Looking for a woman ready to Rochester down

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The novel is a vindicating howl of rage and injustice, and a skin-flaying revelation of personal sadism. Wide Sargasso Sea is also a valuable historical work, written in the s but set in the early s, which explores Victorian paternalism, sexualised racism and the complex social and political history of the West Indies.

In the West Indian settings Rhys skilfully evokes the seething impulses of anger, trauma, fear, mockery and suspicion between, amongst, towards and from former slaves originally from Africa, black West Indian servants who are the children of slaves, mixed-race illegitimate children of white plantation owners who impregnated female slaves, non-white naturalised Creoles, former slave-owners, house masters, newly impoverished plantation owners, colonial interlopers and prospecting entrepreneurs wanting to buy derelict estates.

Despite the ending of slavery, the story is far from over: violent justice, a raw fight for survival and the possibility of yet more waves of exploitation are still to come.

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The hierarchy of racial difference is finely demarcated and noticed by everyone. Antoinette is a lonely, intelligent, brooding individual who yearns for a mother figure and finds one in her maid and ex-slave Christophineyet the reasons for the rejection of Antoinette by Annette her mother are never made clear, while slanderous lies fill the space of ignorance and doubt.

Rhys is excellent when conveying the idea that certain things — like slavery — are so traumatic that they are unsayable, and that deliberate forgetting is a trauma response but also a survival mechanism. The novel traces a repetitive, incestuous history with concise intensity, as if laying down a curse. Despite looking like Mason, she is nothing like him in background and culture. Just like Cosway before him and Rochester after him, Mr Mason does not see black people as human beings of equal complexity and worth to himself.

The story of Mr Mason and Annette gives a quick and nasty preview of what is about to happen with Rochester and Antoinette.

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From the earliest days of their marriage Mason dismisses everything Annette says, including her correct assertion that Coulibri is not safe and that the family should leave. As any reader of Jane Eyre knows, this is exactly what is done to her daughter too. As Antoinette comes of age she senses, and the reader knows, that her life is going to take a permanent turn for the worse.

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Wide Sargasso Sea psychologically vindicates Antoinette and Annette, demonstrating their intelligence, powerful emotions, personal seriousness and correct instincts. But these traits are not enough to save them.

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Rochester exploits Antoinette financially, uses her physically, manipulates her emotionally, betrays her sexually, tortures her psychologically and incarcerates her bodily until she commits violent suicide. He enjoys the sympathetic ministrations of his devoted servant-wife Jane Eyre for the rest of his life. Usage terms This material can only be used for research and private study purposes. Hatred of women, uncomprehending mistrust of the West Indies, physical discomfort, vicious racism, class paranoia, horror of miscegenation and an obsession with his status in the eyes of other men combine into a toxic personality.

This is exactly what he attempts to do to Antoinette, too, and malicious men prey on his suspicions. His greatest fear is of being laughed at by the only people he respects: other English men. Nor had my brother. Antoinette could write exactly the same letter to Rochester about what he and Richard Mason have done to her.

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Introduced to tenderness, intimacy and physical abandon, Antoinette has let down her guard and is now open to being hurt. That is the risk we all take when we fall in love, but Antoinette has been tricked and Rochester is only pretending to be in love.

In a loving couple, this would be playful pillow talk. In Rochester, it is a terrifying hint. Rochester gaslights, manipulates and deliberately confuses Antoinette, whose instincts are correct in warning her off him. All the male characters in the novel use underhanded methods to encourage each other to hurt women.

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Just like Rochester, Daniel Cosway is angry at his father; yet it is the women who are hurt with these allegations of race and class intermixing, illegitimacy, female madness and female slatternliness. Yet this intimate, delighted malice is all his own. Rochester renames his wife Bertha, just like a slave-owner naming his human chattel, to assert his dominance, to distance himself from the taint of her alleged family madness and to distance her from her own heritage.

The final third of the novel is breathtakingly disturbing. All things which he himself, not Antoinette, is guilty of. In reality, it is Rochester who has been game-playing and deceiving and the servants shrug and jeer at him, not her. This unforgettable novel is a damning indictment of slavery and colonialism, the centuries of trauma they create and the racism that underpins them; and also of the most intricate woman-hating abuse, patriarchal laws which make women dependent and sexist slander based on age-old stereotypes.

Anger, sorrow, hatred, fear, desire, prejudice and pain are mixed together and melted down to form the scalding ore of Wide Sargasso Sea. For a reader of this blistering masterpiece, it is devastating to come to the last and know that with all this, the worst is still to come. She is the author of two novels, two bestselling works of travel and reportage, Venetian Masters: Under the Skin of the City of Love and Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestineand most recently her fifth book Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voicesbased on her outreach work with asylum seekers and refugees.

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An introduction to Wide Sargasso Sea. View images from this item Footnotes [1] All the quotations under the subheadings 'Race, colour, status and legitimacy', 'Wearing a mask of civility' and 'Responding to Jane Eyre ' are from Part 1 of Wide Sargasso Sea unless otherwise stated. Share this. British Library newsletter up to our newsletter. Supported since inception by. British Library website satisfaction survey Take part in our web survey! Why not take a few moments to tell us what you think of our website?

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Looking for a woman ready to Rochester down

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