For the rioters, Coco the parrot, and Antoinette, fire offers an instrument of escape from and rebellion against the oppressive actions of their respective captors. Wide Sargasso Sea takes place shortly after the emancipation of Jamaican slaves. Annette's husbands, first Alexander Cosway and then Mr. Mason, have both profited immorally off of the exploitation of black Jamaicans. Unsurprisingly, the former slaves feel great hatred towards the Cosways--- hatred that boils over when the ex-slaves set fire to Annette's house (35). The significance of th...
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... and an indication of Antoinette's fate. The most destructive fire in Wide Sargasso Sea comes at the end of the novella, when Antoinette burns Thornfield Hall down to the ground. While this action serves as an escape and an act of defiance, it is also destructive, as Bertha takes her own life in the process of taking power from her husband: "Then I turned around and saw the sky. It was red and all my life was in it... I saw the orchids and the stephanotis and the jasmine and the tree of life in flames" (170). Antoinette's ultimate act of rebellion will, of course, lead to her ultimate destruction--- the life that she sees in the burning sky will be extinguished when she comes crashing to the ground. Rhys' use of fire in moments that show or foreshadow physical and emotional devastation reflects the role of fire as a symbol of destruction in Wide Sargasso Sea.
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