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Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

by Jean Rhys

Race Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

"What is all this," [Mr. Mason] shouted. "What do you want?" A horrible noise swelled up, like animals howling, but worse. (I.1.8.2)

At this point, the novel seems to be agreeing with Mr. Mason's stereotypical view of blacks as primitive and animalistic. But remember that this is from Antoinette's point of view – she's telling the story. And a page or two later, Antoinette notices that some of the women rioters are crying in sympathy with her family's fate, so the rioters aren't all feral "howling." At the very least, the depiction of blacks at this point reflects Antoinette's conflicting feelings about race.

Quote #5

[Amélie's] expression was so full of delighted malice, so intelligent, above all so intimate that I felt ashamed and looked away. (II.1.1.24)

This quote is one of many in which Rochester reveals his almost paranoid concern with the way blacks perceive him. Since Amélie's expression is filtered through Rochester's narrative, it's hard to read her expression without thinking about what it reveals about Rochester's own feelings. Is he paranoid? Or is she really giving him this look? Does the fact that the look is "intimate" and causes Rochester to feel "ashamed" actually reveal more about Rochester's attraction to Amélie, an attraction that he can't admit to himself at this point but will, we know, act on later on in the novel?

Quote #6

"Her coffee is delicious but her language is horrible and she might hold her dress up. It must get very dirty, yards of it trailing on the floor."

"When they don't hold their dress up it's for respect," said Antoinette. "Or for feast days or going to Mass."

"And is this a feast day?"

"She wanted it to be a feast day."

"Whatever the reason it is not a clean habit […] And she looks so lazy. She dawdles about."

"Again, you are mistaken. She seems slow, but every move she makes is right so it's quick in the end." (II.3.3.5-14)

Like Mr. Mason in Quote #2, Rochester expresses here a similar belief that blacks are lazy. Like her mother Annette, Antoinette is being placed in the position here of a guide or an interpreter, as somebody who can read the true significance of what blacks say and do. Of course, like her mother, Antoinette is ignored.

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