Cruelty and Insanity in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys Essay

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Cruelty and Insanity in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea provides unique insight into the gradual deterioration of the human mind and spirit. On examining Antoinette and her mother Annette, the reader gains a new perspective of insanity. One realizes that these two women are mentally perturbed as a result of numerous external factors that are beyond their control.
The cruelty of life and people drive Annette and her daughter to lunacy. Neither mother nor daughter have a genetic predisposition to madness, and their downfall is an inevitable result of the actions of those around them and the unbearable nature of their living situation.
Antoinette's condition owes its beginnings to the solitude of her
childhood,
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Hence it must be said that the cruelty of their living situation, and not a genetic trait, is responsible for their dementia. Antoinette suffers another form of solitude because she grows up as an orphan. Her father died when she was very young, and her mother neglects her, preferring instead to only show concern for Antoinette?s younger brother, Pierre. Antoinette recalls trying to show her some affection, but also states, ?she pushed me away, not roughly, but calmly, coldly, without a word, as if she had decided once and for all that I was useless to her.? Thus the reader recognizes that from a young age, Antoinette yearns for love and must live with the pain of being rejected by her own mother. This solitude can again be shown as one of many reasons why Antoinette is mentally unstable.

Financial decline also serves to drive Annette into madness. Annette started out as an affluent socialite and is now a destitute widow. She is unable to adapt to this new, unfamiliar position in society and longs for her privileged lifestyle. This becomes evident when
Antoinette recalls how her mother ?still planned and hoped-perhaps she had to hope every time she passed a looking glass.? Annette tries to recapture her former _prestige by riding her horse every morning, even after ?her riding clothes grew shabby?. Her horse and her riding clothes are status symbols that represented the wealth her family once had. Annette desperately holds onto these symbols in
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