Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Tragedy
After a difficult childhood, Antoinette comes of age in a convent school, where all the sermons about the blessed life after death make her wonder whether happiness is possible in this life.
Due to the tragic circumstances of her early life, Antoinette enters into adulthood with serious questions about the possibility of happiness, particularly when it comes to romantic love. She's already seen how her mother's trust in Mr. Mason as a source of financial security and physical well-being was totally betrayed. In the convent, she's surrounded by a community of women who have effectively repressed any physical desire they have for the sake of a purely celibate, spiritual love. Mr. Mason's suggestion that Antoinette is now ready to be married understandably fills her with dread.
Antoinette seems to have found happiness through a sexually satisfying relationship with her new husband, Rochester.
In the early days of their marriage, Antoinette's fears about marriage seem unfounded. Rochester doesn't seem to be such a bad guy, and she starts to feel safe around him – so safe, in fact, that she enjoys a sexually satisfying relationship with him.
Antoinette's marriage soon sours when Rochester receives a letter filled with malicious gossip from Daniel Cosway/Boyd.
Alas, there's no happy ending in sight for Antoinette. Her blissful honeymoon is interrupted when Rochester receives a letter from Daniel Cosway/Boyd, who makes all kinds of allegations about her family and her own previous romantic attachments.
Convinced that sex is the only way to get Rochester to love her, Antoinette slips Rochester a voodoo aphrodisiac, but he gets violently ill, and sleeps with her maid.
Desperate to recover the happiness she had with Rochester in the early days of their marriage, Antoinette decides to drug him into having sex with her. Unfortunately, this plan backfires as he gets her back right where it hurts the most: sex with Amélie, a woman who has repeatedly insulted her. And even more painfully, she has to listen to the whole thing go down because she's in the next room.
Destruction or Death Wish Stage
To retaliate, Antoinette flirts with a number of men and has an affair with Sandi Cosway. Rochester has her declared insane and confines her to an attic room in his English manor, where she ultimately escapes with dreams of burning down the house and everyone in it.
We've already discussed the problems with determining exactly what happens in the ending (See "What's Up with the Ending?"). But even if Antoinette doesn't actually die at the end, she experiences a kind of psychological death by virtue of the fact that she loses a firm grasp of her sense of self. Rochester's re-naming her Bertha and confining her to the attic destroys the woman known as Antoinette by re-drawing the boundaries of her identity.