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Cruelty And Insanity In Wide Sargasso Sea By Jean Rhys

1678 words - 7 pages

Cruelty and Insanity in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea provides unique insight into the gradual
deterioration of the human mind and spirit. On examining Antoinette
and her mother Annette, the reader gains a new perspective of
insanity. One realizes that these two women are mentally perturbed as
a result of numerous external factors that are beyond their control.
The cruelty of life and people drive Annette and her daughter to
lunacy. Neither mother nor daughter have a genetic predisposition to
madness, and their downfall is an inevitable result of the actions of
those around them and the unbearable nature of their living situation.
Antoinette's condition owes its beginnings to the solitude of her
childhood, thus the cold, unfeeling treatment she receives from her
husband does not create her mental instability, only exacerbates it.

At the beginning of the novel, it becomes apparent that solitude is a
primary cause of theCosway women?s insanity. Antoinette?s narration
reveals that her mother is not accepted by other white people in
Jamaica because she originated from Martinique, and the Jamaican
ladies in particular ?never approved? of her mother ?because she
pretty like pretty self?. Her only friend, Mr. Luttrell, commits
suicide after he tires of waiting for monetary compensation for the
loss of his slaves. Annette is left with no one of her colour or class
to associate with. In describing her childhood, Antoinette only speaks
of one friend, a Negro girl named Tia, but this was an ephemeral
friendship. Antoinette had no one belonging to her age group or class
that she could associate with. For the most part, the young girl is
very isolated and alone, quite like her mother. Utter loneliness is
one of many external factors that contribute to the insanity of both
mother and daughter. Hence it must be said that the cruelty of their
living situation, and not a genetic trait, is responsible for their
dementia.

Antoinette suffers another form of solitude because she grows up as an
orphan. Her father died when she was very young, and her mother
neglects her, preferring instead to only show concern for Antoinette?s
younger brother, Pierre. Antoinette recalls trying to show her some
affection, but also states, ?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.? Thus the reader recognizes that from a
young age, Antoinette yearns for love and must live with the pain of
being rejected by her own mother. This solitude can again be shown as
one of many reasons why Antoinette is mentally unstable.

Financial decline also serves to drive Annette into madness. Annette
started out as an affluent socialite and is now a destitute widow. She
is unable to adapt to this new, unfamiliar position in society and
longs for her privileged lifestyle. This becomes evident when
Antoinette recalls how her mother ?still...

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