Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
Wide Sargasso Sea Contrasting Regions Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Section.Subsection [if applicable].Paragraph). Wide Sargasso Sea is divided into three parts. Within those parts, the novel does not number sections and subsections. This guide refers to sections if they are marked by an asterisk or some other symbol in the text. Within those sections, the novel indicates subsections by an extra line break.
"Is it true," she said, "that England is like a dream? Because one of my friends who married an Englishman wrote and told me so. She said this place London is like a cold dark dream sometimes. I want to wake up."
"Well," I answered annoyed, "that is precisely how your beautiful island seems to me, quite unreal and like a dream."
Both characters spar over which country is more dream-like and "unreal" than the other, but Rochester gets annoyed, while Antoinette seems merely curious at this point. That Antoinette views England as merely a dream, and not the center of the universe, may have something to do with Rochester's annoyance.
It was a beautiful place – wild, untouched, above all untouched, with an alien, disturbing, secret loveliness. And it kept its secret. I'd find myself thinking, "What I see is nothing – I want what it hides – that is not nothing." (II.3.4.4)
In response to the "menacing" threat of his surroundings (see Quote #2 above), Rochester wants to figure out what makes it "alien, disturbing, secret," but knowing this secret seems equivalent to destroying what makes it so marvelous to begin with. That is, once it becomes familiar to him, it is no longer different and terrifying. Rochester also describes the location's disturbing beauty in the same way he describes Antoinette's appearance, particularly her eyes.
She often questioned me about England and listened attentively to my answers, but I was certain that nothing I said made much difference. Her mind was already made up. Some romantic novel, a stray remark never forgotten, a sketch, a picture, a song, a waltz, some note of music, and her ideas were fixed. About England and about Europe. (II.3.5.53)
Here the novel calls attention to Antoinette's ironic reversal of the way that the Caribbean is conceived in Victorian literature and English literature in general. Instead of the Caribbean being an exotic place made up of fictions and legends that have little to do with the "real" Caribbean, Antoinette sees England as just such a fantastic place.