without a legal settlement. Aunt Cora, who was too ill to attend the wedding, did not trust Rochester and gave Antoinette her valuable rings to safeguard in case she ever needed the money. Antoinette thinks about selling the rings now, but cannot think of anyone who would buy them on the isolated island.
In this very brief section Rhys offers us insight into Antoinette's character as she struggles to save her marriage. This is the last time that we will see a lucid Antoinette in the text and the only time that we get to actually hear her side of the relationship. The rest of part two - including Antoinette's breakdown - is narrated by Rochester, and by the time the novella returns to Antoinette's perspective again at the end of the work she is far too confused to understand what has happened to her, much less place it in any sort of context. Thus these pages, although few in number, are immensely important to our understanding of the work.
The jarring shift in point-of-view encourages the reader to juxtapose the respective attitudes of Antoinette and Rochester toward each other and toward their union; to be sure, the two view their situation very differently. What is perhaps even more striking, however, is the subtle way in which their values are similar. As Rhys elucidates in this section, both parties place a great deal of emphasis on appearances - on how their marriage is perceived by other people, namely the servants in the house. Over and over again Rochester has expressed concern that the servants know something he does not and that they are mocking him for this reason. Significantly, Antoinette is preoccupied with the same anxiety. She explains her problem to Christophine by saying that "the servants know" she and Rochester are now sleeping in separate bedrooms, a statement that suggests the perception of conjugal estrangement is worse than the estrangement itself. Moreover, the first reason she gives for refusing to leave her husband is the fear that "then everyone, not only the servants, will laugh at [her]."
Of course, another reason for Antoinette's inability to leave is her complete financial dependence on her husband under English law. "I have no money of my own at all, everything I had belongs to him," she explains. Christophine finds this predicament horrifying and accuses Richard Mason of deliberately placing his stepsister in dire circumstances. The older woman explains that, while she has three children by three different men, she has purposefully refused to marry any of them, preferring instead to "keep [her] money," not "give it to no worthless man." Ironically the former slave is now much freer than the "rich white girl" whose family she served.
Antoinette's subjection to Rochester results largely from the corrupting influence of money - the power lorded by those who have it over those who do not. Christophine understands this: "Your husband certainly love money," she tells Antoinette. "Money have pretty face for everybody, but for that man money pretty like pretty self, he can't see nothing else." Sadly, even Antoinette's relationship with Christophine, her only real friend, is tainted by economic inequality. She herself acknowledges her attempt to use her "ugly money" to bribe Christophine into using obeah to make Rochester love her again.
The two women argue about many things during the course of Antoinette's visit, most notably over the existence of England, which Christophine disputes. Antoinette accuses her of being "ignorant" but the wise ex-slave correct in her assessment. The idyllic England of Antoinette's imagination does not actually exist. Antoinette has a presentiment about this but chooses to ignore it, insisting that she will be an entirely "different person" when she lives in England. In fact, this is true: the Antoinette we see locked in the attic in part three is almost unrecognizable. Again, Rhys makes extensive use of foreshadowing. "I know that house where I will be cold and not belonging, the bed I shall lie in has red curtains and I have slept there many times before, long ago. How long ago? In that bed I will dream the end of my dream," Antoinette thinks perplexedly, offering a preview of what is to come.
Wide Sargasso Sea Essays and Related Content
- Wide Sargasso Sea: Major Themes
- Wide Sargasso Sea: Essays
- Wide Sargasso Sea: Questions
- Wide Sargasso Sea: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Jean Rhys: Biography
- Wide Sargasso Sea Summary
- About Wide Sargasso Sea
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Part 1, Section 1
- Summary and Analysis of Part 1, Section 2
- Summary and Analysis of Part 1, Section 3
- Summary and Analysis of Part 2, Section 1
- Summary and Analysis of Part 2, Section 2
- Summary and Analysis of Part 2, Section 3
- Summary and Analysis of Part 2, Section 4
- Summary and Analysis of Part 2, Section 5
- Summary and Analysis of Part 3
- What is "post-colonialism"?
- Related Links on Wide Sargasso Sea
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- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
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