Literature Study GuidesWide Sargasso SeaPart 2 Meeting And Marriage Summary

Wide Sargasso Sea | Study Guide

Jean Rhys

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Wide Sargasso Sea | Part 2 (Meeting and Marriage) | Summary

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Summary

Rochester recalls his meeting and courtship of Antoinette. He says he was playing a role and acting a part and is surprised few people noticed. Those who doubted his sincerity or were curious about it were the black servants and not the white people.åç

Rochester's recall of the wedding is also fragmented. All the women seemed to look alike to him. He remembers Antoinette was dressed in white and that her hand was freezing when she came out of the church but not what she looked like. People seem to show him pity, but Rochester does not understand why—he feels he has done well for himself.

The morning of the wedding Richard Mason tells Rochester that Antoinette has decided she does not want to go through with it. Antoinette does not explain why. Rochester goes to her. When she says she "is afraid of what may happen," he reminds her of his promise to protect her. However, Antoinette doubts him because he laughed with Richard Mason afterward. She also says Rochester does not know anything about her. Rochester sweet talks Antoinette, and when he asks her to reconsider, she nods her approval.

Analysis

Rochester's instabilities lead him to be driven by pride. He believes he has fooled everyone in Spanish Town society by making a good marriage, yet people recognize he has entered the marriage for financial reasons. Rochester feels and resents the disdain shown him by servants and other black people, who see his insecurity and naïveté. It is their eyes that so disturb Rochester, and those same eyes do not hide their disapproval. Many of the white people are Englishmen who came to the West Indies to make money, just like Rochester and Mr. Mason. They have learned to ignore the natives as they conduct business and to avoid trouble. Marrying Antoinette is simply another financial deal; therefore, they do not bat an eye at this transaction.

Ultimately Rochester is fooling no one, least of all Antoinette. The first part of the novel shows how perceptive she is, easily able to see through him. When discussing why she called off the wedding, Antoinette says it is because Rochester laughed with Richard Mason after promising to keep her safe. She sees in Rochester the same thing she saw in her stepfather—a foolish British businessman who does not understand the native environment and its inherent dangers. When Mr. Mason was in control, her life was destroyed. Now her future husband is laughing off the danger as he did.

Still, like her mother, Antoinette has few options. Her stepbrother wants to marry her off and thinks little of her, calling her "the little fool." Richard Mason sees Antoinette as a burden, and he unloads her onto Rochester: the marriage is purely a business transaction. With limited options Antoinette accepts Rochester. Should she have rejected him, Richard Mason would have found someone else to unload her on. With little choice Antoinette merely hopes Rochester will keep her safe. Like her soon-to-be husband, Antoinette's expectations for the marriage are minimal.

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