Wide Sargasso Sea
How we cite our quotes:
"If I could die. Now, when I am happy. Would you do that? Would you do that? You wouldn't have to kill me. Say die and I will die. You don't believe me? Then try, try say die and watch me die."
"Die then! Die!" I watched her die many times. In my way, not in hers […] Very soon she was as eager for what's called loving as I was – more lost and drowned afterwards. (II.3.5.40-1)
Antoinette and Rochester's sex talk might seem weird and more than a little morbid, but they're playing on a literary tradition of using death as a metaphor for orgasm. (See "Shout Outs," Othello.) But Rochester here is careful to distinguish between love and sex, "what's called loving," and furthermore, between his way of "dying" and hers. It seems that his way of dying is sex, but Antoinette's words seems to indicate that she associates dying with happiness. In contrast to the convent, where happiness is associated with chastity, Antoinette is experimenting with happiness as sexual desire. But with death as the dominant metaphor, neither Rochester nor Antoinette seem to have a particularly appealing attitude toward sex.
"When man don't love you, more you try, more he hate you, man like that. If you love them they treat you bad, if you don't love them they after you night and day bothering your soul case out." (II.5.1.14)
Really, what's there to say? Christophine is just uttering one of those clichés that are still around because they have a tiny kernel of truth. You know, the "rules," playing hard-to-get, "he's just not into you," etc. But Christophine is also touching on here the basic problem with the way Rochester's desire works – he seeks to own things, to possess Antoinette. Once she's his, he loses interest because he doesn't need to pursue her anymore.
That was the first thing I asked her – about the powder. I asked what it was. She said it was to keep the cockroaches away […] I had never seen her look so gay or so beautiful. She poured wine into two glasses and handed me one but I swear it was before I drank that I longed to bury my face in her hair as I used to do. I said, "We are letting ghosts trouble us. Why shouldn't we be happy?" (II.6.3.87-88)
In one of his moments of tenderness, Rochester brings up an interesting question: how much does Antoinette contribute to the situation? Without a doubt, locking up a woman in your attic is a pretty extreme and degrading thing to do, but isn't drugging your husband kind of a no-no? Just as Christophine said, explaining things to Rochester seems to have softened him up – he even uses that word, "happy," that Antoinette's been obsessing over for the entire novel. But perhaps Antoinette was just so convinced of Rochester's malevolent intentions that she couldn't help but drug him? Then why did Christophine give Antoinette the obeah powder in the first place? This passage brings up all kinds of questions about Antoinette's and Christophine's motivations.