Racial tension is a major theme in “Wide Sargasso Sea”, with the mix of whites and blacks and white/blacks in the novel creating a cut-throat atmosphere which creates a hazardous place for Jamaica’s denizens. Many racial situations occur between whites and blacks, which Americans are use to due to the dangerous troubles between blacks and whites in the 1950s with a clear enemy: the whites. But Rhys tackles a more important point: an overall racial hostility between everybody living in Jamaica during the novels time period with no one to blame. Instead of using only racism, Rhys uses situations her readers could easily relate to such as: betrayal, adultery, and feeling of not belonging. Through her use of alternating points of views, Rhys uses racism shared by both characters and their actions/faults and thoughts to meld and to show the blame cannot be placed onto one person.
To fully understand the racism that existed in this time period, there needs to be an explanation of the historic events that had passed before the novel’s time period. According to an article concerning the emancipation of Jamaica in the 1800s on jamica-guide.info, England attempted to abolish slavery but was met with fierce objections by the government in Jamaica. Jamaican parliament believed that the slaves were happy and did not crave change which led to an immense conflict which resulted in numerous revolts, one by Sharpe and one by the Creole population led by 21-year old Jordan. There was an immense racism towards whites and the
Creole population during this time period, with the Jamaicans, Creoles and Jamaican whites wanting different things, freedom, rights and their power back, respectively.
After the emancipation, Rhys starts with Antoinette as a young child, experiencing racism but not fully understanding it. As a young child of mixed ancestors, she believes being white and black is okay, she even says “old time white people nothing but white nigger now, and black nigger better than white nigger” (22), not understanding why one is better than another but only understanding there is an inherent violence that exists and Rhys shows this through Antoinette’s thoughts: how she “wished she had a big Cuban dog to lie by [her] bed and protect [her]… and if the worst comes to the worst [she] can fight to the end” (34). Rhys places Antoinette in such a position to show her readers several things: how Antoinette faced racism and prejudice, her misunderstanding of racism, and the violence towards the discriminated. Rhys also shows how apparent the racism towards white people is, with Annette hinting at the destructive nature of the Jamaican people by saying “they are more alive than [Mr. Mason is], lazy or not, and they can be dangerous and cruel for reason you wouldn’t understand” (29). Rhys needs to show that races, Creole and white people cannot escape racism and chooses to use Rochester and Antoinette to help readers better connect with them. The point...