Compare the openings of the first two sections. What do we learn of the context of the time, of the gender roles and of how we might perceive the characters of Antoinette and Rochester.
The racial tension that carries on throughout Wide Sargasso Sea is established in the first lines of the novel. "They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks", which sets up an immediate separation between "us" and "them”. However, there is another element to this complex racial situation. In the novel's beginning lines, Antoinette refers to "the white people," but several paragraphs later she mentions, with similar detachment, "the black people", who seemingly view her family with mocking disrespect. A post-colonialist may believe Antoinette and her mother are complete outsiders in their community. Antoinette feels as alienated as her mother when others call her a "white cockroach" and when Tia accuses her and her family of not being like "real white people." Accepted by neither white nor black society, Rhys characterises Antoinette as existing between the harshly divided worlds of blacks and whites, between formers slaves and former slave owners. The use of the word “ranks” gives the reader a sense of war, and this war is against the whites and the blacks, leaving Antoinette in between. Similarly, the man who is assumed to be Rochester uses war imagery, such as “advance” and “retreat”, which could symbolise that their marriage is a war that inevitably Antoinette ends up losing. A feminist could read this as though, no matter what fight a man and woman are in, the unavoidable truth is that the man will end up winning, especially in marriages at that time when the wife owned absolutely nothing.
The opening pages of Wide Sargasso Sea set a dark and menacing tone that runs through the entire novel. Within the first two pages of the text, two instances of death occur - that of the Cosway's neighbor Mr. Luttrell and that...
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