Wide Sargasso Sea
Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
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Birds and Beasts

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

The birds and animals in Wide Sargasso Sea are usually allegories for the struggles of the individual characters. Coco isn't just a pyromaniacal parrot who ends up saving everyone's lives, but a voice for Antoinette's own conflicted identity when he calls out, "Qui est là?" Cockroaches obviously echo the term "white cockroach," a derogatory epithet applied to white Creoles, but fireflies and moths also populate the novel's emotional life. A black-and-white goat appears after Rochester speaks with Daniel, as a symbol perhaps of Daniel's racial status or his moral duplicity, or Rochester's ambivalence regarding Daniel. And so forth, and so on. Like the land, the birds and the beasts of Wide Sargasso Sea are veritable actors in the drama of the novel, the extras in the background who sometimes steal the scene.

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