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Antoinette\'s Predicament
essay [ ]
Wide Sargasso Sea

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by [lavacaloca ]

2003-12-13  |     | 



The character Antoinette portrayed in Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea is of a young woman trying to find her way in a society full of prejudices and hatred towards her. Her family had a history of mental illness, her mother was sent to a home and her brother was mentally challenged. Although, Antoinette was probably predisposed to develop a mental illness, many things occurred in her childhood to worsen the situation. As a girl, she was followed, and called a “white cockroach.” She had no friends, was hated by the English for living with the blacks, and hated by the freed black slaves because her parents had once owned them, and was not as rich as other whites.
Mr. Rochester enters a loveless marriage, looking for economic stability. Mr. Rochester makes Antoinette pay for her ancestor’s sins of slaveholding, and her mother’s madness. The taint of racial impurity (she was a Creole;), coupled with the suspicion that she is mentally imbalanced brings about her inevitable downfall. Antoinette feels the need to try and save her marriage and make him love her. She tries to use voodoo to seduce him into her bed, but this only makes him unwell. Ironically, the love potion that Antoinette gives her husband sends him into the arms of another woman, Amelie. His double standards with regards to the former slaves and Antoinette's family involvement with them are exposed when he chooses to sleep with Amelie, thus displaying the promiscuous behavior and attraction to the black community which he accuses Antoinette of harboring. There is a point in the novel when Mr. Rochester no longer calls her Antoinette, he calls he Bertha, her mothers name. It is clear that Mr. Rochester has made his decision about what he thinks and feels about his wife when he calls her by her mother’s name, he is labeling her. She fights with him so that he does not call her by that name. She fights for him to believe in her and not in her past.
Antoinette feels alone and betrayed, her husbands unfaithfulness and his indifference towards her make her unsteady. In her state of denial and perplexity, she blames her husband of ruining the one place she loved. By this she means the house, Granbois, the only thing she had of her mothers, a symbol of hope, the only thing she cherished in life. The one place in which she could drown her sorrows. Antoinette is thrust into a predicament that makes no rational sense, she is being judged for her ancestor’s actions. As a result, Antoinette concedes to the situation’s absurdity and does not fight to defy it. She gives in to this life, no longer wanting to fight for something she never had, love. All she ever longed for in life was somebody that loved her and cared for her, she never found it. Though she tried to encourage it in her marriage and tried to persuade Mr. Rochester into loving her. He could never go beyond her past and look at her instead of her father’s sins.
Antoinette decides not to live, by alienating herself not only from what she most loved, her house, but of her husband. She becomes void, when her husband asks her something she just nods. Antoinette could have just left her husband and lived the way she wanted to, but she chose to fight. In the end, she does not see the point in fighting a fight that has been fated. Her actions or lack of, led her into a state of denial. Mr. Rochester locks her up in his attic in England. She is no longer mentally stable, but all of her suffering has been a factor of her madness. She cannot escape her madness any longer, and she could no longer pretend to be who she wasn’t, for the benefit of her husband. He killed her spirit by not loving her and she killed herself because she could not have his love. Antoinette not only dies emotionally but physically as well. She wonders the halls of the house at night; she sets fire to the house and jumps off the roof. She looks over the edge of the roof and sees Tia calling out to her to come. Antoinette lunges herself off the roof, ending her pain. Death released her from her illusion of life.

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