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Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

by Jean Rhys

Identity Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

I went to parts of Coulibri that I had not seen, where there was no road, no path, no track. And if the razor grass cut my legs and arms I would think, 'It's better than people.' Black ants or red ones, tall nests swarming with white ants, rain that soaked me to the skin – once I saw a snake. All better than people.

Better. Better than people.

Watching the red and yellow flowers in the sun thinking of nothing, it was as if a door opened and I was somewhere else, something else. Not myself any longer. (I.1.3.38)

The wild beauty of the Coulibri estate provides the young Antoinette an escape from her troubles. But this estate isn't a home, a safe and secure place that Antoinette can identify with and make her own. The razor grass's mutilation of Antoinette's body marks a wound where her sense of self should be. Antoinette forgets her troubles to the point where she doesn't exist anymore, perhaps to the point where she isn't even human anymore, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

Quote #2

We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass. (I.1.8.29)

Oh, boy, Antoinette gets cut again. This time by a rock thrown by Tia, although she never sees Tia actually throw the rock. Like the razor grass in Quote #1, Tia is an avatar of the unwelcoming home. Tia is an image of what Antoinette would like to be: a black woman, not a white Creole who is accepted by neither white nor black communities. Unlike Tia, Antoinette will never have a racial identity to call her own.

Quote #3

I will write my name in fire red, Antoinette Mason, née Cosway, Mount Calvary Convent, Spanish Town, Jamaica, 1839. (I.2.4.1)

Other than the fact that this is the only instance where we get an actual date in the novel, the quote is also interesting because it's a rare instance where Antoinette seems to embrace her identity. The fact that she has two last names (since her mother's re-marriage), yet another indication of her split identity, doesn't seem to faze her as she emblazons her signature in "fire red," a color that resonates with the moments where she is the most defiant in the novel (See "Red Dress, White Dress" in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory"). This uncharacteristic confidence might have something to do with the fact that she feels the convent is a kind of "refuge," a community of racially diverse women, away from the grasp of marriage-minded, gold-digging, white English bachelors (I.2.5.1).

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