In Jean Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso Sea, whether Antoinette Cosway really goes mad in the end is debatable. Nevertheless, it is clear that her life is tragic. The tragedy comes from her numerous pursuits for love and a sense of belonging, and her failure at each and every one of these attempts.
As a child Antoinette, is deprived of parental love. Her father is a drunkard and has many mistresses and illegitimate children. According to Daniel Cosway's account, old Cosway is cruel to his own son. Yet even if Daniel was not really a Cosway, and his descriptions were made out of spite, or if old Cosway had cared any more for his legitimate children than his bastard ones, his alcoholism is real, and thus he could not have been a loving father to Antoinette.
Her mother, Annette, does not show much motherly affection to her either. Antoinette needs and wants her mother's love, but Annette is indifferent to her. Once, Antoinette sees her mother frown, and tries to smooth the frown out with her hand,
But she pushed me away, not roughly but calmly, coldly, without a word, as if she had decided once and for all that I was useless to her. She wanted to sit with Pierre or walk where she pleased without being pestered, she wanted peace and quiet.…. 'Oh, let me alone,' she would say, 'let me alone' (13; part 1).
One night, when Antoinette has had a nightmare, she awakens to see her mother at her bed. This makes her feel safe, but even then her mother has not come to show concern for her, but to look after Pierre, whom is frightened by her noise.
When her needs for love and belonging are neglected by her parents, Antoinette seeks to fulfill them elsewhere. She seeks love from a newly foun...
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...r her, if there has ever been any, is completely gone, andall that is left is destructive hatred:
If I was bound for hell let it be hell. No more false heavens. No more damned music. You hate me and I hate you. We'll see who hates best. But first, first I will destroy your hatred. Now my hate is colder, stronger, and you'll have no hate to warm yourself. You will have nothing (110; part 2).
He thus murders her last hope for love and safety, and brings her to England to be locked away in his attic. This is her second dislocation, this time not only removed from her own familiar world, but completely isolated from the entire world. Here her tragedy is complete, for her heart and soul are killed, and she is but a ghost, with "nothing left but hopelessness" (110; part 2).
Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. Ed. Angela Smith. London: Penguin, 1997.
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