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.
Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible – the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest trees, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach or for some reason not to be touched. One was snaky looking, another like an octopus with long thin brown tentacles bare of leaves hanging from a twisted root. (I.1.2.2)
This passage about the Coulibri estate makes explicit reference to the Biblical garden of Eden, but it's a strange and creepy paradise where beauty and decay are intermingled. Instead of being associated with a state of innocence, we have a "wild" paradise, with vaguely threatening flowers that look like snakes and octopi.
There was a soft warm wind blowing but I understood why the porter had called it a wild place. Not only wild but menacing. Those hills could close in on you […] Everything is too much, I felt as I rode wearily after her. Too much blue, too much purple, too much green. The flowers too red, the mountains too high, the hills too near. (II.1.2.1-4)
Rochester goes into sensory overload as he makes his way to Granbois. Unable to handle the "wild" beauty of the Caribbean, he finds it "menacing" as it threatens his control over his senses.
"Oh England, England," she called back mockingly, and the sound went on and on like a warning I did not choose to hear.
Soon the road was cobblestoned and we stopped at a flight of stone steps. There was a large screw pine to the left and to the right what looked like an imitation of an English summer house. (II.1.2.12-13)
For Rochester, the Caribbean takes him out of his English comfort zone, and thus radically challenges his sense of self. You can see how he clings to anything in the environment that remotely reminds him of England, as when he compares their vacation home to an "English summer house." Rather than appreciating the Caribbean on its own terms, he only sees the island as either a pale imitation or a monstrous deformation of his English homeland.