Wide Sargasso Sea: Part Two

At the beginning of Part Two, the narrative continues to be related in the first-person voice, but it is now in the voice of the husband of Antoinette (and so time has moved forward). This narrator is never named in the novel, but it is known he is Rochester – the future husband of Jane Eyre. He, his wife and a young servant named Amélie (who, we are told, is of mixed race) are going up 2,000 feet to the ‘honeymoon house’. Earlier, Amélie said she hoped he would be happy in his “‘sweet honeymoon house’” and he thought she was laughing at him. He describes her as a ‘lovely little creature but sly, spiteful, malignant perhaps, like much else in this place’.He asks Antoinette the name of the village and she says it is called Massacre. He asks if slaves were massacred here and she is shocked and says no, but also says that nobody remembers now. They are to spend time on a small estate of her mother’s and he says he agreed to this as he had agreed ‘to everything else’.He thinks Antoinette’s eyes are ‘too large and can be disconcerting’ and also considers her heritage with her eyes in mind: ‘Creole of pure English descent she may be, but they are not English or European either.’ He thinks how he did not have much time to notice this before as he married her a month after he arrived in Jamaica and for nearly three weeks of this he was in bed with fever. As he listens to her speak to a woman called Caroline in ‘the debased French patois’, he thinks of the letter he should have written to his father.One of the porters tells him this is a wild place, and not ‘civilized’. As they go up to the house, Rochester understands why and thinks of it as not just wild but ‘menacing’. He also feels that everything is ‘too much’, too colorful and thinks she has bought him, and £30,000 has been paid to him ‘without question or condition’. He thinks again of writing to his father and that he or his father has sold his soul to the devil. He also thinks of his wife as beautiful, ‘and yet ….’.As they go further, and higher, she tells him to put on his coat and he realizes he is cold. She also points out the boundary of Granbois (which was her mother’s estate) and points out the red earth too. He says it is red in parts in England too and she mocks him. He thinks of this as a warning he chooses not to hear. They reach the house and he describes it as looking like, ‘an imitation of an English summer house’.She introduces the servants, including Christophine, and he describes the place as ‘neglected and deserted’ and the room he is led to as ‘unpainted’. She asks if he likes the place and says how when she was younger she used to sleep with a piece of wood by her side. He asks what she was afraid of and she replies, “‘of nothing, of everything’”. He goes to his dressing room and it is the only room to have carpet. It used to be Mr Mason’s room and he thinks of it as a refuge until he is told Mr Mason did not like it. The door to her room can be bolted and is the last room in the house.There is a book shelf in his room with a few books including Byron’s poems and de Quincey’s Confessions of an Opium Eater and another book half eaten away.He writes a letter to his father and says all is going well according to his father’s plans and wishes. He explains he dealt with Richard Mason, as Richard’s father died. He says he is a ‘good fellow’ and trusts him completely. He adds a postscript. He also wonders how they get their letters posted and fold this one and puts it in the drawer of his desk. He considers his confused impressions to be blanks ‘that cannot be filled up’ and will never be written.
Analysis – Part TwoRochester’s perspective illuminates his characterization. His voice reveals his insecurities and stereotyping racism. His fears of the area are seen to feed his dislike of others and it is made apparent that he feels disempowered in this alien landscape. Rather than accept the difference as acceptable, he diminishes it. His view of the house being neglected, for instance, is based on an aristocratic English perspective that presumes the standard of normality to be based on this particular privilege. Anything or anyone that differs from this position is degraded by Rochester, the mouthpiece for the white English ruling classes that use racism to affirm a position of privilege.His racist thinking and desire to place people in categories is demonstrated when he scrutinizes Antoinette’s features and finds it troubling that she might not be a white. His ideology becomes clearer as he reveals himself to be concerned by her features not corresponding to a specific group and the narrative invites us to consider how his racism colors his later neglectful and abusive treatment of her.This section is also of note for the way Antoinette advises Rochester, in this instance on wearing a coat as it gets cooler as they ascend to Granbois. This is one of the few examples in the novel where she has the opportunity to demonstrate her knowledge and where he is advised to listen to her.