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The Wide Sargasso Sea And Race

2139 words - 9 pages

I read an interesting fact recently online; it said that if one ever feels alone to remember that at any given point that they are in proximity to at least ten ghosts and their butts. What this has to do with Wide Sargasso Sea and the issue of race within it? Absolutely nothing; just thought it would be nice to know given it is Halloween. If one feels inclined, they can also give love to those ghosts by blowing kisses to them, just because they are dead does not mean they do not enjoy a smooch.
Wide Sargasso Sea is unique from Jane Eyre and Mansfield Park in that the issue of race plays a huge part in how the characters themselves relate to themselves and their place within their society. Its unique nature comes from the way the story is written from the point of view of the characters themselves rather than the author. The writing style within the novel shows how racial stereotypes and prejudices influenced portraying people of color within 19th century writings and attitudes.
Of Wide Sargasso Sea it has been said that the portrayal of the persons of color within the novel are flat and one dimensional. This assessment would be accurate in its claim unless we look at how their characters are seen through the eyes of the White and Creole character Bertha Cosway (Mason) and Mr. Rochester. We see this racial veneer (though not so thin or decorative in any sense) first early in Antoinette’s childhood with a little girl named Tia. Ironically, the two became friends after Tia began to follow her and sing “Go away white cockroach, go away, go away” (Wide Sargasso Sea, Part 1 Pg 13).
Tia is Antoinette’s only friend and she strongly identifies with her because the two are considered inferior to the European colonial class. This bonding has a reverse to it though as Antoinette describes how in bathing pool Tia could always make a fire and that the sharp stones never hurt her feet. “The Tia would light a fire (fire always lit for her, sharp stones did not hurt her bare feet, I never saw her cry)” (Wide Sargasso Sea Part 1 Pg. 13). Though an innocent observation, it plays largely on the racial stereotype that Tia, being black is more primitive than civilized thus making her less human. This very small description and usage of racial stereotyping gives a large look into how 19th century class systems worked. While Tia and Antoinette are both viewed with disdain; Antoinette being Creole and thus racially white gives her a greater standing than Tia who is black.
More racial stereotyping appears comes later in the form of an argument between Mr. Mason and Antoinette’s mother Annette. “… ‘They invent stories about you, and lies about me. They try to find out what we eat every day.’ ‘They are curious. It’s natural enough. You have lived alone far too long, Annette. You imagine enmity which doesn’t exist. Always one extreme to the other. Didn’t you fly at me like a little wild cat when I said nigger. Not nigger, nor even negro. Black people I must say.’ ‘You...

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