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Wide Sargasso Sea Essay

3028 words - 12 pages

Wide Sargasso Sea

Places take on a symbolic significance in Wide Sargasso Sea. Discuss
the way in which Jean Rhys uses different locations in the narrative.

Place in 'Wide Sargasso Sea' seems to be used to convey Antoinette's
frame of mind at different times in her life. Wally Look Lai believes
that "The West Indian setting...is central to the novel...(and) the
theme of rejected womanhood is utilized symbolically in order to make
an artistic statement about West Indian society and about an aspect of
the West Indian experience".

In Part One of 'Wide Sargasso Sea', Coulibri and the convent in
Spanish Town are presented as contrasts in that they represent danger
and safety respectively. Antoinette's mother describes how she feels
'marooned' in Coulibri, which could refer to both their geographical
position and the fact that they live on an island, and also their
position in society, and the racial tension which exists therein. This
racial tension between the white Creoles and the black people stems
from the fact that Creoles such as the Cosways' ancestors had been
slave-owners, and the emancipation had left these families virtually
penniless and lacking in respect. Jane Miller argues that "a woman on
her own..is always alone if she depends on men...and vulnerable and
weakened as the..foreigner is vulnerable and weakened". She therefore
believes that Annette and Antoinette's isolation is due not only to
the fact that they are foreigners, but also because they are women who
are forced to be dependent upon men, and I agree that this is partly
what adds to their isolation from society.

Antoinette always pays careful attention to her natural surroundings.
They almost seem perfect as she uses simile to compare her 'large and
beautiful' garden in Coulibri to 'the garden in the Bible'. However,
this biblical reference insinuates that although the garden may be
beautiful, there is also something sinister about it, particularly as
she uses imagery which has evil connotations, such as the 'snaky
looking' orchids which were 'not to be touched'. This suggests that
this is a dangerous place for them to be in, and that, like Eden, the
garden is a symbol of corrupted innocence. This gives the reader a
hint of what is coming. Rhys sets a tone of eerie silence in this West
Indian landscape.

She uses many of her senses to describe the garden, which was
'wonderful to see' and smelt 'very sweet and strong'. She conveys
every aspect of the garden in a very powerful manner, which in turn
conveys the wildness of it. This effect is heightened by the animal
imagery used to describe the 'thin brown tentacles' of the orchids.
The garden can no longer be controlled: it has given itself over to
wildness and savage overgrowth. This parallels with the fact that the
black people can no longer be controlled by the white people.
Therefore, some may interpret the garden as a symbol of the
deterioration of the social hierarchy of...

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