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«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of ...»

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In addition to Antoinette being more comfortable on the island, Rhys links the exotic quality of the landscape to Antoinette’s sexual awakening. Her newly discovered sexuality proves too much for Rochester, who is repelled by her desire. Mary Lou Emery’s book examines Rochester’s feelings about Antoinette’s growing desire and how this also is in contrast to his European “civilized” world: “Madness and feminine sexuality must be suppressed in the interests of civilized morality. Only on this wild island could they flourish so abandonedly, and so Rochester evolves his plan for Antoinette, a plan about which he need no longer feel any obligations to consult her.” Rochester attributes Antoinette’s desire to the island’s abundance, and it is another example of his lack of control over his surroundings. Because his authority as an Englishman is not recognized on Caribbean soil, Rochester must leave the island in order to possess Antoinette. In his article “The Place of Jean Rhys and Wide Sargasso Sea,” Kenneth Ramchand again focuses on the function of landscape, observing how the relationship between Rochester and his wife is parallel to his view of the Caribbean geography: “The different stages of the changing relationship between English husband Emery, Jean Rhys at "World's End,” 50.

and White West Indian wife are marked by the husband’s changing and confused attitudes to the landscape; and the difference in temperament between Antoinette and her husband is measured out for us in his reading of the natural world which he identifies with his wife.” Toward the end of part two, Rochester’s uneasiness about his natural surroundings has grown into revulsion, a feeling he automatically transfers to Antoinette.

Once again, Antoinette is inextricably linked to the landscape, which makes her unequivocally Other in the eyes of the Englishman.

I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know.

I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it. (172) Rochester’s intense hatred of the island’s beauty is also mentioned in Jane Eyre, and it is interesting to explore the function of landscape in the two works. While Rochester is telling Jane the story of his marriage to “Bertha,” he mentions how the atmosphere of the island was stifling and oppressive: “The air was like sulfur-steams – I could find no refreshment anywhere.” The humid air, which is so oppressive, symbolizes how he felt weighed down by the burden of his mad, alcoholic wife. However, a European wind rouses his desire to go home, and it is this juxtaposition between the island atmosphere

and the English one that renders the island as harmful and England inspirational:

A wind fresh from Europe blew over the ocean and rushed through the open encasement; the storm broke, streamed, thundered, blazed, and the air grew pure. I then framed and fixed a resolution.

While I walked under the dripping orange trees of my wet garden, and amongst its drenched pomegranates and pine-apples, and wile the refulgent dawn of the tropics kindled round me – I reasoned thus, Jane:

-- and now listen; for it was true Wisdom that consoled me in that hour, and showed me the right path to follow.

Kenneth Ramchand, An Introduction to the study of West Indian Literature (Sunbury-on-Thames :

Nelson Caribbean, 1976), 95.

The sweet wind of Europe was still whispering in the refreshed leaves, and the Atlantic was thundering in glorious liberty; my heart, with living blood – my being longed for renewal – my soul thirsted for a pure draught. I saw Hope revive – and felt Regeneration possible. From a flowery arch at the bottom of my garden I gazed over the sea – bluer than the sky: the old world beyond; clear prospects opened thus: Go,” said Hope, “and live again in Europe: there it is not known what a sullied name you bear, nor what a filthy burden is bound to you.” (263) Whereas the European wind and sea from England are refreshing, pure, liberating, and reviving, the West Indies atmosphere is ripe and “dripping” with fruit, but the air is stifling and oppressive. This could be read quite ironically in terms of Rhys’ text, for in Wide Sargasso Sea England is not a place of liberation as Rochester describes in Jane Eyre but is instead a place of enslavement and horror. This passage in Brontë’s text was perhaps instrumental for Rhys when she began writing Wide Sargasso Sea and is conceivably the reason why she chose to concentrate so heavily on the topography of the island.

The idea of the English landscape being superior to that of the Caribbean is not a new concept in literature, as Helen Tiffin affirms. In her essay “Man Fitting the Landscape,” Tiffin states that “For colonized peoples, an English landscape – which most Trinidadians of V.S. Naipaul’s generation had never seen – became both normative and ideal, while the Caribbean was regarded as at best exotic, and at worst, aberrant or second-rate.” According to Tiffin, plantation life and agriculture were ways in which European colonizers “tamed” the Caribbean landscape. In addition to this, they attempted to cultivate the land by introducing the concept of the English garden, which they favored over the wilder Caribbean terrain. This garden appears in Wide Sargasso Helen Tiffin, “Man Fitting the Landscape: Nature, Culture, and Colonialism,” in Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture, ed. Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Renée K. Gosson, and George B. Handley (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005), 200.





Sea, but its description in its post-emancipation state starkly contrasts an ordered English landscape: “Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible – the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and the smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell…All of Coulibri Estate had gone wild like the garden, gone to bush. No more slavery – why should anybody work?” (19). Tiffin cites more of the same passage, aligning the wildness of the garden to the colonizer’s view that a post-emancipation Jamaica is one of regression. Certainly this view pertains to Rochester, whose distaste with the environment is really an extension of his discomfort with the people of the island. His wife’s difference is marked by her Caribbeanness, which Rochester sees when he looks into her eyes: “Long, sad, dark alien eyes. Creole of English descent she may be, but they are not English or European either” (67).

In contrast to Rochester, Antoinette identifies with the lush environment. One of her first childhood descriptions is of the garden at Coulibri, which she loves despite its recent wildness. “This never saddened me. I did not remember the place when it was prosperous” (19). Her nonchalance about the overgrown island is an example of Antoinette’s non-Englishness, because she, unlike those who remember the days of slavery, does not lament the lack of order in the garden. Though Antoinette is still “béké,” her association and love of her natural surroundings is her main source of comfort. The islands are much more suited to her than England, as Christophine points out to Rochester: “She is Creole girl, and she have the sun in her” (158). At one point in the novel, when Antoinette seeks counsel from Christophine, she establishes her connection to the land: “The sky was dark blue through the dark green mango leaves, and I thought, ‘This is my place and this is where I belong and this is where I wish to stay.’ ” (108). Unfortunately, Antoinette abandons this thinking because she is so desperate to remain with Rochester. The latter ultimately takes her away from the Caribbean and gains satisfaction from knowing that he is uprooting her from a place that she loves: “She said she loved this place. This is the last she’ll see of it…No sun….No sun. The weather has changed” (166). This changing weather, of course, signifies England, where there is very little sun. This is the frightful England of Antoinette’s dreams, of Rochester’s cold Atlantic Sea, far from her warm tropical Sargasso Sea. While trapped in the hellish England that is Thornfield Hall, Antoinette eventually journeys back across the Sargasso sea, a subject that is revisited in chapter two. For now, I will turn to Maryse Condé’s text, and how maternal images, mother country, and marriage appear in her work.

Maternal Images in Condé’s Memoir Maryse Condé’s memoir, Le coeur à rire et à pleurer contains many elements of motherhood and mother country that are present in La migration des cœurs. The central figure in the memoir is without question Condé’s mother, whom Condé, the narrator, admires and fears. The relationship between the narrator and her mother compels the reader to ponder the link between the mother figure and maternal language, which influences the daughter’s sense of identity.

In her memoir, Condé is raised in Guadeloupe but she is shielded from her African heritage because her parents choose to identify with white European culture and distance themselves from black customs. Her parents claim to love Paris more than their native country, and pride themselves on their flawless French. Their intense longing to be European leaves Condé with an unclear idea of who she is or where she belongs, for Condé knows that she is different. Condé is also unsure of who her mother is because of her reluctance to assimilate to her Afro Caribbean culture. Though Condé, like many of the other protagonists, has an unstable relationship with her mother, she nevertheless writes that utter happiness was in her mother’s belly (26). This happiness stems from origin, and throughout the memoir peace is found when Condé is connected to her mother and mother country. Though Condé’s mother distances herself from the mother country, there are rare glimpses of Afro Caribbean culture in her mother and these glimpses are always associated with birth images. This association further emphasizes the relationship between mother country, maternal language and mother. For example, Condé’s mother aids another woman in giving birth to her child, and she gives the woman orders in Creole. Condé is struck by the event because it is the first time she has ever heard her mother speak her native language (3). Condé experiments with her memoir and uses her authorial skills in recounting events at which she was not present; specifically her mother’s pregnancy. It is interesting that during the pregnancy Condé mentions that her mother sings in Creole, her native language. Also important is Condé’s description of the changes her mother’s body undergoes, for the description parallels Guadeloupe’s island topography. Condé deftly interweaves the cultural with the physical by associating her

mother’s pregnancy with both language (cultural) and environment (physical):

L’arbre de son corps n’était pas flétri, desséché. Il pouvait encore porter des fruits.

Devant sa glace, elle regardait avec ravissement s’arrondir son ventre, rebondir ses seins, doux comme une paire des pigeons ramiers. Ses cheveux poussaient, poussaient, touffus comme une foret et elle faisait son chignon et fredonnant, chose rare, une veille chanson créole qu’elle avait entendu chanter sa mère morte cinq ans plut tôt : Sura an blan, Ka sanmb on pijon blan… (19) Her body’s tree had not withered or dried. It could still bear fruit. In front of the mirror, she would look with satisfaction at her rounding stomach and firm breasts, soft like a pair of ring doves. Her hair grew, grew, thick like a forest and she would pull it back and, curiously enough, she would hum, an old Creole song that she had heard her departed mother sing five years earlier: Sura an blan, Ka sanmb on pijon blan… (translation mine) The fact that Condé compares her mother’s pregnant body to a luxurious forest is significant because it links her to the natural surroundings of the island and not Europe with its architecture or buildings. In fact, later in the memoir Condé describes her

distaste for Paris, which is the complete opposite of lush island scenery:

Paris, pour moi, était une ville sans soleil, un enferment de pierres arides, un enchevêtrement de métro et d’autobus…(97).

Paris, for me, was a city without sun, a prison of arid rock, a tangle of subways and buses… (translation mine).

Also significant is the fact that her mother speaks Creole in the environment of birth, tying together the relationship with mother tongue and native land. Condé has a similar experience when she visits Gourbeyre, a tropical place that her parents dislike but with which she immediately identifies. Once again, there are maternal images in Condé’s

description:



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