HomeLiterature Study GuidesWide Sargasso SeaPart 2 Help Me Christophine Summary

Wide Sargasso Sea | Study Guide

Jean Rhys

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Wide Sargasso Sea | Part 2 (Help Me, Christophine) | Summary

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Summary

Antoinette is once again the narrator. She rides off on her horse to Christophine's house. When she finds her, Antoinette comments on how Christophine smells as she always did, which is a comfort to Antoinette. After thinking this is where she belongs, Antoinette tells Christophine, "He does not love me, I think he hates me." She explains how the two interact and notes they no longer have relations.

Christophine is silent when Antoinette asks for advice on how to make Rochester love her again. She suggests leaving him but Antoinette does not like this suggestion. Christophine says, "When man don't love you, more you try, more he hate you. Man like that." She adds that if you do not love a man, he will try and get you back, but if you do love him, he will treat you badly. Antoinette says she cannot leave because he is her husband. Christophine says she is happy to not be living with the men who fathered her children.

Antoinette is stuck with Rochester because all her money is now his. Christophine says Antoinette should tell Rochester she is sick and would like to go visit her cousin in Martinique. She should ask for her own money and go and then stay away. Eventually Rochester will come to her to see if she can get along without him. When he finds she is doing well, he will want her back.

Antoinette says if she goes she would rather go to England as she is curious about the place. Christophine does not know if it really exists. This response causes Antoinette to question whether Christophine can help. Antoinette asks for a love potion, which she says is the reason she came; Christophine seems to have known this from the moment she saw her. Christophine again says you can't make a man love you, but Antoinette says Christophine can. Christophine says trouble comes with that, especially when béké or white people try it, but Antoinette insists that if Rochester comes to her bed again, she can make him love her. Christophine disagrees and tells that afterward he will hate her. Antoinette says he hates her now, so how can it get worse. Antoinette says she cannot leave Rochester because that would be a scandal, which he hates. Both Rochester and Richard Mason would force her back.

Christophine insists Rochester loves money and shares that there are many rumors going around that confuse Rochester. A conversation is recalled between Aunt Cora and Richard Mason. Aunt Cora believed it was wrong to turn Antoinette's financial fate over to Rochester. The argument took a lot out of Aunt Cora, who is no longer in good health.

Christophine instructs Antoinette to tell Rochester calmly and rationally about her family history. Antoinette says she tried, but Rochester does not believe her, and she is now afraid. Christophine says if she will try and explain one more time, she will then give her the obeah. Antoinette gives Christophine money but she is not interested in it. As she leaves, Antoinette hears a cock crow and says it is for betrayal. She wonders, "Who is the traitor?"

Analysis

It is easy to think Christophine is a modern woman rather than an ex-slave in 1800s Jamaica. Her belief that a woman should remain independent of a man puts her ahead of her time. Christophine has her own money and her own home and can therefore do as she pleases. She has no need to stay with a man unless she wants to. In a twist of situational irony, this is not the same as Antoinette. While Antoinette inherited great wealth, she essentially has nothing, since her money has been given over to Rochester. Therefore, Antoinette is at his mercy and cannot break free of him. Antoinette has been brought up to be financially dependent upon others and cannot survive on her own.

The greater reluctance Antoinette voices to Christophine's plan of leaving Rochester is being on her own. Just as she counts on others to support her financially, Antoinette struggles emotionally and needs the guidance of others. When Annette pushed her away as a child, it was done because of her own issues and not because she wanted to teach Antoinette to be independent. The impact of her mother's coldness toward her has made Antoinette more in need of emotion, love, and support. While Christophine has already taken herself out of the picture, Antoinette will not also abandon her husband. This would leave Antoinette without anyone near her with whom she feels close. She is not someone who would do well on her own—even if she had the financial means.

Another reason Antoinette will not consider leaving Rochester is her concern about how others view her. There are several scenes in Part 1 in which Antoinette either overhears people talking about her and her family (at the marriage of Annette and Mr. Mason) or is teased directly (while on her way to the convent school). Antoinette also is very aware of how the servants perceive her and is sensitive to their gossip. According to Daniel Cosway's letter, her concerns are legitimate. Antoinette does not want to leave and cause some sort of scandal that would cause people to start talking. She does not have the strength to be the subject of ridicule and is not able to stand up for herself.

This section begins and ends on ominous notes. While riding toward Christophine's house, Antoinette passes some rocks entitled Mounes Mors, or the Dead Ones. Even Antoinette's horse is impacted by this as it stumbled after shying away from the rocks. This forces Antoinette to have to walk the rest of the way. While riding away on her horse, Antoinette hears a cock crow and says it is for betrayal. She wonders, "Who is the traitor?" Antoinette says it is Christophine although Antoinette has forced her into such behavior. Despite these ominous signs, Antoinette remains determined to use the obeah or love potion Christophine gave her. Antoinette does not consider Christophine's repeated warnings that it will not cause Rochester to love her but will only cause him to lust after her even more. Antoinette's desperation and need cause her to deliberately ignore the many signs indicating this plan is bound for failure.

There is some situational irony in Christophine's prediction of the obeah's effect, since this is essentially how Rochester felt before. It is only Antoinette who felt love (out of a desperate need for comfort and protection), while Rochester felt lust. Rochester shows interest in Antoinette and talks with her, but he never sees it as love. It's not even clear he is capable of love as he shows no warmth toward anyone, including his father and brother (his mother is never mentioned). Rochester may be capable only of lust.

While Antoinette goes to Christophine for obeah, she herself has visions. These visions focus on England. She is fascinated by the country and views it in a spectacularly positive light, curious about the landscape, and longing to see it. Antoinette also feels she could be a different person there. However, part of her vision of England includes a house, "where I will be cold and not belonging." Antoinette also says there will be a bed where, "I will dream the end of my dream." The second part of Antoinette's vision of England is a premonition, in which she envisions her own dark, miserable ending.

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