Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso sea was written in 1966 by Jean Rhys. This novel is publiced as a prequel of Charlotte Brontë’s famous book Jane Eyre. The biggest difference in the character of Antoinette Cosway (Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre) is the change from the infamous “madwoman in the attic,” to the lively yet vulnerable Antoinette Cosway. She is no longer a cliché or a “foreign,” possibly “half-caste” lunatic, but a real woman with her own hopes, fears, and desires. Wide Sargasso Sea tells her side of the story as well as Rochester’s, detailing how she ended up alone and raving in the attic of Thornfield Hall. It shows not only her story, but the story of all the creole people in Jamaica.  In Rhys’ version of events, Antoinette’s insanity, infidelity, and drunkenness aren’t in her blood, but she was driven to madness by the thoughts of Rochester that she was mad.

Jean Rhys was born on the 24th of august 1890 in Dominica. She was educated in Great Britain from her 16th birthday. In her books, she used to describe the mistreated and rootless woman. She threw away this philosophy in her novel Good Morning, Midnight (published in 1939) but got it back in Wide Sargasso Sea, in which she portrays Antoinette Cosway.

The story takes place in Jamaica, just after the Slavery Abolition Act. Main character of this book is Antoinette Cosway, a creole girl in the Carribean. Creoles were the people  just between the black and white people.  The Slavery Abolition Act should have meant the equality between the Carribean and the English people again but the opposite happened.

Antoinette and her mother are looked down upon by the other people and thus live a solitary life. They live with Antoinettes brother at Coulibri Estate, near Spanish Town. Their former slaves have left them, except Christophine and Goffrey. They aren’t wealthy. Antoinette’s mother doesn’t may much attention to their children especially not to Antoinette. Christophine is like a mother for Antoinette and her brother, Pierre.
The mother of Antoinette marries Mr. Mason, a rich Englishman. The hating from the black people who live nearby starts to grow, because they are wealthier now. Antoinettes mother tells Mr Mason she wants to leave because she feels threatened. Mr Mason doesn’t see it like her and tells her to ease down. But Antoinettes feeling was right: one night furious ex-slaves set their house on fire but everybody escapes from the flames. Not everyone tough, a servant left Pierre alone and when they took him out of the house, it was too late. He died on the way to Spanish town. After these events Antoinettes mother gets mad and screams all the time how she hates Mr Mason. Antoinette is sent to her Aunt Cora to live there for a while. When she goes to her mother she sees her acting like a complete lunatic.

When Mr Mason dies his son arranges a marriage between Antoinette and Edward Rochester. Edward inherites a sum of thirty thousand dollars.

The fresh couple spend their honeymoon at Granbois Estate. It looks like they get along pretty good an are both happy, although the landscape in Jamaica seems very unreal to Edward.
It’s going well until Edward receives a letter from Daniel Cosway, the not-recognised half-brother of Antoinette. He warns Edward that the Cosway’s are all mad; Antoinettes mother is insane already and Antoinette is about to follow her. Edward believes him and begins to hate his wife. Antoinette asks Christophine to make a poisonous drink for Edward to make him love her back again. Edward drinks it and they make love like in the old days, but he discovers the next morning that Antoinette wanted to poison him when he tastes the bitter wine. He makes love to Amèlie, a creole servant, because he’s angry at Antoinette. This has driven Antoinette to madness; she attacks Edward, gets very drunk and doesn’t stop screaming.This convinces Edward of the madness of Antoinette. Edward wants to leave Jamaica immediately. He ultimately agrees to take Baptiste, a little servant, with them.

They move to Tornfield hall. Antoinette is being locked up because she is now incurable mad. She is being look after by a woman called Grace Poole continually. Grace always starts drinking at night an then falls asleep on her table. When this happens Antoinette can easily escape and does so. During one of her walks in the house she sees a woman (Jane Eyre).One day Richard Mason comes to visit Antoinnete and she attacks him with a knife, but couldn’t remember it later on. Antoinette has the same dream a couple of times before the last time she escapes. During her last escape she sets the house on fire and kills herself.


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