Wide Sargasso Sea Essay

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Wide Sargasso Sea

Places take on a symbolic significance in Wide Sargasso Sea. Discuss the way in which Jean Rhys uses different locations in the narrative.

Place in 'Wide Sargasso Sea' seems to be used to convey Antoinette's frame of mind at different times in her life. Wally Look Lai believes that "The West Indian setting...is central to the novel...(and) the theme of rejected womanhood is utilized symbolically in order to make an artistic statement about West Indian society and about an aspect of the West Indian experience".

In Part One of 'Wide Sargasso Sea', Coulibri and the convent in
Spanish Town are presented as contrasts in that they represent danger and safety respectively. Antoinette's mother describes how she
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This suggests that this is a dangerous place for them to be in, and that, like Eden, the garden is a symbol of corrupted innocence. This gives the reader a hint of what is coming. Rhys sets a tone of eerie silence in this West
Indian landscape.

She uses many of her senses to describe the garden, which was
'wonderful to see' and smelt 'very sweet and strong'. She conveys every aspect of the garden in a very powerful manner, which in turn conveys the wildness of it. This effect is heightened by the animal imagery used to describe the 'thin brown tentacles' of the orchids.
The garden can no longer be controlled: it has given itself over to wildness and savage overgrowth. This parallels with the fact that the black people can no longer be controlled by the white people.
Therefore, some may interpret the garden as a symbol of the deterioration of the social hierarchy of the time. The natural surroundings are often used as symbols in this novel. The first time that she has her recurring dream, she is 'in the forest' with 'someone who hated' her. This forest is clearly symbolic of her isolation and the danger that she feels she is in, living in Coulibri.
Antoinette seems particularly preoccupied with morbidity and decay
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