Part Three

Madness: Grace Poole's short narrative shows up the treatment Antoinette receives and Rochester's attempts at secrecy, which are as futile as his attempts at discretion in Jamaica. This is followed up by Antoinette's thoughts; whilst we understand she is a destructive presence we are also given insight into her psychology, her feelings of loss, solitariness and confusion. She is further out of her depth, alienated and bewildered in her captivity, than Rochester ever was - he appears turned into a heartless and despotic man and she into her mother. This mirror image provokes readers' pity. She is cold and shivering suffering heartbreak and hopelessness, and even Grace Poole is concerned that she will die ("please take me away from this place where I am dying because it is so cold and dark" she writes to Richard (p.150)). Her room is sparse and only has one window: he has literally and metaphorically taken light, colour and life from her as he has taken her away from Coulibri and all that she loves and finds comfort in. it is all she has known to give her happiness, but he replaces it with a bland, grey and "cardboard house".

The emptiness she feels without the scenery of Coulibri may perhaps be understood to a certain extent by the reader, as the vivid and luxuriant descriptions are similarly missed in this grim section. Coulibri is where her spirit lay, she is inextricably linked to its environment (that which she can smell on her red dress p.151) and without it she is a listless zombie or "ghost" that the inmates of Thornfield sense or as she later sees herself in the mirror. It is a far cry from the determined and passionate adolescent who wishes to write her name in fire red and also from her memory of Sandi, their mutual passion and life and death kiss (p.152). This scene is important because she is seeing a reflection of her Other, the exotic madwoman of Jane Eyre stares back at her, as does the memory of her mother - it is a fate doubly determined - by her family heritage and by the mother-text.

Catharsis: Antoinette's love of flames and her red dress comes from their quality of passion and her reality - they remind her of home - they are the only source of colour in the drab cardboard world of England. Her only reality is her memory at once pathetic and potent: "The smell of vertivert and frangipani ... the smell of sun and the smell of rain" (p.151). The description itself suggests exotic colour and tropical spirit. This has meaning for her unlike time which slips through her fingers so that days and nights become indistinguishable to her. The fixed concepts have disintegrated for her ("when was last night?" (p.148)). All else seems artificial and manmade ("gold is the idol they worship"(p.154)). The only time she believes in England is when she is taken outside; it is only the grass, the trees and water which allow her to believe (p.150) and it is the artificial construct of 'legally' which inflames her anger and resentment against Richard Mason, who she bites.

The last dream sequence of the book serves the same purpose as the others as it acts as a premonition of events to come. The intermingling of her memories and her prophesies, the past and the future effectively captures her state of mind; passionate, determined whilst simultaneously confused and forlorn. She is desperately seeking to make sense of this unreality she has found herself in. she reams of fire most importantly. Then the influences of her life are jumbled together in a seething mass of contrasts and conflicts, the irreconcilability of which we understand as inducing her unhappiness:

"Aunt Cora's patchwork all colours, I saw the orchids... the soft velvet green moss ... the picture of the Miller's daughter ... Qui est la? ... Bertha! ... Tia!" (p.155)

In this passage we are faced with the result of 'love's fierce game', the remembrance of the fire at Coulibri, the clash of racial hatred, the conflict of man against woman, the conclusion of power plays, the demise brought about by conflicting cultures, perceptions, the dangers of cultural dislocation and the fate of the outsider - captured "in a fraction of a second" (p.155). At last she accepts the tumult of her identity and rather than paling into the ghost she has seen, she will mark herself indelibly in flames - in act of revenge? Or an expression of her soul, the flames show she is still alive, her spirit is not entirely stamped out "it burned up again" (p.156). In the resurrection of her spirit lies her death. The reader realises it is here that Jane Eyre must take over and lead her to the "dark passage" of death. Whilst this is tragic and inescapable, Rhys also allows a sense of triumph and catharsis as her flames signify a retaliation and assertion of her bold spirit. Like a force of nature she cleanses Thornfield of Rochester's sin and

  By PanEris using Melati.

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