Wide Sargasso Sea
Race Quotes Page 3
How we cite our quotes:
This young Mrs. Cosway is worthless and spoilt, she can't lift a hand for herself and soon the madness that is in her, and in all these white Creoles, come out […] Sir ask yourself how I can make up this story and for what reason […] The good man in Barbados teach me more, he give me books, he tell me read the Bible every day and I pick up knowledge without effort. He is surprise how quick I am. Still I remain an ignorant man and I do not make up this story. I cannot. It is true. (II.4.1.9-17)
This quote is representative of Daniel Cosway/Boyd's bizarre and contradictory letter. First off, he spouts a lot of racist baloney about Creoles that was unfortunately common belief at the time – the belief that they are somehow "degenerate" because of their exposure to the Caribbean climate. But then he tries to pump himself up. He's no ordinary colored, but an educated one, such that whites are astonished at how "quick" or clever he is. But he knows that if he pumps himself up too much, Rochester will just think he's fibbing, so he actually pins a racist stereotype on himself. As a colored man, he can't possibly be smart enough to make up a story, can he?
"If béké say it foolishness, then it foolishness. Béké clever like the devil. More clever than God. Ain't so? Now listen and I will tell you what to do" (II.5.2.24)
Christophine here expresses a canny sense of how her world works. Since the békés (or whites) hold political power, they are able to, in some sense, control what counts as reality. (The back-story here is that Christophine was sentenced to prison by a white magistrate for practicing obeah.) On the other hand, if the békés don't "say it foolishness," i.e., if they do believe in obeah, then obeah works, at least to the extent that an obeah practitioner like Christophine can frighten people into giving her what she wants (of which there are numerous examples throughout the book). Thus, even though she starts by admitting the power of the béké's word, she ends the quote by telling Antoinette, a béké, what to do.
But how can she know the best thing for me to do, this ignorant, obstinate, old negro woman, who is not certain if there is such a place as England? (II.5.1.32)
It's difficult to be completely sympathetic with Antoinette when we see her racism in a moment such as this one. Despite her obvious sympathy and identification with the blacks in her world, she still maintains many racist attitudes, a possible contributing factor in her rejection of Sandi Cosway.