English 114 WR
April 20, 2011
Power and Will
A very prominent theory and ideology that has always been popular throughout the ages has been the complex subject of the battle of the sexes. In extreme cases there is often a battle of power and will within a relationship. More modernly this can be seen as the “who wears the pants” ideology, in which a partner tries to see who holds the most power in a relationship. In this post-colonial novel by Jean Rhys, this theme is taken to a whole new level. The two major characters in this work are Antoinette and Mr. Rochester, a couple in a very complicated relationship surrounded by dark pasts and differences in the socio economical level as well as in cultural habits. The two who seem very happy at first begin their descent into madness following the unraveling of secrets and begin to have a very strong distaste for the other. As the hatred builds you can begin to see similarities between the two and maybe figure who has the upper hand at the end of the drama.
Antoinette is not able to live and make conversation with the black people in her Caribbean community; she is deeply despised and is the subject of conversation among them. Her past, which involved slave ownership, has not only caused resentment among the blacks in the town, but also with the whites living there. She has no identity and cannot relate to any one group and is often given remarks by other people such as “White cockroach, go away, go away. Nobody wants you. Go away” and “Real white people they got gold money. They didn’t look at us, nobody see them come near us. Old time white people nothing but white nigger now, and black nigger better than white nigger.” These quotes best show her lost identity and the way the other people look at her and her family who are perceived as “white niggers”. Such a term is very contradictory in the sense that the two words are complete opposite of others. However with such a social record like Antoinettes, the term was coined to insult her and her family making an inference that even they are worse than the newly freed blacks. Despite this unpopularity, Antoinette can in ways relate to the black people in her community, this is demonstrated in her through her childhood friendship with Tia and her lifetime relationship with Christophine. Even with these small friendships, this further isolates Antoinette since she knows that she will never be able to be a part of this black community.
After the death of her mother, her step brother Richard Mason arranges for her to marry Rochester an Englishman. Rochester agrees to marry Antoinette who has inherited half of her step- fathers’ wealth. This is great news for Rochester who is trying to prove to his father that he can be financially independent, as the youngest in his family he will not be receiving any of his fathers’ wealth so his marriage with Antoinette becomes a perfect opportunity for him. Rochester’s reason for marrying Antoinette is obvious he seeks her wealth and financial stability. His inferiority caused by his father’s neglect is redeemed through Antoinette; he gains possession of her wealth by English Law, and even feels the power to rename her Bertha. His arrogance and need for power is seen in his actions throughout the novel.
This marriage came together through coincidence and not out of love as one can see that both partners had different agendas coming into the marriage. Antoinette was set up by her step brother in an attempt to have someone to be with and share the wealth whilst Rochester wanted in to be financially independent and it seemed more of convenience. There was a lot of lust in this marriage, but ultimately that’s all it amounted to, sooner or not the lust turned into annoyance and eventually hate.
Antoinette and Rochester are both the protagonist and antagonist of the novel. They both have pros and cons that make it hard to distinguish who if any is the bad apple of...