The theme identity is the main concern in the novel, Wide Sargasso Sea. In this novel, Identity is accentuated and is enhanced by the female character, Antoinette. Antoinette had an isolated and lonely childhood life. For her, it is a need and desire to explore herself and purpose in life that is continuous which is where the inevitability of the issues of identity remains consistent throughout time periods. Here, the theme identity played a very important role where Antoinette must endure hardships to find her status in life. Antoinette is confused by having her life in isolation and this arrests her development of sense of identity. With that, racism also plays an issue in a part of Antoinette’s identity, where she is caught in a world of different races. This can be seen clearly not only to expose her feelings of compromising and secure of no guarantee, but also to confirm that Antoinette fails to survive in that world of hatred and immorality.
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Other than that, Antoinette’s life during her childhood is a proof of colonization where she was born to eliminate the slave trade and politics culture. In this slave trade and politics culture, slavery yearns to find its rights and justice. But however, in Antoinette’s case, her weakness is mainly stressed as justice for those of Antoinette’s race no longer exists. This racial identity issue is widely presented in this novel to explain why the Blacks (the Caribbean people) and the Whites are widely segregated from each other. This racial tension causes Antoinette to be called a ‘white cockroach’ by her neighbours (pg 7) and eradicates all hope for her to change her identity.
Besides that, the theme identity also revolves around Antoinette’s mother. As her mother’s presence still exists in her life, Antoinette puts her as part of her life. As for her, her mother, who isolates herself, represents the garden without life and with decay. Her mother preferred Antoinette’s brother, Pierre more then her. Her mother was ashamed of Antoinette. Therefore, Antoinette seeks refuge in other social groups. She then seeks for acceptance by the Black population, but again she was always adamantly be not accepted by them. Due to racial identity issues, Antoinette was forced to differ her identity so that she can adapt with her new surroundings of isolation from the outside world. Not only that, but she also wishes to shed off the identity of being the daughter of a slave owner and wants to be like ‘Christophine’ who is totally a different race from her.
She wants to be accepted and break up all hatred and resentment between the Blacks and Whites. Because she is not being accepted by a person she seeks most acceptance from, her mother, Antoinette longs desperately to find other means of comfort from people like Christophine. By seeking comfort and consolation from her friend Tia when the Blacks set fire to Coulibri, Antoinette recreates an identity for herself. She was unable to be against the Blacks because Tia comes from that society. Hence, Antoinette tries to become one of them despite their strong reaction towards her. Antoinette not only seeks to redefine her identity, but also longs for security against harm. But however, by distancing herself from her previous identity, she faces the guilt feeling of abandoning herself and at the end, resulting in isolation from herself and outside world, just like her mother.
This is how the theme identity is mainly portrayed in the novel by Antoinette. On the other hand, Rochester has also played an important role in portraying this theme. Rochester, who plays the role of Antoinette’s husband, is raised with European values and culture. White’s values are also known as discrimination values as they often discriminate the Black population and do not accept them as one of their society. The issue identity evolves when Rochester struggles to adapt with new values after his marriage with Antoinette, who was raised with Caribbean culture by Christophine. He also tried to change Antoinette’s identity by calling her with a different name that he favours more, ‘Bertha’. By doing this, he thought he can change Antoinette to someone else as he does not like the culture and identity Antoinette lives in.
Besides, Rochester is mostly referred as ‘my husband’ or ‘that man’ and not by his name in this novel. Therefore, his anonymity enhances himself as a White man. For those days, the society identity the White man as having privilege and authority to confer identity of others. That is why Rochester tried to change Antoinette into Bertha thinking that he has all the rights to change one’s identity. This is seen in where Antoinette says, ‘My name is not Bertha; Why do you call me Bertha? As a reply, Rochester says, ‘Because it is a name I’m particularly fond of. I think of you as Bertha.’.
This is how the theme identity is presented in relation to Antoinette’s and Rochester’s characters in the novel.
What are society values? In the novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, there’s two types of society values widely presented. One is the White’s or European culture and the other one is the Blacks or mainly the Caribbean culture. The author has presented the idea that being at odds with society’s values involves risks but complying with those values can also be harmful. Here, the author is trying to present the idea that going against the society’s values can be risky but at the same time agreeing and following it can also be harmful to an individual.
There are two main character who portrays these ideas; Rochester and Antoinette. Firstly, I would discuss about Antoinette. She is mentioned in the novel as a white Creole girl. She is torn between the Caribbean values and the European values. Antoinette is raised with Caribbean culture since birth by Christophine. In contrast, she had to adapt with the European values because of her stepfather and her husband Rochester, a man with the White’s values. When her mother, Annete married Mr. Mason, they always ate English food. This can be seen in pg 16 when Antoinette says, ‘We ate English food now, beef and mutton, pies and puddings.’ At the same time, she also says, ‘I was glad to be like an English girl but I missed the taste of Chrsitophine’s cooking.’ This clearly shows that Antoinette is very used to Christophine’s values of life including the cooking although she is glad to live like an English girl.
Other than that, when their house was burnt down by the Black mob, Antoinette believes that she belongs to the Coulibri society. She lived with Tia, her only friend and becomes more like her. But it was only a mere dream when Tia throws a stone towards her as in page 23. Because she was so into the Jamaican values, Antoinette started to believe in superstitious like the beauty of nature even though she had to adapt herself to the English culture.
Later on in this novel, Antoinette was changed by all these Caribbean or Jamaican values when she was married with an Englishman, Rochester. She had to learn to forget all her cultures that goes against the European values. For an instant, along their way to their honeymoon place, Rochester felt very annoyed and uncomfortable because that environment was strange and very new to him. This clearly shows that he strongly oppose the culture Antoinette was raised in.
Besides that, Rochester also tells the readers that he is not in love with Antoinette in pg 56. This affection became more obvious when he received a letter from Daniel Cosway, who claimed to be Antoinette’s half-brother. In that letter, he mentioned that everybody was cheating him, especially Antoinette who has deceived him. He told stories on how Antoinette’s mother died and he also mentioned that she may inherit the same madness like her mother. Since then, Rochester started to avoid Antoinette and he rarely speaks to her. In addition to that, since Antoinette believed so much in superstitious, she went searching Christophine and begged her to used her black magic. Antoinette’s objective of using this Black magic is to make Rochester to love her again (pg 70). Antoinette said to Christophine, ‘You knew what I wanted as soon as you saw me, and you certainly know now.’ When Christophine said that she can’t do anything, Antoinette said, ‘Yes you can, I know you can. That is what I wish and that is why I came here. You can make people love or hate. Or…or die.’ Again, this whole paragraph shows that Antoinette believes so much about Obeah and is so into the Caribbean culture, but not the European culture.
All these shows that both Rochester and Antoinette have difficulties in engaging and getting adapted into each other’s values and cultures. Antoinette was raised with Black or Caribbean culture and believed so much in the Blacks superstitious and therefore she had difficulties to forget these values and follow Rochester’s European value. At the same time, Rochester who came from European or English culture, had a lot of difficulties in getting adapted with Antoinette’s values. He started to hate those values and at the end because of this, they had a lot of problems in their married life. Antoinette tried to bring him into her way by poisoning him with ‘Obeah drugs’ and finally she became mad like her mother when Rochester decided to lock her in a room in England (her dream place). Therefore, the author’s idea that complying with these values can be harmful is agreed.
Creative Response 1 : Top 10 List of things I learned from the book.
1. Limited understanding on cultural differences may affect a marriage life.
2. Self-centeredness and possessiveness to change a person to another is wrong. This
can lead to unhappy relationship life.
3. We should always learn to tell the truth to our loved ones and learn to accept others
as who they are.
4. Racial discrimination should not be inculcated in any individual.
5. We should not try to change a person’s identity for our own benefit and happiness.
6. The boundary and issues of prejudice between Blacks and Whites should be
eliminated and everyone should learn to share equal rights to create a harmony and
peaceful life. This should be applied in our daily lifestyle too.
7. Lack of parental presence in one’s life does not make them individualism but it
makes them a brave person in life.
Creative Response 2 : Poster advertising the book.
I have chosen to create a poster to advertise the book, ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ so that someone else would want to read it. The poster that I have created (above) has a few elements that I find will attract people especially students to buy and read it. Personally, I think that pictures are able to reach people out there easily than words can do. Based on the poster I have created, I have included few elements that I think makes my poster attract people effectively. There are many important elements that I have included in such as the title of the book , the author’s name and even the cover page of the book so that people would find it easier to find this story book.
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Furthermore, I have also stated that this book is available at their nearest bookshop and it is also going for a sale of 20%.Just to attracted people who are in my age group , I have said that this is a story of a sensual romance. In my point of view I think that this poster will attract people because it looks attractive with colours, pictures and short sentences which explains briefly about the book rather than long paragraphs.
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