Part One

The Opening: Tensions become immediately apparent as the disapproval towards Antoinette's mother is made explicit and she is excluded from both whites' and Jamaicans' sympathy. The family's isolation in terms of company, society and finance is pressing due to the threat presented by the Emancipation act and the absence of a male figure to run the estate. The desertion of Mr Luttrell adds to the sense of mystery and tragedy as the town gossips and views Nelson's Rest suspiciously as an "unlucky place" (p.15). We see Antoinette's family "marooned" (p.16). The death of their horse is discovered by the young Antoinette who rather than tell anybody hopes her denial of the sight will make it unreal: "I thought that if I told no one it might not be true" (p.15). The mother, a flighty and beautiful lady, who still yearns for the grand life and admirers "perhaps she had to hope every time she passed a looking glass" (p.15), feels irritated and takes out her feelings of frustration and persecution against their employee Godfrey; "The old hypocrite... He knew what they were going to do".

Family Relations: We learn about the idiot son Pierre and the further mental stress his condition places on Antoinette's mother; "she grew thin and silent, and at last refused to leave the house at all" (p.16). The sad position is highlighted by Antoinette's description of the garden and its former beauty and Edenic glory which is contrasted by the short stark sentence "But it had gone wild" (p.16). The Orchids are out of reach, beautiful but not to be touched. We see an imperfect paradise as mystery and sadness lies beneath the tropical and verdant exotic landscape. Thus beauty and sinister power is equated, especially with the echoes of biblical temptation suggested in the "snaky looking" description; "I never went near it" (p.17). Beauty is perhaps equated with her mother, she who rejects her and calmly pushes her caring daughter away preferring to sit with Pierre and to talk to herself; "Oh, let me alone" she says to Antoinette, who is accordingly afraid of her mother as she is of the unapproachable and forbidden beauty of the orchids. We see constant rebuffs that the young Antoinette must cope with as her caring attentions and love for her mother as she tries to fan her (p.19) is similarly rejected. Her mother's beautiful black hair which is initially perceived s a protective cloak by Antoinette; "keep me safe" (p.19) is soon realised as nothing like that as she narrates "But not any longer. Not any more"(p.19). Her simple short phrase evokes our pity as the childlike simplicity and distress is coupled with adult resignation and menacing apprehension.

Location: The novel is successfully located in the West Indies by Rhys within the first couple of pages through the place and plant names that differentiate the locale; "Coulibri" "Martinique", "frangipani tree" "glacis" and the dialect "pretty like pretty self". Local songs also place the novel in a specific context and social mindset as Christophene's patois songs infer social anxieties and enhances the theme of desertion that we have already encountered; "The little one's grow old, the children leave us, will they come back?"(p.18). The songs are also a significant prophesy of the course of events of Wide Sargasso Sea "The loving man was lonely, the girl was deserted, the children never came back. Adieu" (p.18).

Outsiders: Christophine is another woman suffering isolation, whilst she is black, it is a different type of black "much blacker - blue-black" and her manner and fashion is from Martinique which estranges her from the Jamaicans. We can see her struggle to be accepted as she does not speak the good English or French she is capable of and "takes care to talk as they talked" but they are still terrified by her. So whilst she is distanced from other black workers she is also distanced from her mistress in that she is seen as a commodity; Christophine was a wedding present. Here we can see the axis of race, social attitudes and economic power cross and effect the individual as fear, prejudice and resentment are triggered rendering her solitary.

Even between children racial and financial issues trouble relationships as Antoinette is taunted by another girl singing, "Go away white cockroach" (p.20). She is an outsider even within her own family, her class and colour distance her from both the blacks and the colonials "white nigger now, and black nigger better than white nigger" (p.21) Accepted by nobody she turns to Christophine and Tia for a desirable identity model because her mother "never asked me where I had been or what I had done" (p.20). She admires Tia "fires always lit for her... . I never saw her cry" (p.20) and embraces her Jamaican ways such as eating green bananas and attempting somersaults. But that itself becomes a site of contention and Tia unleashes the local derision against Antoinette and her family "that old house so leaky, you run with

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