Wide Sargasso Sea Summary and Analysis
by Jean Rhys
Part 2, Section 5
Rochester dreams that he has been buried alive. When he awakens he realizes what has happened - that he was drugged and has slept with Antoinette - and gets sick to his stomach. He looks at his sleeping wife and covers her with a sheet as if she is dead. Then he runs outside and eventually finds himself near the ruined house. He falls asleep for a while, and upon waking up returns to Granbois, where he encounters Amelie and spontaneously decides to have sex with her. In the morning, he regrets it, however, finding her skin darker and her lips thicker than he had thought. Still, he gives her a large sum of money. Amelie takes it and tells him of her plans to leave the island. Rochester hears Antoinette leave the house; she seems to know that her husband has slept with one of the servants.
Antoinette does not return for several days. During this time, Rochester writes to his friend Mr. Fraser asking about Christophine, who, he learned from Daniel Cosway, was once arrested for practicing the dark arts. Fraser writes back and tells Rochester that Christophine is still living in Jamaica, not far from Granbois. The letter instructs Rochester to be on the lookout for anything suspicious. "So much for you, Pheena," Rochester thinks to himself.
Antoinette finally returns and takes to her bed. Christophine comes to the house, and Antoinette frequently and frantically rings a handbell asking for her or Baptiste. Rochester is shocked when she finally emerges from her room: she is completely disheveled in addition to being drunk. She confronts him for ruining the one place in the world that she loved, and tells him that she hates him for it. When he reaches for her wrist, she tries to bite him and then smashes several bottles of liquor against the wall.
Christophine comforts Antoinette, then confronts Rochester about what he has done to his wife. She says she knows that he has mistreated Antoinette physically and emotionally. Rochester in turn blames Christophine and obeah for Antoinette's hysterical condition. Christophine denies any wrongdoing, saying that she has just tried to care for Antoinette and make her sleep comfortably. Christophine tells Rochester that she knows he only married Antoinette for her money, and further accuses him of trying to "break her up" psychologically, using and then withholding sex and affection to bring her under his control. Rochester admits to himself that Christophine's assessment of the situation is correct, but does not otherwise demonstrate any remorse for his actions.
Christophine begs Rochester to try to love Antoinette again, insisting that everything Daniel Cosway has said is a lie. She tried to explain the conditions that Antoinette and her mother lived in and the circumstances that lead to the latter's mental breakdown, to no avail. Rochester simply will not listen to anything she has to say. When Christophine realizes this, she begs Rochester to return half of Antoinette's dowry and go back to England without his wife. Christophine promises to take Antoinette to Martinique and care for her there, and Rochester actually considers the offer for a moment. Then, however, Christophine suggests that Antoinette will remarry and find love and happiness with someone else. Rochester flies into a rage at this idea and orders Christophine to leave the house; if she refuses he says he will call the police.
With no other choice, Christophine prepares to go, but first asks what will become of Antoinette. Rochester declares that he will take her back to Jamaica to consult the doctors in Spanish Town as well as Richard Mason. Christophine suspects that he will conspire to have Antoinette locked away just like her mother.
Just as soon as Christophine leaves, Rochester begins composing letters. First he writes to his father explaining that "unforeseen circumstances" have arisen; he says he assumes that his father must know what has happened. Then he pens a note to a firm of lawyers in Spanish Town requesting a furnished house and a staff of servants whom he will compensate amply for their discretion. With these tasks accomplished, he sits down to a glass of rum and begins sketching. The finished picture shows a large English-style house surrounded by trees, with a woman standing in one of the third floor rooms.
A few days later all the preparations have been made and Rochester and Antoinette are about to depart from Granbois. As they get ready to leave Rochester reflects on the situation. He alternates between feeling immense anger at having been duped into marrying "a mad girl" and thinking that perhaps he has made a terrible mistake in believing Daniel. He experiences a momentary crisis of conscience in which he questions the fate he has in store for his wife. On the verge of apologizing, he looks into her eyes and sees how much she has grown to hate him. Instantly his heart hardens again and he becomes resolute in his decision.
Baptiste saddles the horses and says a heartfelt farewell to Antoinette. Rochester becomes annoyed when a Nameless Boy begins to cry hysterically. Antoinette explains that they boy had hoped to be taken along with the couple; indeed, when they arrived she made just such a promise to him. Rochester once more becomes furious with her. As they ride away from her beloved home, he muses that she will never see the place again. The Nameless Boy follows them for a while, still sobbing.
As Christophine feared would be the case, the obeah love potion does not work on Rochester. "Even if I can make him come to your bed, I cannot make him love you," the old woman warned Antoinette, adding "Afterward he hate you." This proves to be exactly what happens. When Rochester awakens next to Antoinette and realizes what has taken place, he feels nothing but disgust and contempt for his wife. Symbolically he covers her with a sheet as is she were "a dead girl"; she is now dead to him and his actions throughout the rest of the novella serve to render her nothing more than a zombie.
Rochester retaliates for what he perceives as his wife's betrayal by sleeping with the mixed-race servant Amelie, but once more he feels nothing but remorse in the morning. He sends the girl away immediately because he can no longer stand the sight of her dark skin and thick lips; he has come to hate all things associated with the Caribbean. Again Rhys illustrates the corrupting power of money, as Rochester of uses his wealth to reinstate a system of slavery on the island. He gives Amelie a large sum of money as though she were a prostitute, and although she accepts it she tells him that after the night they spent together she now can find it in her heart to feel sorry for Antoinette. Amelie has experienced Rochester's cruelty for herself.
Rochester's brutality appears to be physical as well as psychological in nature. In this section Christophine accuses him of abusing Antoinette, saying that she noticed sings that he has been "very rough" with his wife. Antoinette, upon returning to the house, responds to her husband's infidelity with violence of her own. She smashes bottles of rum against the walls and bites Rochester on the arm when he tried to stop her. She becomes the image of her mother in this section, telling Rochester that she hates him and wants to kill him. In some ways, it appears, Daniel's assessment was correct: Antoinette has gone "the same way" as Annette.
In a startling demonstration of independence Christophine makes a series of heavy accusations against Rochester. His internal monologue reveals that he does not dispute anything she says, although he does not admit anything out loud. His thoughts become increasingly difficult to follow as the tension escalates. He seems to be tormented by fragments of many different conversations he has had since arriving in the West Indies, including things that he has said to Antoinette, things that she has said to him, things that Daniel told him, and - most strangely - things that Antoinette told Christophine when he was not there. It is not clear how he would know these pieces of information, but the fact that Rhys gives him at least partial access to Antoinette's thoughts suggests that he consciously understands that he is destroying her.
Rochester's cruelty, then, is not inadvertent although he does manage to convince himself that it is justified. Still, during his final moments at Granbois his cognitive dissonance overcomes him and, for an instant, he wonders if "everything [he] had imagined to be truth was false." Such a possibility seems to send him over the edge and the last few pages of his narration begin to sound like the rant of a madman. There is no such thing, Rhys suggests, as 'truth' or 'madness'; both of these are constructions put in place and exalted by those in power as a way to oppress the weak. This idea is a fundamental tenant of post-structuralism.
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- Jean Rhys: Biography
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- 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
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- Summary and Analysis of Part 2, Section 5
- Summary and Analysis of Part 3
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