A Lost Identity: an Exploration of Form and Context in Wide Sargasso Sea

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One’s identity is very unique and personal. However, where you obtain your identity is even more important. In most cases your identity comes from your home-ground and consists of the values of the culture in which you are raised. Conversely, the book Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys explores the absence of a home-ground and tells the story of a girl’s (Antoinette) troubled life in Jamaica and eventually England. She encounters hardships due to her race and social status such as being tormented as a child to being locked away in an attic until she commits suicide. Throughout the story she has trouble finding her place in society and is isolated because of it. Within this context the text suggests a vision of disconnection from one’s identity and their home-ground as exemplified by the characterization of Antoinette.
Growing up in Jamaica in the late 1800’s was very difficult for Antoinette. Although she was born in Jamaica she came from a different background: she was white, English, French, and yet lived in a black nation, she was a creole woman. Although there were white people living in Jamaica, they were of great wealth and there was no middle ground. To find your place you either had to be black and fit in with their community and culture or be a very wealthy white person and fit in with their demographic and way of life; and the white class disassociated themselves from her family because her father had married a French Woman, “She was my father’s second wife, far too young for him they thought, and, worse a Martinique girl”(Rhys 9). Unfortunately for Antoinette, after her father had passed away she became impoverished and fell down the social class ranks. Antoinette’s identity from this day is troubled. Throughout her childhood she attempted to reach out to both the blacks and whites and is rejected. The other children tormented Antoinette following her singing, “Go away white cockroach, go away, go away. Nobody want you. Go away” (Rhys 13). As a child her



Cited: Ciolkowski, Laura E. "Navigating the Wide Sargasso Sea: Colonial History, English Fiction, and British Empire." Twentieth Century Literature 3rd ser. 43 (1997): 339-59. Jstor. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: Norton, 1992. Print. Stanchich, Maritza. "Home Is Where the Heart Breaks Identity Crisis in "Annie John" and "Wide Sargasso Sea"" Caribbean Studies 3rd ser. 2, Extended Boundaries: 13th Conference on West Indian Literature (1994): 454-57. Jstor. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

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