Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
Wide Sargasso Sea Identity 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.
"She is not béké like you, but she is béké, and not like us either." (II.6.7.52)
Christophine tries to explain Antoinette's ambiguous racial status to Rochester, but even Christophine, who seems wordy enough when she's abusing Rochester, can't seem to find the right words to explain exactly what Antoinette is. At the same time that she tries to explain Antoinette's Creole temperament, she risks repelling Rochester because it's Antoinette's Creole side that really turns him off. Perhaps this is the game Christophine wants to play – who knows what she really wants?
I scarcely recognized her voice. No warmth, no sweetness. The doll had a doll's voice, a breathless but curiously indifferent voice. (II.8.25)
To Rochester, Antoinette has become a "doll," an inanimate object. But you could say that he's been objectifying her all along. At this point in the novel, the end of Part II, it's up for debate as to whether Rochester has completed his domination of Antoinette, or whether Antoinette's doll-like exterior is only a sham, a mask to conceal her rebellious impulses.
There is no looking-glass here and I don't know what I am like now […] The girl I saw was myself not quite myself. Long ago when I was a child and very lonely I tried to kiss her. But the glass was between us – hard, cold, and misted over with my breath. Now they have taken everything away. What am I doing in this place and who am I? (III.3.2)
Locked up in Thornfield Hall, Antoinette has no access to a mirror, part of Rochester's strategy for depriving her of a unique identity to call her own. The childhood mirror scene she describes here is reminiscent of the scene with Tia (see our discussion of Quote #2 above): her sense of alienation from the image of herself indicates her general lack of a sense of self. But this quote also brings up the larger question of whether Antoinette is in fact "mad" – has she really lost her mind? Or can we see her fractured sense of self as a consequence of her personal history? Perhaps we have to learn to "read" Antoinette in a way that Rochester, or any of the other characters, never could.