Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

August 12, 2011
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Wide Sargasso Sea is a beautiful, haunting book. It follows the life of stunningly beautiful Antoinette, the woman in the attic from Jane Eyre, showing her in a different light. It has many levels, all of which are fascinating. The first level is the main plot line of a woman never able to find her identity. The next is the many symbolisms and foreshadowing pointing toward her fiery end. The most interesting of these to me is found on page 78, on the couple’s first morning at Granbois after Christophine brings breakfast on a tray with two roses. Mr. Rochester references a French poem by Francois de Malherbe that consoles a woman on the death of her daughter that I looked up. The full stanza he quotes from is “Mais elle etait du monde, ou les plus belles choses ont le pire destin: Et, rose, elle a vecu ce que vivent les roses, L’espace d’un matin.” Or, “But she was of the world, where the most beautiful things have the worst fate: and being a rose, she lived what all roses live, just one single morning.” This clearly references Antoinette and their marriage in a distressingly (to Rochester) vibrant place as beautiful and prone to a tragic demise. And as a post-colonial novel it, as mentioned in the preface, shows how poorly foreign women were treated by the English men that had to mold the world to their liking.

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