Wide Sargasso Sea
How we cite our quotes:
"Of course they have their own misfortunes. Still waiting for this compensation the English promised when the Emancipation Act was passed. Some will wait for a long time." (I.1.1.3)
The novel sets the historical mood of the novel by mentioning the Emancipation Act on the very first page. By associating emancipation with "misfortunes," the novel explores how true freedom is impossible given the persistent social, political, and economic inequities on the island. (See "Setting" for a fuller discussion of the historical significance of the Act.)
No more slavery! She had to laugh! "These new ones have Letter of the Law. Same thing. They got magistrate. They got fine. They got jail house and chain gang. They got tread machine to mash up people's feet. New ones worse than old ones – more cunning, that's all." (I.1.3.25)
Christophine's cynicism reflects her own experience with the continuing racial injustice on the island. While blacks are no longer enslaved, they are persecuted in other ways by being treated as inferior citizens under the law. The use of the law is in some ways more hypocritical than slavery, because the law professes to be the expression of an idea of justice, while the institution of slavery didn't have such lofty moral pretensions.
My stepfather talked about a plan to import labourers – coolies he called them – from the East Indies. When Myra had gone out, Aunt Cora said, "I shouldn't discuss that if I were you. Myra is listening." (I.1.7.19)
Mr. Mason's comments here suggest that the ensuing riot could be seen as a form of class-based anger on the part of the black community. By importing laborers, Mr. Mason would be withholding jobs from the black community, further aggravating conditions of economic hardship.