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Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea


by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea Part II, Section 6 Summary

Subsection 1

  • While Antoinette visits Christophine, Rochester is back at the summer house. Amélie passes him a second letter from Daniel. In the first few lines, Daniel threatens to come over to the summer house and harass Rochester.
  • Rochester asks Amélie for information about Daniel. The information she gives is somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, it seems as though Daniel had some training as a preacher, a "very superior man, always reading the Bible and…liv[ing] like white people." On the other hand, his parents are colored, although he told Rochester his father was white (Mr. Cosway), and he is, in Amélie's words, a "bad man."
  • Amélie tells Rochester to go see Daniel; otherwise, Daniel probably will create a ruckus. She also adds that Daniel's brother, Alexander, is the well-to-do coloured father of Sandi Cosway, the boy who saved Antoinette in Part I, and that she thinks that Sandi and Antoinette were once engaged.
  • Rochester thinks he hears Amélie say that she's sorry for him as she walks out of the room, but she denies it.

Subsection 2

  • Rochester visits Daniel Cosway, who has already started to hit the rum pretty hard.
  • He tells Rochester about the time when he visited Mr. Cosway as a teenager, asking Mr. Cosway to acknowledge and support him financially. Mr. Cosway laughed in his face and said some terrible things about Daniel's mother. It is hard not to feel a little bad for Daniel because Mr. Cosway was a slave-owner who, it seems, was pretty unapologetic about sleeping with his female slaves and even less apologetic about supporting his children by those slaves.
  • Daniel then delves into his family tree a bit, and tells Rochester about his half-brother, Alexander, and says he witnessed some intimate moment between Sandi Cosway and Antoinette. Daniel also claims that Christophine had to leave Jamaica after she was jailed for practicing obeah.
  • (Oddly, even at the mention of obeah, Daniel can't seem to talk too explicitly about it – does he fear it, even though he's supposedly a Christian man? Is he fulfilling a racial stereotype?)
  • Finally, Daniel gets to the point – he thinks Rochester, in the typical English way, wants to avoid scandal and he's willing to accept money to stay quiet about all he knows. Perhaps not the best move, because he just explained to Rochester that everyone, white and black, knows what he knows…
  • Rochester rejects Daniel's blackmail and leaves, but not before Daniel taunts him with the supposed fact that Antoinette is related to his own despicable, "yellow" self.

Subsection 3

  • The scene opens as Antoinette tries to clear the air with Rochester. Rochester asks her why she claims her mother died just a short while ago when she had previously said that her mother had died when she was a child. Antoinette explains that "[t]here are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about" (II.6.3.19).
  • (Did that clear things up for you? Didn't think so.)
  • Rochester then explains that he received a letter from Daniel. Antoinette denies that Daniel is related to her, and says that Daniel's real last name is Boyd, and he's got it in for all white people and for some reason really, really hates her. (The novel doesn't give us enough information to sort out who's right in this matter…)
  • Rochester notices how exhausted Antoinette looks, and suggests that they talk during the day. Antoinette insists on clearing up the matter that night. Rochester relents.
  • Rochester doesn't seem like such an ogre during this dialogue, even though he was resistant at first. Antoinette hesitates. To get her going, Rochester reminds her that she'd told him that her mother was miserable.
  • Antoinette explains that it was a terrifying time for her mother after Mr. Cosway died. For a few years, they lived together on the dilapidated estate isolated from the rest of the world with no one to help except a few servants, including Christophine. After the incident with Antoinette's dress, "everything changed." Antoinette blames herself for all of her mother's efforts to find a husband to provide for their family, which ended up costing her mother her sanity and her brother his life.
  • Antoinette explains that she believes her mother died the first death when Coulibri was destroyed, because her mother was so closely identified with the place.
  • She then tells Rochester that, during one of her visits to her mother, she spied the man who was taking care of her mother – who at this point was clearly disoriented – feed her rum and embrace her. Antoinette strongly implies that she witnessed her mother's rape.
  • Antoinette grows silent at this point, and laughs. Rochester hears her saying to herself that she has tried to talk to him, but "nothing has changed" (II.6.3.61).
  • Calling her Bertha, Rochester asks her about her visit to Christophine. Antoinette says that Christophine told her to leave him. Rochester at this point suggest that he needs some time to process what Antoinette has told him, and suggests that they go to bed.
  • As they go to bed, he notices a white powder on the floor. Antoinette says that it's to keep the cockroaches away.
  • At this point, Rochester seems almost at the point of accepting Antoinette. "Why shouldn't we be happy?" he asks her. To the reader, he says, "She need not have done what she did to me. I will always swear that" (II.6.3.88). But the section ends with his speaking in a voice not his own, and remembering putting out the lights on the table before he blacks out.

Subsection 4

  • Rochester wakes from a dream where he is buried alive. He can't breathe, and realizes that Antoinette's heavy, perfumed hair has fallen across his mouth. He's dimly aware that he's been poisoned. He tastes the wine, and it's bitter.
  • He runs out of the house, and finds himself back at the ruined old house where he'd seen the obeah offering. He falls asleep, and, when he gets up, he finds his way back to the summer house without getting lost this time.
  • He hangs out in his dressing room, certain that Amélie is going to walk in and tell him that she feels sorry for him. Sure enough, Amélie walks in, feeds him some dinner as if he were a child, and voila, they sleep together.
  • When he wakes up, he regrets what he's done, even though he feels great ("satisfied and peaceful"). He knows that Antoinette must have heard everything in the room next door, and when he looks at Amélie's sleeping face, he is repulsed by what he sees as her "darker" skin and "thicker" lips (84).
  • When she wakes up, Amélie knows what's going on. After a brief, friendly conversation, Rochester offers her some money and they chat a little more about Amélie's plans to find a rich guy to marry in Rio.
  • Rochester asks Amélie whether she's still sorry for him, and she is, but she says she'll try to feel sorry for Antoinette as well.
  • When Amélie closes the door, Rochester hears his wife leaving the house on horseback.

Subsection 5

  • After his little fling, Rochester takes another nap. When he wakes up, Baptiste informs him that the cook is leaving. Rochester notices that Baptiste doesn't seem quite as deferential as he used to be.
  • Rochester writes a letter to Mr. Fraser, the magistrate in Spanish Town, asking for information on obeah on the pretext that he's writing a book on the topic, but really seeking information about Christophine.
  • In his reply a few days later, Fraser writes that Christophine had indeed been imprisoned for practicing obeah, and that Mr. Cosway had befriended her and given her some property near Granbois. Fraser adds that he's letting the local police inspector know that Christophine is back in Rochester's neighborhood. If Christophine tries any of her funny business, Rochester can just call up the police inspector.

Subsection 6

  • We are not told exactly how many days have passed since Antoinette left Granbois, but we know that it's dusk when she finally returns. She heads straight to her room and demands some rum. Rochester also helps himself to some rum and goes to her room.
  • When he opens the room, Antoinette looks a wreck: "her hair hung uncombed and dull into her eyes which were inflamed and staring, her face was very flushed and looked swollen" (II.6.6.18).
  • Antoinette yells at his hypocrisy for sleeping with Amélie and paying her off as if he were just another slave owner taking advantage of one of his female slaves.
  • She also yells at him for calling her "Bertha," arguing that the re-naming constitutes his own form of obeah, as a way of his trying to change her into someone else. According to Antoinette, Rochester has turned her beloved Granbois, the only place left to her where she loved and felt loved, into a place she hated.
  • Things get ugly as Rochester tries to take the bottle away from her, and Antoinette bites into his arm. She breaks a bottle and threatens him with it, throwing obscenities at him all the while.
  • Christophine intervenes at this point and tries to calm Antoinette down.
  • Rochester leaves the room and bandages his arm. He feels as though the whole place is his enemy – even the telescope hates him. That has to hurt.
  • He overhears Christophine cooing over Antoinette in patois, and Christophine's cooing makes him feel sleepy. He goes back into the larger room and decides he needs some more rum. Bad idea.

Subsection 7

  • Before Rochester can go to sleep, Christophine pops in and berates him for breaking Antoinette's heart. Rochester says that it is actually Christophine and her obeah which has made Antoinette into a total wreck.
  • As Christophine really starts laying into Rochester, the novel takes a weird turn. Snippets of Christophine's diatribe are presented as echoing in Rochester's mind. It could be that the novel is trying to represent Rochester's state of mind – drunk, sleepy, barely able to respond to Christophine's attacks. Or is there perhaps a more sinister explanation – is Christophine's language actually paralyzing Rochester? Is she hexing him in some way, making him act zombie-esque? In this weird, trance-like dialogue, fragments pop up that couldn't possibly be Rochester's own thoughts, such as a bit of Antoinette's voice. Has Rochester gone telepathic all of a sudden? Or is it just the narrative being really clever?
  • From this weird dialogue, it appears that during Rochester's fight with Antoinette (see previous subsection), Antoinette had confirmed all of Daniel's assertions, but Christophine claims that Antoinette only said these things to hurt Rochester. (We'll never know, because the novel doesn't give us "the truth" – just different perspectives. ARGH.)
  • But Rochester snaps out of it once Christophine starts talking money. She offers to take Antoinette away if Rochester will leave her half her fortune. (Remember that bit where Richard Mason signed over all of Antoinette's fortune to Rochester?)
  • Rochester isn't having any of it, and tells her he plans to get Antoinette medical attention. Christophine snaps back that it is in Rochester's best interest to have Antoinette declared mad and stuck in an asylum so that he can enjoy her fortune unencumbered.
  • After more hectoring, Christophine mutters to herself, and Rochester knows it's not patois. (Then what is it? Again, the novel doesn't say.) Christophine finally leaves.

Subsection 8

  • Rochester is strangely energized from his battle with Christophine. No longer tired, he has another swig of rum and writes a letter to his father to let his father know that he plans on leaving Jamaica with Antoinette as quietly as possible.
  • A cock crows. Rochester throws a book at it. It hops aside and crows some more. Baptiste claims that it is crowing for a change of weather, but we know from the previous times that a cock has crowed that a betrayal is being signaled.
  • Rochester idly draws a three-storied, English-style house with a stick-figure woman in a room on the top floor, a not-so-subtle allegory of what he plans on doing to Antoinette when they're back in England.

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