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The three lines: "At long last, I understand why I was brought here and what I must do." There must have been a draught, for the flame flickered and I thought it had gone out. But I covered it with my glove, and it re-burned, illuminating the dark passage (112).”
The Big Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is about Mr. Rochester and Creole Antoinette's engagement. The novel's main subject is personality, hysteria, subordination, imperialism, and imperialist power. Rhys uses the preceding lines to demonstrate that, in the absence of an adequate passage, passion is dangerous; a fire ignited in a house becomes extremely destructive. The statements indicate the frustrations and oppression that Antoinette undergoes. Consequently, she is obsessed of being oppressed and hence she burns the house of the person who troubled her. Being free from her slavery make her realize that she has the authority to do what she wishes. The paper will critically analyse the three lines of Wide Sargasso Sea mentioned above, aiming to describe their content and the main idea that Antoinette is attempting to express.
A Moth and Fire
Antoinette imagines of a fire at her house in England. When she awakens, she understands what she should do. Her statements in the above lines express her fervent hatred for Mr Rochester. In this regard, she burns the Rochester’s house and ultimately herself. The author uses a moth metaphor to explain that the moth is enticed to a fire and it fails to fly away, so it will eventually perish. Antoinette is fated to be consumed by passion due to the feature of her circumstance. Since she cannot move away from Rochester as she is a woman, with no right to own land, and she has no capability to establish a way in survival by herself. The author implied that Antoinette lives like the moth, which flies near a flame. She is frequently attracted to the flame and is more likely to be consumed by it. The author uses the flame as a metaphor to refer to Mr Rochester because he oppresses her Antoinette. The metaphor also illustrates Antoinette as a moth who likes an irrational individual who have been attracted to a pretty but dangerous. Although the Thornfield Hall is an attractive place to live, here it performs a fire, which consumes her freedom and fundamental rights. The metaphor portrays Rochester as the flame, which consumes the moth. Antoinette (moth) is a victim of oppression, rejection and discrimination by her own husband. She has also suffered from miseries such as lack of intimacy and love inside the Thorn field Hall in England. Consequently, the Rochester is considered to be an oppressor, who normally desires to dominate his spouse. He treats hers as a colonial subjects and tangles identity. Antoinette decides to burn his house because their marriage never realizes a happy state (Rhys 109). Both spouses are from diverse cultures hence they are unable to understand each other. However, despite all the challenges, a woman finally regains sense of self-identity thus desiring to free herself from cruel rejection and restrictive places.
Thornfield hall is a place of humiliation and domination by the patriarchal society in the country for Antoinette. It serves as a prison to confine her within the dark so that she could suffer from isolation. Moreover, the hall is used to symbolize male chauvinism, colonialism and domination. It acts as a symbolism of colonial tyrannies, which is evident in Jamaica and England. In addition, the three lines signify the concept of belonging to nowhere and consequently, it indicates how it affects Antoinette and aggravates her resistance. With her identity growing, she destroys the house to demonstrate the power over colonization and patriarchy applied over her life. She consideres it as a ‘cardboard house’. The use of fire that burns the house symbolizes Antoinette rekindled personality.
The oppression that she suffers in the house is so much ambiguous that she is unable to articulate. Additionally, she has challenges even recognizing the kind of oppression she is undergoing. The patriarchal world in which she exists limits her chances of success. The problem she is experiencing in her marriage is the main source of frustrations. There is no love between them as her husband is not interested in loving her. Rochester sees her wife as an object or a property, because he does not love her.
Domination and Oppression
The three lines explicitly describe how domination and oppression of a patriarchal and colonial society forces her to lose her identity. She is never respected or loved by her husband. Consequently, Antoinette is obsessed by the living conditions and slowly becomes alienated. Finally, she decides to burn the house in order to regain her freedom and identity. In the three sentences above, the language that she uses suggests that she is concerned to preserve her sense of identity, the manner in which people communicate to each other and how they treat one another. In the course of the marriage, the couple do not understand one another’s behaviours and culture (Rhys 111).
Failure to meet expectations and understanding in marriage forces the couple to experience a loveless relationship where each one attempts to hurt the other by attacking either physically or verbally. The husband calls Antoinette by different name although she wants to be called by her true name. Using such words as “Bertha”, “doll”, “marionette”, “vain, silly creature” is a kind of patriarchal oppression (Rhys 107). Furthermore, utilizing such words towards her destroys the affection and love which affects her identity.
Their marriage fails to ascertain her self-being and self-worth. At the same time, it does not strengthen or nurture her identity. In fact, the three sentences are used to vent her feeling of oppression and colonization. Firstly, she is economically enslaved, because Rochester is the sole owner and decision maker of all her fortunes. On other hand, she is also emotionally and sexually enslaved by the desire she has for her husband. Although she is advised by Christophine to leave Rochester, she is unable to do this. Her husband treats her like female black slave, because he does not love her. In fact, she faces double colonization in the Thornfield hall, because of both colonial and patriarchal concepts. In fact, her husband controls her assets and suppresses Antoinette by altering her identity, and refers to him as mad.
With regard to her racial setting, her husband describes her as “share of the island” as a colonial subject. For instance, he perceives her as Creole as opposed to English. In this respect, Antoinette is disgusted because he is considered as a person with foreign behaviour and value, which are different, his husband’s principles and morals. Additionally, the reason why she intends to burn the house is that she is viewed as civilized and cultured. Therefore, negative impacts of both colonialism and patriarchy compel her to build emotions to burn the house.
The passage from these sentences generates the imperialism, post-colonialism or empire. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette is considered and defined as a colonial other. In addition, the passage in these sentences implies that she is uneducated, narrow-minded and uncultured. In another instance, he is angry and irritated with her after she talks of England as a place of coldness and gloom. He also asserts that her home country (Jamaica) is an island of dark and gloomy. Furthermore, he normally considers her as unrefined and uncultured because she talks ill about England. On the other hand, he implied that people of English descent are morally upright, cultured and powerful. During the colonialism era, the English persons assumed that those born in colonial areas could not be cultured or civilized.
In the same manner, they were proud of their nation. Therefore, to them, a person like Antoinette is a simple Creole. At this point, the author attempt to show that Antoinette has little regards of the English civilization and culture. The husband also realizes that her wife has limited knowledge about her own country. She does not know whether the snakes in the island are dangerous or not. Her limited information of the Island irritates her husbands, and he knows that there is a wide knowledge gap between them. Her spouse classifies her as a foreign subject, as “other”.
The three sentences above also illustrates how Antoinette feels because she is categorized as an uncultured other. Furthermore, the society especially her husband opines her as an immoral other. Rochester thinks that a person like Antoinette and her capacity of using and acquiring information can only be found with person who belong to the immoral others. The interaction of the word in the three sentences produces the concept or idea of moral madness.
Antoinette has a strange behaviour as her husband confesses that he expected her to maintain Victorian traits but behaves completely different. In one instance, when both were discussing the Cosway’s letter, she attempted to defend her mother and tries to describe the hardships of Annette, but he refuses to believe or listen to her. Consequently, she becomes angry and throws a bottle of wine at him (Rhys 111). In addition, the three lines above portray Antoinette who is unruly and violent. Subsequently, her madness cultivates to burning the house.
Additionally, the interaction of the words of playing is producing the concept of confrontation between Antoinette and the cold world in English land. It is the epicentre of imperial principles. The new country also serves as the prison for the Creole woman. The difficulties between Rochester and Antoinette end when she decides to come out of the prison by burning the Thornfield hall down. The house belongs to Rochester, which acts as a symbol or figure of white exploitation and domination in England. It has explicit interaction to the systems of colonialism (Rhys 112).
Furthermore, the Hall is the solid exhibition of his inheritance from his dad. Similarly, it serves as the culmination of his prosperities acquired from colonial properties. Antoinette’s ultimate action of defiance upturns the previous history where she was the stranded observer of Coulibri’s obliteration. In this regard, by burning the Thornfield Hall, she becomes the master of her own destiny in the end. The usage of the language of revolt presents a beacon of hope that guides her away from death, despair, and ignorance. Ultimately, the three lines indicates that she is about to be illuminated by the bright period of revolt and self-knowledge.
The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys explains how Antoinette suffers in the hands of her husband. However, the three lines above serve as the beginning of revolt, self-realization and transformation. Initially, Antoinette was living in the Thornfield Hall, which was like a prison, which denied her right to freedom. However, she decides to burn the house in order to free herself from detention. Her husband does not show her love as he considers her a Creole. Moreover, their marriage is characterized by disagreements as they belong to different culture. Rochester is an English man who destroys the self-identity of her wife. He acts as a symbol of colonialism and imperialism. Fortunately, the author uses the three lines to show how the Creole woman can run away from her captivity in the prevalent social system without undergoing death or self-destruction. Concentrating on the concerns of colonialism and the impacts of imperialism on the external world, the author awards Antoinette her own victory by portraying the oppressed and oppressor (Rhys 112). She is now preparing to burn the house and free herself after undergoing oppression and denial of rights for a long period.
Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. WW Norton & Company, 2000. Print.
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