HomeLiterature Study GuidesWide Sargasso SeaPart 2 The Honeymoon And Rochesters Regret Summary

Wide Sargasso Sea | Study Guide

Jean Rhys

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Wide Sargasso Sea | Part 2 (The Honeymoon and Rochester's Regret) | Summary



Part 2 is narrated by Rochester, who when Part 2 opens, is married to Antoinette and has used her money to pay off his debts. The couple along with a servant, Amélie, are in Massacre and are on their way to their honeymoon house when they are caught in a rain storm. While waiting out the storm, Rochester briefly reflects on the recent happenings: he had been in Jamaica for one month before he and Antoinette were married. For three of those weeks, he was bedridden with fever. After the wedding, the couple left Spanish Town to spend time on a small estate in the Windward Islands. Rochester is critical of himself, the people around him, and Antoinette.

Antoinette sees a friend of hers, Caroline, and she speaks to her privately. Caroline invites the couple to come to her house, but Rochester declines. While Antoinette is talking to Caroline, Rochester speaks to one of the porters who says, "This a very wild place - not civilized. Why you come here?" As they continue on their journey, Rochester says he understands why the porter said it is a wild place; he feels menacing should be added to the description. Rochester feels as if "everything is too much," including the red of the flowers and the height of the mountains.

Rochester composes a letter to his father in his head. He says he was given 30,000 pounds "without question or provision" when he married Antoinette. This unusual arrangement enables Rochester to be financially independent. He considers it to be a good deal as Antoinette is beautiful, but he has doubts and is critical of her. Rochester notices Antoinette smiling, and she tells him to put on his coat and brings him water. Antoinette points out the red dirt, and Rochester says they have that in England. Antoinette mocks his comparison to England.

While Rochester compares the house with an English summer house, he proceeds to note the poor quality of the lawn and the house. Rochester says the house is "more awkward than ugly a little sad as if it knew it could not last." The servants are waiting for them, and Antoinette introduces Rochester to them. She saves Christophine for last, "my da, my nurse long ago." Later Rochester takes a deep breath and says, "An intoxicating freshness as if all this had never been breathed before."

Antoinette gives Rochester a tour of the house, and the two enjoy a toast to happiness. Frangipani, a type of delicate flower, is left for the couple, but Rochester carelessly crushes it. Antoinette asks Rochester if he likes it there, as she senses he does not. The house is special to her, and she feels comfortable there. When Christophine knocks, Rochester asks if Antoinette is afraid of her, but it is he who is afraid.

Rochester is shown his dressing room and begins to feel comfortable. However, when Baptiste says it can be cold at night, Rochester is thrown. After examining the room further, including taking note of the books, Rochester again composes a letter to his father. He tells his father where he is and of Antoinette's appreciation for the house. Rochester talks of Richard Mason, whom he praises and who trusts him completely. Rochester notes it is beautiful where he is, but his illness has left him too exhausted to truly appreciate it. Rochester rereads the letter and adds some details about his sickness.


From Rochester's very first words, "So it was all over," he appears uncertain, uncomfortable, and unhappy. Rochester implies he has simply been led along—"I agreed. As I had agreed to everything else"—and his lack of power annoys him. He implies he has been manipulated, which he has—his father and brother refuse to give him enough of the family's inheritance for him to survive independently, and he resents them. A mystery surrounds him, and the fact that he is in debt implies that his family is right not to trust him. Rochester claims that entering into the marriage for financial reasons while sick and without much knowledge of the girl is akin to selling his soul, and in many ways he is correct.

However, the arrangement is unusual and dangerous for Antoinette as well. Wealthy women in the 19th century were usually married with a dowry that was an incentive for marriage but was also financial protection or insurance for them in case their husbands proved to be stingy or unable to provide. The money also reverts to them if they are widowed, while if there is an heir, only the father's wealth is passed down. In this case her stepbrother has given Rochester all of her money with no legal reservations, leaving her completely exposed in the case of Rochester's death, a divorce, or even the birth of an heir.

Rochester is not used to being an outsider and is uncomfortable in the role. When the couple passes Massacre, Antoinette explains that people, presumably outsiders, were killed there. This explanation heightens Rochester's discomfort. In addition Rochester envies Antoinette and her comfort with the surroundings. She interacts with the people, appreciates the beauty of the area, smiles comfortably, speaks the native language, and so on. Antoinette is in control, and Rochester is clearly uncomfortable in a subordinate role. It is, after all, the part he has left England to escape. There is some situational irony, then, when he uses England to attempt to regain his footing and assert his dominance: even England has made him an outsider. The novel will not even give him the dignity of a name.

Unlike Rochester, Antoinette goes to lengths to try to make the best of their marriage and please her husband. This portion of the novel is described from another point of view, so the reader does not know her feelings about the marriage. The only clue the reader has is that earlier, when her stepfather hinted at removing her from the convent and having parties and visitors, she felt uneasy and fearful. Her optimistic behavior could be genuine or it could be an attempt to set her new husband at ease—the reader simply does not know.

What we do know is that she tries to set Rochester at his ease and make him feel comfortable with the surroundings, make him feel safe as she has always longed to do. She shares her feelings about the land and the house with Rochester in the hope that he too will enjoy and appreciate them as she does. Antoinette shows a nurturing quality toward Rochester as she brings him water, tells him to put on his coat, and wipes his forehead when he is sweating. She is concerned about his feelings and his health. When Rochester declines the invitation to Caroline's house, Antoinette accepts his decision. Antoinette shares her fears with Rochester in an attempt to help him understand her. She praises him: "You look like a king, an emperor." Antoinette instigated the toast to their happiness, and it is she who tries to make their happiness real.

From their first interaction, Rochester and Christophine do not care for each other. Rochester declares of her that "she seemed insignificant" and senses Christophine disapproves of him. The two stare each other down, and, when Rochester looks away, Christophine smiles. She wins the battle of wills in this first encounter, and Rochester declares her scary. When Antoinette declares her feelings for Christophine, it sets up Christophine as a rival to Rochester, who wants to control his wife. The battle between Rochester and Christophine will continue and ultimately, their different visions for how to handle Antoinette will clash.

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