Wide Sargasso Sea | Study Guide

Jean Rhys

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Wide Sargasso Sea | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


What is the situational irony surrounding Rochester's feelings about the servants and how they impact him in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea?

In Part 2 (Sexual Longing) Rochester does not trust the servants and does not feel comfortable around them; he hears them whispering and thinks they know something but are not sharing it. He is particularly suspicious of Christophine and is certain Baptiste hates him. Because of his feelings for the servants, Rochester questions what he sees as Antoinette's friendliness toward them. Despite his feelings, it is Rochester who turns to the servants when he sleeps with Amélie. In addition Rochester is manipulated by Amélie and Daniel Cosway. He believes everything he hears from the servants, shattering whatever faith he has in his wife. While Rochester continues to act aloof toward the servants, he is impacted by their presence.

After he reads Daniel Cosway's letter, what does Rochester's treatment of and reaction to nature imply about his feelings toward Antoinette in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea?

In Part 2 (Sexual Longing) Rochester had been suspecting something was amiss from the moment he married Antoinette. Despite his suspicions he has grown closer to her and feels a great lust for her. Daniel Cosway's letter shatters the feelings Rochester has begun to feel for Antoinette. After reading the letter, in addition to beginning to sweat and be bothered by the heat, Rochester breaks an orchid bloom off a plant, stomps on it, and pushes it into the mud. Earlier he had given an orchid to Antoinette and said the flower reminded him of her. Rochester's interest in and tolerance for Antoinette is instantly undone. He will slowly break her apart and eventually seclude her in the dark attic. His abuse of nature and Jamaica, which Antoinette feels so strongly about, foreshadows his treatment of her.

How do the various situations in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea work together to ultimately break Antoinette?

In Part 2 (The Letter) Rochester receives Daniel Cosway's letter about Antoinette's background. By the time Rochester returns home, he is nearly convinced his wife is crazy. While he is in this state of judgment and disgust, he finds Antoinette first fighting with Amélie and then cutting up the sheets. These seemingly irrational actions help cement Rochester's newfound view of Antoinette. In addition Amélie makes an appearance and is clearly flirting with Rochester. While Rochester does not react much to her, he does show Amélie some pity. The seeds are planted for their tryst. Antoinette overhears this and it sends her over an edge. It is also in this section that Christophine decides to leave; she has decided it is time for Antoinette to live without her support. This decision is an easy one for Christophine because of the dislike she and Rochester feel for each other. However, it is at this time, as the relationship between Antoinette and Rochester is about to worsen, that Antoinette most needs Christophine's guidance. These three strikes combine to undo Antoinette and lead to her breakup with Rochester and mental breakdown.

What similarities and differences exist in the forest excursions Antoinette and Rochester take in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea?

Antoinette dreams of being in a forest after Mr. Mason tells her indirectly he is going to find her a husband. This proposal frightens Antoinette and leaves her anxious about the future. In the dream Antoinette is lost. She is following someone she does not know but later claims is the devil. Rochester is awake when he walks through the forest, but while he is out, dusk arrives, giving the outing a dream-like mood. Having just gotten disturbing news about Antoinette, he believes he has been duped and everyone knew it but him. Eventually Rochester is lost. He sees somebody he eventually decides was a zombie. The overlap of the two dreams in Part 2 (The Letter) points to similarities in the two characters. Both characters go off by themselves when faced with a disturbing situation and struggle to make sense of the road ahead.

Why does Christophine, against her better judgment, agree to give Antoinette the obeah in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea?

Antoinette is willing to try anything to get Rochester to love her again, convinced if they are intimate again, his previous feelings will resurface. Antoinette is so desperate that she will bribe her nanny and trusted friend even when that friend says no. Christophine is an independent woman and proud of it, and she counsels Antoinette to leave her husband in Part 2 (Help Me, Christophine), encouraging Antoinette to be strong. Ultimately Christophine gives Antoinette the obeah (a magic spell or sorcery native to the Caribbean), who has begged her despite warnings. She gives it to her out of guilt, because she, like Aunt Cora, never believed the marriage to Rochester was the right thing for Antoinette. She tried to convince Richard Mason of this, but she was unable. Christophine could not save Antoinette then, so she will try to help now, even though she does not believe in the solution.

What signs the obeah will fail does Antoinette ignore in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea?

In Part 2 (Rochester's Rejection of Antoinette), Antoinette tries to explain to Rochester what happened to her mother. At first Rochester tires to put her off, but when Antoinette insists he listens to her. After telling the story, including the visit she took to see her mother, Antoinette rightly realizes Rochester does not seem to appreciate her side of the story. Despite her request he not call her Bertha, Rochester continues to do so. When Rochester kisses her, Antoinette says, "Your mouth is colder than my hands," implying a lack of passion and feeling. Antoinette ignores these signs and gives Rochester the obeah (the magic potion) in the wine. She is convinced that having relations will make everything right again. Over the course of the story, Antoinette has shown herself to be sensitive in recognizing the intentions of others. However, she does not understand love and therefore misses these obvious signs that Rochester will not come back to her.

Why does Rochester have relations with Amélie in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea?

Amélie has been flirting with Rochester since readers first see them together. He is attracted to Amélie but showed no inclination to act on that interest. In Part 2 (Rochester's Rejection of Antoinette), he is still feeling lust from the obeah (the magic potion) and acts upon it by sleeping with Amélie—a situationally ironic turn of events since Antoinette got the obeah to bring her husband back to her; in the end it serves only to further damage their relationship. Rochester sleeps with Amélie in the room next door to Antoinette. He wants her to hear what he is doing and does it to hurt her. Knowing she drugged him, Rochester uses Amélie to get revenge on Antoinette and retake control of the situation.

What are the similarities and differences in the reasons Annette and Antoinette assault and threaten their respective husbands?

Annette curses and threatens Mr. Mason when Coulibri is set ablaze and she discovers Pierre is dead. She blames her husband because he misjudged the former slaves despite Annette's repeated warnings. Annette never recovers from this incident. Antoinette assaults Rochester after he sleeps with Amélie in Part 2 (Rochester's Rejection of Antoinette) and effectively ends their marriage. In addition to cursing and threatening him, Antoinette bites Rochester and draws blood. Annette lashes out because of her angst related to her child; Antoinette lashes out for the personal anguish she feels. Both women feel their husbands let them down in the role of protector. The incidents that draw the women's ire are shattering and intense; therefore, their reactions are understandable.

In what ways is Rochester justified or unjustified in questioning how Christophine treats Antoinette in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea?

Antoinette goes off to Christophine in Part 2 (Rochester's Rejection of Antoinette) after she hears Rochester and Amélie in bed. Antoinette is emotionally destroyed and turns to Christophine for support. Christophine uses unorthodox methods (maybe some form of obeah—a sorcery practiced by natives of the Caribbean) to try to help Antoinette. Eventually Christophine resorts to administering alcohol instead because she is concerned about the obeah's effect on Antoinette. When Rochester sees Antoinette next, she is a mess. Through all the times Rochester spent with Antoinette, the one constant was her beauty. When he sees Antoinette, who appears to have become addicted to rum, he is concerned. However, his concern does not ring true. He is himself searching the house desperately for whatever alcohol he can find. And he is the one who broke Antoinette by flaunting his sexual freedom and refusing to recognize her family history and personal identity. Obviously he is using Antoinette's condition as a way of shifting blame to Christophine whom he has seen as a rival from the start. Christophine claims to be a better caretaker for Antoinette, yet she has turned her into this mess. This gives Rochester ammunition to attack and an excuse to separate Antoinette from the islanders he believes are a bad influence.

Why does Christophine's talk of money enable Rochester to regain his composure in Part 2 of Wide Sargasso Sea?

When Christophine talks to Rochester in Part 2 (Rochester's Rejection of Antoinette), she sounds like a prosecutor. She goes over everything that has happened between Antoinette and Rochester and blames Rochester for the issues between the couple. She also explains all the challenges Antoinette has been through and why she deserves sympathy. Listening to Christophine causes Rochester to act as if he is punch drunk. He has trouble focusing, and her words echo in his read. He is off balance and barely reacts to Christophine. However, when Christophine talks of money, he regains his composure. Money is something Rochester can relate to. He is greedy, as shown by his marriage to Antoinette in order to get her wealth. When Christophine goes on and on about emotions and feelings and back stories, Rochester cannot take it. When, on the other hand, she mentions money he can so easily believe he has uncovered her real motive because money is his real motive too. At this point he thinks he understands what she's wanted all along.

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