Caribbean Identification In Wide Sargasso Sea English Literature Essay

In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys handles identity through two major character types: Antoinette and her spouse, Rochester. The novel compares British and Caribbean identities and explores the result of conflicting identities within these various character types. Through this exploration, Rhys explores the idea that personal information is both something that is inherited and acquired.

It is important to notice the meaning of the title of the book. The Sargasso Sea embodies the turmoil Antoinette seems about her opposing Caribbean and English identities. The Sargasso Sea is a calm stretch of sea that is ornamented by a few of the best and deadliest currents on the planet. The Sargasso Sea is so peaceful and its adjoining currents so strong that any seaweed or dirt deposited into the Sargasso Sea is very unlikely to flee (Encyclopedia Britannica). This embodies the knowledge of Antoinette, she actually is trapped between two civilizations and becomes the depository of differing social characteristics, such as when Rochester begins molding her into his concept of an English female, so when Antoinette appropriates characteristics of the black Caribbean culture into her own id.

Antoinette's identity crisis is a result of her being continuously denied approval into any particular culture, and her own refusal to simply accept certain parts of her id. Antoinette is a part of the European white culture she's inherited from her family and the Caribbean culture she was born into. Antoinette both concerns and admires the Caribbean culture and the sense of identification that her black servants have. Antoinette admits to wanting to "be like" Tia and looks up to Christophine as some sort of maternal body (27). Antoinette appropriates a Caribbean individuality into her own identification, but the dark servants and other Caribbeans she encounters do not accept her, alternatively they see her as a danger. Antoinette describes to Rochester what sort of young lady would sing "a melody about a white cockroach. That's me. That's what they call most of us who had been here before their own people in Africa sold these to slave traders. And I've listened to British women call us white niggers. So between you I often ponder who I am and where is my country and where do I belong and why was I ever before born by any means, " (61). Antoinette is declined by other white Europeans because of her family's financial status and the fact they are Creole.

As a Creole, Antoinette is obligated to inhabit two identities that she feels she doesn't participate in in a culture that won't acknowledge her. This impedes Antoinette's capability to discern her true identity. Because of her rejection from both civilizations, when her manor burns down Antoinette resolves to recreate her individuality; this is her inspiration for marrying Rochester: to be able to hide from her Caribbean personality and find an English id. This area of the novel establishes that Antoinette has two specific identities: the id she's inherited (an English/Creole individuality) and the identity she has tried out to appropriate for herself (a Caribbean id).

Antoinette further explores her Caribbean id through her a friendly relationship/rivalry with Tia. Antoinette claims she wants to end up like Tia and perceives a kind of strength and self-assurance in Tia that Antoinette lacks. When Tia steals Antoinette's money and very dress, Antoinette is compelled to wear Tia's soiled, old dress. Antoinette and Tia's assignments opposite; this symbolizes the capability to acquire identities, in this case Antoinette attempting to take on a Caribbean personal information and reject her English personality. When Tia throws a rock and roll at Antoinette, it signifies the Caribbeans rejecting Antoinette from Caribbean culture and Antoinette sacrificing the Caribbean personality she was raised with. Rhys referred to how tightly bound Tia was with Antoinette's individuality, Antoinette boasting "we had ingested the same food, slept hand and hand, bathed in the same river. As I ran I thought, I am going to live with Tia and I am like her, " (27) and Antoinette was taking a look at Tia as by way of a "looking cup, " (27) implying that Tia represented the Caribbean 50 % of Antoinette's personal information. This event implies Antoinette's attempt to abandon a dark/Caribbean personal information and attempt to create a far more white/Creole individuality as she steps to Spanish Town.

Rochester, or Antoinette's man, narrates a sizable portion of the novel, from the idea he and Antoinette get wedded. Rochester himself experience a slight identity crisis while in the Western Indies and devastatingly manipulates Antoinette's individuality. Rochester's move from England to the Western world Indies is a trip away his place of ability into a land that is international and ostracizing because of his British identity. It really is at this time that Rochester begins to despise Antoinette's Caribbean associations and characteristics. Rochester disapproves of Antoinette's Caribbean identification and her ability to recognize with the black Caribbean servants. He tries to assume her as any common English female, and proceeds to twist and manipulate her personality.

Rochester renames Antoinette to Bertha to be able to estrange her from her Creole-ness and perhaps to disassociate her with the name of her mother, who also proceeded to go mad. In renaming Antoinette, Rochester confuses her sense of individuality even further. Earlier in the book Antoinette kept in mind kissing a mirror, where her physical self and reflected self represented her two conflicting identities, and when she kissed her representation they were fused. As Rochester changes her name and later locks Antoinette in the attic with out a mirror, she will not know her own name or her physical individuality, as Antoinette points out, "way back when whenever i was a kid and incredibly lonely I attempted to kiss her. However the cup was between us-hard, wintry and misted over with my breath. Now they have taken everything away. What am I doing in this place and who am I?" (107); even the slightest bit of identity Antoinette acquired before this is aggressively attacked and erased by Rochester, departing Antoinette a "ghost" to herself and the world (108).

Rochester also mockingly calling Antoinette "Marionette, " criticizing her on her behalf lack of identity. Rochester completely denies the Caribbean id in his wife, and instead he makes an attempt to say his English individuality onto her and everyone else he matches in the Caribbean. Rochester begins to think Antoinette has inherited the madness of her family and even questions whether she actually is wholly white.

Even though Rochester despises the Caribbean and its own culture, he unknowingly becomes a part of and techniques obeah. When Antoinette begs Christophine to make a love potion for Rochester, Rochester discovers this and effectively transforms the obeah spell against Antoinette. This suggests that even though Rochester works so hard to split up himself from the Caribbean, his participation with obeah inevitably leaves a draw of Caribbean identification on him. This also helps the idea that identification is something that may be bought, even unknowingly. However, Christophine warns that if white individuals were to utilize obeah it could not work the same way as if a dark Caribbean has used obeah. So even though Rochester has received some kind of Caribbean identification, it is only a perversion of a genuine Caribbean individuality.

Through these cases it is evident that identification is both something inherited and obtained. Antoinette adopts a Caribbean personal information and feels ostracized by her English peers and sense of English personality. Rochester has a solid sense of British identity and attempts to erase all traces of Caribbean identification in Antoinette, and in the process even partakes in Caribbean culture himself. Antoinette's fabrication of identities and Rochester's later manipulation leads Antoinette to have no personal information and she eventually slips into madness.

Word Count up: 1, 300

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