WSS critical readings

WSS critical readings - 180 M ICHAEL T HORPE [ THE PLACE OF...

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180 MICHAEL THORPE and her own past relationship with her half-caste cousin, Sandi (of which her step-father so violently disapproved) to harden Edward's habit of repressed feeling into cold alienation. The warmer Antoinette, who "have the sun in her" (p. 130) [95] confronts him too late with her truth. She recalls Coulibri and the garden where she had been "happy": this nakedly remembered past merges into the alien place which is "my enemy and on your side" (p. 107) [78]. In vain she tells him, "It is not for you and not for me. It has nothing to do with either of us. That is why you are afraid of it, because it is something else" (p. 107) [78]. Her risky recognition of non-meaning (there is no moral scheme- contrived by "people", whom she has learnt to fear) conflicts with that rigid invocation of "the power and wisdom of my creator" (p. 105) [76] which Rhys's Edward fearfully stands upon, shunning the freedom of facing the world's "dark forest" (p. 137) [100]-which surely involves passionate relationship - existentially. Could Edward have acknowledged with Antoinette that dangerous freedom and have helped her face it, he might have grasped the elusive "secret". Antoinette gives him passion, a self-abandon in desire he can- not trust: Daniel Cosway's accusations,l Antoinette's foolishly counter- ing use of the love potion certainly deepen their alienation, but are not essential. Their shared tragedy is that Edward has never learnt to give, nor Antoinette to receive securely. The "secret" is denied by their deep, shared incapacity for relationship and love. At the moment of departure Edward is "suddenly, bewilderingly ... certain that everything I had imagined to be truth was false. False. Only the magic and the dream are true - all the rest's a lie. Let it go. Here is the secret. Here" (p. 138) [100-01]. The place holds the "secret"; it is Antoinette's, spir- itually her only stay: in carrying her away to England he vents his frustration, rationalized as revenge for her suspected betrayal, not only upon her but upon himself. He acts with the calculating cruelty of the sensitive, not the brutal. His romantic desires for a marriage of self and place - more possible for him, as for Antoinette, than a relationship with people, for he despises her "savage" people, as she had learnt from her step-father's example to fear his-ends with "nothing" (p. 142) [104]. At the beginning of Part Three Grace Poole remembers "Mrs. Eff" (Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre) reproving her for her unwillingness to accept 3. Daniel Cosway, not Daniel Mason (the name of Antoinette's step-father), as Porter mistakenly calls him, op. cit., p. 544: Daniel claims to be Antoinette's half-brother, her father's illegitimate son by a black woman, and plays in his accusations upon that repugnance toward the darker races and the issue of miscegenation which was as natural to an Englishman of Edward's time as breathing. While it is true that Edward betrays Antoinette with the half-caste servant, Ame- lie, only to realize in the morning that "her skin was darker, her lips thicker than 1 had thought" [po 84], this is no simple case of "male cruelty towards women" (see note 9 above).
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This note was uploaded on 02/20/2011 for the course ENGL 220 taught by Professor Blah during the Fall '08 term at CUNY Hunter.

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WSS critical readings - 180 M ICHAEL T HORPE [ THE PLACE OF...

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