Wide Sargasso Sea – Identity in Marriage
As the arranged marriage between Antoinette and Rochester causes their relationship and sanity to slowly unravel over the course of Wide Sargasso Sea, they also suffer as a couple and as individuals. This novel follows the life of the protagonist, Antoinette, in Granbois, Jamaica where she deals with self-identity issues and undergoes an arranged marriage with an Englishman named Rochester. The story ends with Antoinette turning completely mad due to Rochester’s controlling acts. In Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, she uses the arranged marriage between Antoinette and Rochester to show the effect it has on their sense of identity throughout the book.
It seems Rhys already establishes the problem of displacement and a shaky sense of one’s own identity in the very first part of the novel, long before the marriage takes place. Beginning with Antoinette, she brings up this issue with the novel’s very first lines. She writes, “They say when trouble comes, close ranks. And so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks” (Rhys 15). The problems of the Creole existence are at the surface and Rhys makes sure to lay emphasis on Antoinette’s feelings of alienation which are that the white Creoles are neither part of the black slave community or accepted as European either. They are alone, as Antoinette mentions, and extremely hated. The people around them also played an important role in creating this identity crisis in Antoinette. Rhys writes, “White cockroach, go away, go away. Nobody want you” (Rhys 20). Though this is a childish taunt in the novel, the truth of it is that nobody wants Antoinette. Rhys exemplifies this metaphor by using the ugliest thing there is. Nobody likes cockroaches and consequently nobody likes Antoinette or her family. Antoinette’s identity is suffering from a very early age and becomes more prominent in the future marriage with Rochester.
The second part of...