Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
Wide Sargasso Sea Power 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.
"It's disgraceful," [Aunt Cora] said. "It's shameful. You are handing over everything the child owns to a perfect stranger. Your father would never have allowed it. She should be protected, legally. A settlement can be arranged and it should be arranged." (II.5.2.1)
Just as Christophine criticizes the law for its unfair treatment of blacks, Aunt Cora criticizes the law for its treatment of women as minors, as the subjects of their husbands, and demands legal protection for Antoinette.
"Then I will have the police up, I warn you. There must be some law and order even in this God-forsaken island."
"No police here," she said. "No chain gang, no tread machine, no dark jail either. This is free country and I am free woman."
"Christophine," I said, "you lived in Jamaica for years, and you know Mr. Fraser, the Spanish Town magistrate, well. I wrote to him about you. Would you like to hear what he answered?" (II.6.6.93)
By appealing to the police, Rochester aligns himself with the law (i.e. the political authority on the islands), the same authority that Christophine criticizes – almost word for word – in Quote #2. Rochester's reference to the law has an almost magical effect on Christophine as she immediately shuts up. Christophine's words also indicate why she remains in the British-occupied islands of the Caribbean, rather than in Martinique, the French colony she's originally from. At the time, slavery is still legal in the French empire, and she wouldn't be a "free woman."
"I thought you liked the black people so much," [Antoinette] said, still in that mincing voice, "but that's just a lie like everything else. You like the light brown girls better, don't you? You abused the planters and made up stories about them, but you do the same thing. You send the girl away quicker, and with no money or less money, and that's all the difference."
"Slavery was not a matter of liking or disliking," I said, trying to speak calmly. "It was a question of justice."
"Justice," she said. "I've heard that word. It's a cold word. I tried it out," she said, still speaking in a low voice. "I wrote it down several times and always it looked like a damn cold lie to me. There is no justice." She drank some more rum and went on. "My mother whom you all talk about, what justice did she have? My mother sitting in the rocking-chair speaking about dead horses and dead grooms and a black devil kissing her sad mouth. Like you kissed mine." (II.6.6.26)
In this quote, Antoinette chastises Rochester for his hypocrisy in sleeping with Amélie. Rochester tries to take the high road by talking about slavery as an abstract human rights issue, but Antoinette here voices the uncomfortable truth that the abolition of slavery didn't lead to the abolition of racial inequality on the island. She also compares Rochester and the man who was hired to take care of her mother. You might remember that Antoinette witnessed her mother's caretaker raping her mother (II.6.3). Antoinette is suggesting here that although Rochester is supposed to be the responsible husband who takes care of his wife, he is in fact figuratively raping her by taking her fortune and having sex with her without loving her. Imitating Rochester's English accent – the "mincing voice" – is part of her rhetorical strategy to rub his face in his own duplicity.