Cruelty and Insanity in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys Essay

Cruelty and Insanity in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys Essay

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Cruelty and Insanity in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys


Wide Sargasso Sea provides unique insight into the gradual
deterioration of the human mind and spirit. On examining Antoinette
and her mother Annette, the reader gains a new perspective of
insanity. One realizes that these two women are mentally perturbed as
a result of numerous external factors that are beyond their control.
The cruelty of life and people drive Annette and her daughter to
lunacy. Neither mother nor daughter have a genetic predisposition to
madness, and their downfall is an inevitable result of the actions of
those around them and the unbearable nature of their living situation.
Antoinette's condition owes its beginnings to the solitude of her
childhood, thus the cold, unfeeling treatment she receives from her
husband does not create her mental instability, only exacerbates it.

At the beginning of the novel, it becomes apparent that solitude is a
primary cause of theCosway women?s insanity. Antoinette?s narration
reveals that her mother is not accepted by other white people in
Jamaica because she originated from Martinique, and the Jamaican
ladies in particular ?never approved? of her mother ?because she
pretty like pretty self?. Her only friend, Mr. Luttrell, commits
suicide after he tires of waiting for monetary compensation for the
loss of his slaves. Annette is left with no one of her colour or class
to associate with. In describing her childhood, Antoinette only speaks
of one friend, a Negro girl named Tia, but this was an ephemeral
friendship. Antoinette had no one belonging to her age group or class
that she could associate with. For the most part, the young girl is
very isolated and alone, quite like her mother. Utter lon...


... middle of paper ...


...umstances of the
lives that Annette and her daughter lead in Coulibri serve as the
foundation for their insanity. The reader cannot attribute their
downfall to a genetic trait, but must instead understand that the
process of going insane would not have started if their life at the
beginning of the novel was not so lonely and miserable. Fate is cruel
to these two individuals, and the cruelty of the Negroes is the only
human cruelty inflicted on Annette and Antoinette at Coulibri, thus
their lunacy begins as a result of both sources. Antoinette?s
childhood leaves her with emotional scars and prohibits proper mental
and personal growth, thus she marries her husband with these already
established problems, and her husband?s actions only serve to develop
the existing unstable tendencies.

Work Cited

Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: Norton, 1982.

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