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.
I will be a different person when I live in England and different things will happen to me […] England, rosy pink in the geography book map, but on the page opposite the words are closely crowded, heavy-looking. Exports, coal, iron, wool. Then imports and Character of Inhabitants. Names, Essex, Chelmsford on the Chelmer. The Yorkshire and Lincolnshire wolds. Wolds? Does that mean hills? How high? Half the height of ours, or not even that? (II.5.1.26)
We see how Antoinette develops her image of England in this quote from Antoinette's point of view, rather than from Rochester's. And is it really any different than the way we learn about other countries – or even other states, for that matter – in school? In focusing on maps and unfamiliar names, Antoinette shows how much texts contribute to the way we get to know the world around us and, in a sense, limit our experience of the world as well.
"England," said Christophine, who was watching me. "You think there is such a place?"
"How can you ask that? You know there is."
"I never see the damn place, how I know?"
"You do not believe that there is a country called England."
She blinked and answered quickly, "I don't say I don't believe. I say I don't know, I know what I see with my eyes and I never see it." (II.5.1.27-31)
Christophine brings up an interesting distinction between believing and knowing, between a superficial and an intimate, lived knowledge of a region.
Then I open the door and walk into their world. It is, as I always knew, made of cardboard. I have seen it before somewhere, this cardboard world where everything is coloured brown or dark red or yellow that has no light in it. As I walk along the passages I wish I could see what is behind the cardboard. They tell me I am in England but I don't believe them. We lost our way to England. When? Where? I don't remember, but we lost it. (III.3.5)
Even though Antoinette is now actually in England, she still thinks of it as an imaginary place. In a sense, she's experiencing the distinction between belief and knowledge that Christophine lays out in Quote #9 above: since all she's seen of England is the interior of the house and a brief visit to a random meadow, how can she know she's in England? That the house is made out of paper reinforces the fact that, for Antoinette, England is still something straight out of the pages of a book. Like Jane Eyre, perhaps?