Category Archives: Week 5

Response Prompts: Wide Sargasso Sea

You may choose to respond to one of the following prompts:

The following prompt is an extension of one that was given in Week 4. If you choose to respond to it, please refer to Alexis’s post so that you are not repeating her points. Of course, you may engage with her thoughts and offer your own in response.

Like Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea opens with the story of a girl who experiences deep loneliness. Compare the circumstances of the protagonists of these two novels (you can also derive your analysis from the film version of Jane Eyre). What parallels or differences do you see? In addition to the two female protagonists, what other parallels do you notice in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea? Are there common themes or tropes? How are they similar or different?

***

They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks. The Jamaican ladies had never approved of my mother, ‘because she pretty like pretty self’ Christophine said.

The opening paragraph of Wide Sargasso Sea offers a succinct description of the social historical moment in which the novel is set (“when trouble comes…) and the position of Antoinette and her mother in that context (“But we were not in their ranks”). Christophine offers an explanation of their circumstances. Drawing from the rest of the novel that we’ve read so far, elaborate on what the paragraph means. For example, based on Antoinette’s encounters with other people on the island, how would you describe their situation? What do you make of Christophine’s explanation that Antoinette’s mother’s beauty was the reason that she was not accepted by the women in Jamaican society.

 ***

“‘Is it true,’ she  said, ‘that England is like a dream? Because one of my friends who married an Englishman wrote and told me so. She said this place London is like a cold dark dream sometimes. I want to wake up.’
‘Well,’ I answered annoyed, ‘that is precisely how your beautiful island seems to me, quite unreal and like a dream.’
‘But how can rivers and mountains and the sea be unreal?’
‘And how can millions of people, their houses and their streets be unreal?’
‘More easily,’ she said, ‘much more easily. Yes a big city must be like a dream.’
‘No, this is unreal and like a dream,’ I thought” (80-81, Norton 1966 edition).

For those with other editions, this passage can be found in the third section of Part Two.

In this exchange, both Antoinette and the narrator (i.e the man) liken London and the island of Jamaica respectively to a dream. What do you make of this analogy? What does this exchange say of their relationship? Dreams are also a recurring theme in the novel. What do you think is the significance of dreams?