Deriving Antoinette’s Insanity: “Wide Sargasso Sea”

Category: Wide Sargasso Sea
Last Updated: 23 Mar 2023
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In the novel, "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys, one of the main characters goes through emotional chaos. That character’s name is Antoinette. She grew up in Jamaica in a rich family. After her brother Pierre died, her mother went crazy. Later on in the book, Antoinette goes crazy as well. Some critics believe that Antoinette’s madness is heredity. I disagree with that critique. The primary source of Antoinette’s madness is from the harsh treatment of her husband, Rochester. There are smaller causes as well, like the night when slaves burned down her family’s house.

Antoinette is devastated. The continuous devastation along with cruel treatment from people around her cause her insanity In the beginning of the novel, Antoinette is a solitary young girl. She wanders the island, learning about the world. The fact that she is white creates tension between her and the Jamaican people. Her family also has a lot of money and most people there are poor. Tia becomes her only real friend. She loses that friend mainly because Tia is black and she is white. Jamaican people didn’t like her family. One night the slaves burn down her house, laughing and throwing stones at the family.

This shocks Antoinette. She likes the Jamaican people. During the fire she sees Tia and thinks, “I will live with Tia and be like her. Not to leave Coulibri. Not to go. Not. ” Just as she thinks this, Tia throws a stone at her. Emotionally, this is the start of much devastation in her life. Later on in the novel, Antoinette is married to Rochester. At first, they seem happy together. Antoinette shows him the island she grew up on and tells him stories of her childhood. Antoinette feels love again. Little does she know, Rochester feels nothing but lust for her.

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Rochester leads Antoinette on even more by having sex with her. Antoinette is the happiest she has ever been in her life. Rochester still feels nothing. He thinks, “As for the happiness I gave her, that was worse than nothing. I did not love her. I was thirsty for her, but that is not love. ” He continues to lead her on until one day where he suddenly stops having sex with her. Antoinette goes from an extreme high, to a low point in her life. She has no one. The madness sets in. Rochester receives a letter from a man named Daniel Cosway, who tells him of Antoinette’s family history.

He also tells him that he is Antoinette’s half-brother and madness runs in the family. Daniel warns Rochester that Antoinette is crazy as well. Rochester believes him and continues to push Antoinette away. One day Rochester has sex with Amelie, a servant. He doesn’t try to hide it. Antoinette hears and is hurt beyond repair. Because of this, she is more than crazy. Antoinette becomes a love crazy lunatic. She loses another person I her life whom she loved, because of this, She is not repairable. They leave the island and Rochester locks her up. He doesn’t even try to help her.

When a person is repeatedly subjected to this kind of cruel, evil-hearted treatment, the only course for that person is insanity. Heredity is not the source of the insanity though. There is nothing hereditary about what Rochester did to Antoinette. Even if madness didn’t run in the family, Antoinette probably would have the same reaction. It doesn’t help that after the cruel things that Rochester did, she had no way to cope with them. Christophine couldn’t help because Rochester threatened her. Again, there is nothing hereditary about how Rochester acted. Every reason for Antoinette’s madness has nothing to do with heredity, but cruelty.

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Deriving Antoinette’s Insanity: “Wide Sargasso Sea”. (2018, May 16). Retrieved from

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