Literature Study GuidesWide Sargasso SeaPart 2 Leaving Jamaica Summary

Wide Sargasso Sea | Study Guide

Jean Rhys

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Wide Sargasso Sea | Part 2 (Leaving Jamaica) | Summary

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Summary

The next morning Rochester and Antoinette are leaving and headed toward England. Antoinette shows no emotion and had nothing to say about the landscape she used to enjoy talking about. As they ready to leave, Rochester feels sadness when he looks at the house. He wants to say goodbye to one of the servants, but she has left. Rochester senses the servants hate him, but he says he does not care.

For a moment Rochester starts to wonder if he is acting right toward Antoinette. Maybe Daniel Cosway was wrong. He looks at Antoinette, who is staring out at the sea. While looking at her he remembers moments they had together and longs to have more of them. Finally Rochester apologizes to Antoinette, "I have made a terrible mistake. Forgive me." These words are met with hatred in Antoinette's eyes, which causes Rochester's hate to reappear. Rochester stares Antoinette down and sees her hate and beauty disappear.

A nameless boy begins crying, and his emotions annoy Rochester, who asks why he is crying. The only person who will answer is Antoinette. She says the boy loves him and had asked Antoinette when they first moved into the house whether Rochester would take him with him when they left; Antoinette had said he would. Now Baptiste has told the boy he will not be allowed to go with Rochester, and he cries at the news. Rochester says she has no right to make promises on his behalf; Antoinette apologizes with an indifferent voice and reassumes her blank expression.

By the time they leave, Rochester hates everything and everyone. He is anxious to make Antoinette a locked-away memory.

Analysis

The great swing in Rochester's emotions leaves one doubting his sanity. One moment he is ready to see the best in Antoinette and believe that all the harsh talk was rumors and the next minute he is determined to lock her up. When the nameless boy begins crying, Rochester is baffled and angered by emotion. Again his attitude resembles the caprice with which the European powers have toyed with the West Indies. He married with no intention of providing for or protecting his wife, as a husband was both legally and morally required to do. Now he plans essentially to kidnap and imprison her, enslaving her just a few years after the slaves in the colonies have been emancipated. Nothing has changed.

Despite all that has occurred, Antoinette remains sensitive to the feelings of others. She is able to understand and empathize with the young boy. She even attempts to assist the boy by telling Rochester the child has learned English. It is only toward Rochester that Antoinette has gone blank. He has treated her terribly and broken his marriage bond (and vows: he committed adultery when he had relations with Amélie). Antoinette, feeling she has no choice but to go with Rochester, shows no emotion—what good would it do? He has broken her. Her anger toward Rochester seems justified and it is she, in this section, who is rational.

Throughout the text, many have looked at Antoinette indifferently or negatively. Here, however, we see the servants have come to appreciate or at least pity her. Baptiste, who shows disinterest toward Rochester, shows kindness and courtesy toward Antoinette. As people get to know Rochester, their pity for Antoinette grows. This is ironic since earlier Rochester felt he deserved pity for being stuck with Antoinette, his lunatic. Instead, the pity is for Antoinette, who is stuck with Rochester, her cruel husband.

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