Essay on Themes in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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Themes in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

The main themes in Wide Sargasso Sea are slavery and entrapment, the
complexity of racial identity and womanhood or feminism. In all of
these themes the main character who projects them are Antoinette and
Christophine. The theme slavery and entrapment is based on the ex-
slaves who worked on the sugar plantations of wealthy Creoles figure
prominently in Part One of the novel, which is set in the West Indies
in the early nineteenth century. Although the Emancipation Act has
freed the slaves by the time of Antoinette's childhood, compensation
has not been granted to the island's black population, breeding
hostility and resentment between servants and their white employers.
Annette, Antoinette's mother, is particularly attuned to the animosity
that colors many employer-employee interactions. Enslavement shapes
many of the relationships in Rhys's novel-not just those between
blacks and whites.

The second theme refers to subtleties of race and the intricacies of
Jamaica's social hierarchy play an important role in the development
of the novel's main themes. Whites born in England are distinguished
from the white Creoles, descendants of Europeans who have lived in the
West Indies for one or more generations. Further complicating the
social structure is the population of black ex-slaves who maintain
their own kinds of stratification. Christophine, for instance, stands
apart from the Jamaican servants because she is originally from the
French Caribbean island of Martinique. Interaction between these
racial groups is often antagonistic. Antoinette and her mother,
however, do not share the purely racist views of other whites on the
island. Both women recognize their depe...

... middle of paper ...

...a's colorful brightness. A
nightmare that is also a premonition, the dream takes place among
"tall dark trees" that lead to an enclosed stone garden. Following a
sinister and faceless man, Antoinette finds herself in a foreign place
that portends her future captivity in England.

Antoinette compares the garden at Coulibri Estate to the biblical
Garden of Eden, with its luxurious excess and lost innocence. In her
own words, the garden has "gone wild," assaulting the senses with its
brilliant colors, pungent odors, and tangling overgrowth. The flowers
look vaguely sinister; Antoinette describes one orchid as being "snaky
looking," recalling the biblical fall and man's decline into greed and
sensuality. The decadent Creole lifestyle as portrayed in the
novel-predicated upon exploitation, wealth, and ease-finds its natural
counterpart in the fallen garden.

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