Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
Wide Sargasso Sea Theme of Contrasting Regions
England and the Caribbean are constantly opposed in Wide Sargasso Sea, but what's more important is to think of England and the Caribbean are ideas, products of the imagination. England is just as much an exotic fiction to Antoinette and Christophine as the Caribbean is to Rochester. By exoticizing England in this way, the novel is overturning a long tradition of looking at non-European countries as other, alien, uncivilized – and thus ripe for colonial conquest, as seen in Rochester's constant attempt to get at the "secret" of the locale. Instead of being a far-off, foreign locale, the Caribbean becomes a place that reflects back on the characters' own notions of Englishness – you could say that one set of islands is a reflection of the other.
Questions About Contrasting Regions
- What aspects of England and the Caribbean are described in the novel? What aspects seem to be familiar and welcoming, and what aspects seem to be exotic or hostile?
- How do the representations of each region reflect the characters' firsthand experience with the region, as opposed to what they may have learned through hearsay or through texts?
- Do any of the characters ever feel completely at home in the Caribbean? Why or why not? What do their feelings say about their relationship to Caribbean society and culture in general? And to England and English society and culture?
Chew on This
Antoinette's experience of homelessness in both England and the Caribbean indicates how she is doubly at a disadvantage in both societies as a Creole and as a woman.
By reducing England to a cardboard box and accentuating the brilliant natural landscape of the Caribbean, Rhys overturns an English literary tradition of viewing the Caribbean as an exotic world home to everything foreign and hostile to English civilization, and indeed, to civilization in general.