Wide Sargasso Sea

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Wide Sargasso Sea Part 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Part Two begins with Antoinette’s new husband’s narration. He is never named in the novel. He and Antoinette have just married and are on their way to spend their honeymoon in the Windward Islands at Granbois, an estate that had belonged to Annette. They are stopped in a town called Massacre, and it is raining. He and Antoinette, along with several servants, wait underneath a tree for it to stop. One of the servants is Amélie, whom the husband finds “lovely” but “sly, spiteful, malignant perhaps, like so much else in this place.” The husband asks Antoinette about the name of the town, whether slaves were massacred there. Antoinette seems shocked at the idea, and tells him that no one remembers the event that the town is named for. Three little boys come to stare at them, and when the husband smiles at one of them, he runs away crying.
The husband is disoriented. The locals, the servants, the weather, and the landscape all seem unwelcoming to him. His opinion of Amélie can be extended to cover his view of Jamaica and Granbois in general-- lovely in appearance, but malignant. The symbolic significance of names is introduced in this section. The town named Massacre, of which no one remembers the history, presages the tragedy and loss of identity that will befall Antoinette as a result of this marriage. The fact that the husband himself is never named in the novel heightens his sense of non-being in this foreign place.
Themes
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Antoinette recognizes a woman in the door of a nearby hut, and goes to speak to her. The husband analyzes her appearance critically. He thinks of her eyes as “too large” and “disconcerting... long, sad, dark, alien eyes.” He remarks to himself that he had not had time to notice things like this about Antoinette before their marriage, as they had married only a month after his arrival in Jamaica, and he had spent three weeks of that month ill with fever. He listens to Antoinette and the woman speak French patois, which he thinks of as “debased.” Despite his private complaints that the rain is adding to his feelings of discomfort and melancholy, the husband refuses to take shelter in the woman’s house when Antoinette offers, claiming to not mind getting wet. At this, Amélie gives him a look that he feels is so malicious and intimate that he has to look away.
The husband’s detachment from Antoinette is clear. He thinks of her as a stranger, and this enables him to analyze her appearance critically, without emotion or tenderness. Also clear is his contempt for and misunderstanding of the local culture, as he considers the language inferior, and refuses to take the shelter offered to him by a local woman. The strange power that Amélie will eventually capitalize on with the husband begins to take shape here, communicated only through a look.
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The husband leaves the shelter of the tree to speak to the two porters also accompanying them on their trip. One of them introduces himself as “the Young Bull,” and tells the husband that this island is wild, and the locals are “not civilized.” He demonstrates by showing that the other porter, who was born in Massacre, does not know his own age. The husband notices that this porter is “by far the gayest member of the wedding party.” The rain stops, and as the group gets ready to depart, the Young Bull sings to himself in English while glancing sideways at the husband, who finds him boastful and foolish. As they ride away from Massacre, the husband remembers waking very early the previous morning while Antoinette was still sleeping, and feeling a sense of contentment as he watched black women walk through the streets selling cakes and sweets.
The Young Bull’s self-given name perfectly illustrates his aggressive desire for dominance. His attitude toward his own countrymen is yet another demonstration of the complicated social hierarchy among the black people of Jamaica at this time. His behavior also indicates the enduring position of privilege, despite emancipation, that the English occupy. The Young Bull is desperate to impress the husband merely because he is English, and he seeks to do so by demonstrating his knowledge of and respect for what he considers to be English values-- fluency in the English language, education, being “civilized.” As the husband observes that the less educated porter is the happiest, happiness is set in opposition to other desired qualities in the novel, just as it was during Antoinette’s stay at the convent school.
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They ride up into the mountains toward Granbois. the husband understands why the Young Bull called the place wild, and thinks to himself that it is, “Not only wild but menacing. Those hills would close in on you.” The husband finds the colors and scale of the landscape overwhelmingly alien, and thinks of Antoinette as a stranger. As they ride, he imagines writing a letter to his father in England, in which he reports that as part of the marriage arrangement he, the husband, has been paid thirty thousand pounds “without question or condition,” and that, as planned, no provision has been made in the contract to leave any of the money in Antoinette’s name. In this imagined address to his father, the husband remarks that he has sold his soul so as not to have to beg his father or older brother, “the son you love,” for money any longer.
Unlike Antoinette, her husband is as alienated from and threatened by the landscape as he is from the people in it. Information about the financial basis of their marriage is revealed, and the husband’s estrangement from his own family is implied.
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They ride on and arrive at Granbois. Antoinette offers the husband a drink of water from the mountain stream at the boundary of the estate, and the husband remarks to himself that it is the first time he has felt “simple and natural” with her, and that she “might have been any pretty English girl.” He enjoys the water, and finds its color beautiful. They arrive at the house, which the husband describes as “more awkward than ugly, a little sad as if it knew it could not last.”
As Antoinette and her husband begin to connect, their differences are made more and more clear. Antoinette’s attempts at affection are channeled through her love of the land, and the husband’s tentative affection for her can only be expressed in terms of how closely she resembles an English girl. His discomfort with the place rests in his personification of it-- he attributes malicious intent to the trees and mountains, as well as sadness to the house they are to stay in.
Themes
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Antoinette introduces the husband to the servants, whom she has known since childhood. Among them is Baptiste, a dignified man who speaks English well and reproaches a younger girl servant, Hilda, when she begins to giggle during the introductions. the husband observes that Hilda’s dress is spotless, but thinks that her hair, arranged in many small braids, makes her look “savage.” Hilda runs into the house because she cannot cease giggling. Antoinette introduces the husband to Christophine. The husband takes in her clothing and decides to himself that she seems “insignificant.” They stare at each other for a minute, and when the husband looks away first, Christophine smiles to herself.
The husband equates appearance with content of character in a similar way to the nuns in the convent. His dismissal of Hilda and Christophine is based on the appearance of their hair and clothing. Just as the manipulative dynamic between Amélie and the husband was introduced and communicated merely through glances, the tense power struggle that will ensue between the husband and Christophine begins here, with a silent stare-down.
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Antoinette shows the husband to their suite, where they toast their happiness with rum punch, and see that two wreaths of flowers have been laid on the bed for them. The husband wears his for a moment, then drops it on the floor and steps on it. Antoinette explains her connection to Granbois: “This is my place and everything is on our side.” They discuss Christophine briefly, and the husband remarks that if she were taller, and “dressed to the nines,” he might be afraid of her. The husband goes into his private dressing room and writes a real letter to his father. The letter informs him simply that the marriage “has gone according to your plans and wishes,” briefly describes Granbois, and explains the husband’s delay in writing as owing to his fever. The letter also reveals that Mr. Mason died before the husband arrived in Jamaica. The husband puts the letter in a drawer without sending it.
It is unclear whether the husband crushes the wreath intentionally or not, but his careless treatment of their wedding wreaths foreshadows his careless treatment of their marriage. He verbalizes his conflation of appearance and dress with personal character in his and Antoinette’s discussion of Christophine. The real letter that he writes to his father lacks all of the emotional content that his imagined letter did, and it is unclear whether he ever sends it.
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The husband’s narration looks back to his initial courtship of Antoinette, and their wedding. Of Jamaica and Antoinette, he says they both “meant nothing to me.” He describes all of his actions in the courtship as merely playing a pre-scripted role, delivering “a faultless performance,” and remembers that only the black servants seemed to doubt his sincerity. At the wedding ceremony, he suspects that his guests are looking at him with pity or ridicule, and he wonders why, since he has benefitted so much financially from the union.
The truth of the husband’s intentions with Antoinette are explicitly stated for the first time. The remembered scene of their marriage is an echo and an inversion of the earlier scene of Annette’s marriage to Mr. Mason. This time, though, it is the groom rather than the bride seeking financial security, and the black servants rather than the white guests who suspect. Despite his success in delivering the performance necessary to guarantee his financial security, the husband feels powerless and pitied.
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The husband describes the morning before the wedding, when a panicked Richard Mason, who in the wake of his father’s death is now in charge of arranging the financial particulars of Antoinette’s wedding, informs him that Antoinette is refusing to go through with the wedding. The husband responds with impatience, wanting to know why. He thinks to himself what a fool he would seem, returning to England “jilted by this Creole girl,” and so goes to Antoinette to find out why she’s changed her mind. He speaks softly to her, kisses her, promises her peace and happiness, and she relents.
It seems that Richard Mason, Antoinette’s step brother, is complicit and perhaps even has a person interest in the financial arrangement of the marriage. The extent of the husband’s deception is demonstrated, as he shows affection and promises happiness to Antoinette, despite the fact that he is motivated by financial interest and a desire not to be embarrassed by a Creole, someone he considers to be of a lower caste than himself.
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The husband falls asleep remembering his wedding day, and when he wakes up he finds Antoinette waiting for him, the dinner table set lavishly with flowers and candles. He wonders why he has never realized how beautiful she is, and compliments her dress. At dinner Antoinette asks him if England is “like a cold dark dream,” as it was described to her in a letter by a friend who married an Englishman. The husband replies, annoyed, that the West Indies seem like a dream to him, “quite unreal.” During dinner, moths repeatedly fly into the candles and fall dead on the tablecloth.
As the husband warms toward Antoinette, he understands and expresses his feelings through commentary on her apparel. Even as the two grow closer, they remain entrenched in their oppositional cultural identities, discussing their conflicting understandings of each other’s native landscapes. The moths that fall to their deaths in the candles’ flames harken back to the burning parrot at Coulibri, which was a bad omen recognized by all who saw it.
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After dinner, the husband and Antoinette go for a walk. Antoinette tells him of a night during her childhood, while spending the summer at Granbois, that she awoke to find two very large rats on the windowsill staring at her. She spent the night on the veranda in a hammock, sleeping under the full moon. The next morning, according to Antoinette, Christophine chastised her, telling her that it was “very bad to sleep in the moonlight when the moon is full.” Antoinette asks the husband if he too thinks she has slept too long in the moonlight. He replies by holding her close and singing to her. Antoinette listens to him sing, and joins in, singing the refrain with him, “Shine bright, shine bright Robin as you die.” They return to their bedroom and drink to their happiness.
Antoinette’s allusions to sleeping underneath the full moon imply madness and melancholy, which will eventually overtake her. As the husband and Antoinette continue to grow closer, their affection continues to be colored by symbolic premonitions of doom-- his song again recalls the symbolic burning bird, aborted flight.
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The next morning, the husband wakes to find Antoinette already up and dressed, and Christophine serving breakfast. Christophine offers the husband coffee, calling it her “bull’s blood,” which makes the husband remember the Young Bull. He observes her attire closely, and criticizes her habit of not lifting her skirt off the ground as she walks, commenting to Antoinette that her dress must get very dirty. Antoinette explains to him that when the women in Jamaica don’t hold up their dresses, it’s a sign of respect. She tells him that it is also meant to indicate status, to show that they can dirty their dresses because they have others. The husband touches a rose on the coffee tray and its petals fall off. Antoinette sends him off to the bathing pools on the estate.
When Christophine calls her coffee “bull’s blood,” her aggression is connected to that already demonstrated by the Young Bull. Her offering “blood” for the husband to drink also subtly references obeah. Again, the husband channels his opinion of a person (in this case, Christophine) through his observation of her attire, and again is shown to lack understanding of local cultural values. The rose that the husband touches recalls the eternally preserved rose from the nuns’ teachings. Where that rose endured as a romantic symbol of virtue and blessedness, though, this rose is in decay, suggesting a wickedness connected to the romantic relationship between Antoinette and her husband.
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The husband describes the pools and the surrounding jungle as beautiful and untouched, “with an alien, disturbing, secret loveliness,” and yearns to possess the secret of this loveliness. He spends afternoons swimming with Antoinette, and observes that she is “undecided, uncertain about facts- any facts,” for example the presence of poison in certain or other of the snakes in the swimming hole. He also observes that Antoinette throws like a boy when she throws a rock to protect him from a type of crab whose name she can’t remember. He asks her who had taught her to throw, and she tells him simply that it was a boy named Sandi.
Just as in the case of the town called Massacre, facts in this world are shown to be unclear, fluid, the truth mutable. The husband finds the landscape to be disturbing in its quality of withholding secrets, a quality that is soon implied to belong to Antoinette as well, as she refrains from explaining to the husband her relationship with Sandi.
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The husband describes watching the sunset each evening with Antoinette, when he would wait for the scent of the flowers that bloomed only at night. During one such moment, Antoinette tells him about their neighbors at Granbois, who are either hermits or drunks. The husband asks her if the place is as lonely as it feels to him, and she replies that it is, and that she loves it more than anywhere else in the world, and more than she loves any person. She describes the re-opening of Granbois after her mother’s marriage to Mr. Mason. She tells him that Granbois had been almost completely overgrown, and was transformed largely by the efficient and trustworthy Baptiste. The husband keeps his opinion of the black servants to himself-- Antoinette trusts them, but he does not. Antoinette tries to teach the husband patois songs, which he mispronounces.
The husband repeatedly conceals his true feelings from Antoinette. His interest in the flowers that bloom at night is a symbolic manifestation of his fascination with the difference between his and Antoinette’s days and nights. During the day, their are constant reminders of the distance and incompatibility between them, as exemplified by their conflicting understandings of the same landscape. But at night, when the flowers bloom, the come together.
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During the day, Antoinette is silent and distant, often “chattering” to Christophine in patois. But at night, she opens up and tells him intimate things, like that she never wished to live before meeting him, and he questions his initial hesitation to marry her. The husband describes a period of frequent and passionate lovemaking with Antoinette. One of these nights, she says to him that if he said so, she would die: “Say die and watch me die.” Despite all this passion, the husband knows that he does not love her. One night he is aroused merely by the sight of her dress on the floor, and makes love to her “without a word or caress.” He considers their relationship a dangerous game, during which “Desire, Hatred, Life, Death came very close in the darkness.” Each night he listens to the rain, of which there is very little evidence in the morning.
At night, Antoinette is completely under the husband’s power. The husband’s desire for Antoinette is not fueled by love, though. His arousal by the sight of her empty dress, as well as the conflation of love and death here, suggest that he is aroused not by Antoinette, but rather the idea of the negation of her. Here, the natural world mirrors the emotional reality of the characters of the novel again-- all trace of the rain, as well as all trace of the couple’s passion, disappears during the day.
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One day, Amélie delivers a letter to the husband, from someone who identifies himself as Daniel Cosway, the “most unfortunate and poverty stricken” of Old Cosway’s many illegitimate children, the product of one of his affairs with his slaves. The letter tells the husband, in slightly broken English, that Daniel Cosway has heard about his marriage to Antoinette and feels compelled to warn the husband about her. He claims that the husband has been “shamefully deceived” by the Mason family, that they’ve duped him into marrying Antoinette without telling him that madness runs in both sides of her family. The letter describes the Cosways as wicked slaveowners, hated all across Jamaica. He also claims that Old Cosway was an alcoholic who eventually went mad, died “raving just like his father before him.” He explains that Annette was left friendless and destitute after Cosway’s death because she is French Creole from Martinique, and the French and English in Jamaica are enemies “like cat and dog.”
Daniel Cosway is a vicious and embittered product of an implied coercive sexual relationship between a slaveowner and his slave. His letters offer an alternate version of Antoinette’s childhood to that given in Part One of the novel. In addition to contradicting much of what Antoinette narrates, it also fills in some of the gaps she leaves, for example about the character and death of her father, and the reason that her mother’s French Creole heritage would isolate her from English society in Jamaica. The vindictive nature of his letters call into question his reliability as a narrator, and this invites the reader to in turn question the motives and reliability of the other narrators and speakers in this story.
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The letter goes on to tell the husband that in the wake of “the glorious Emancipation Act,” the estate at Coulibri went to bush because no one would work for Annette. It describes her as “worthless and spoilt,” and says that the madness latent in her “and in all these white Creoles” came out during this time, that many can attest to seeing her laughing and talking to herself. Daniel Cosway claims that Annette’s madness became worse after her marriage to Mr. Mason, whom she tried to kill and was then shut away, and who according to gossip “love her so much that if he have the world on a plate he give it to her.”
Daniel Cosway’s letter presents a completely different understanding and opinion of the Emancipation Act, as well as of Annette and Mr. Mason, than those which Antoinette expresses in Part One. It is also clear that collective gossip is the source of much of his knowledge of Antoinette’s family. The letter neglects to mention the fire at Coulibri, and so glosses over the circumstances of Pierre’s death and Annette’s grief.
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Daniel Cosway then explains that when he heard that the Masons were planning on marrying Antoinette off to an Englishman “who know nothing of her,” he thought about warning him, but didn’t because “they are white, I am coloured.” He writes that upon hearing that the two were to honeymoon at Granbois, near where he lives, he became certain that God had made it his duty to tell the husband the truth, because he is a man who he’s heard is “young and handsome with a kind word for all, black, white, also coloured.” Cosway challenges him to ask “that devil of a manRichard Mason to tell him the truth if he doesn’t believe what’s in the letter. He ends the letter with a request that the husband come see him, assuring him that Amélie knows where he lives.
Daniel Cosway’s feelings of resentment and alienation are rooted largely in racial identity. His image of the husband is also incongruous with what the husband’s own narration presents us with-- the husband constantly distrusts and misunderstands the black people around him.
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The husband is not surprised by the letter, in fact he feels as if he’s been waiting for it. He walks back to the house after reading the letter and tramples some orchids that he remembers recently admiring and likening to Antoinette’s beauty. He feels overcome by the heat. When he arrives at the house, Amélie is informing Antoinette that Christophine plans to leave. Antoinette is upset, and Amélie teases her sarcastically about both Christophine’s and the husband’s dissatisfaction with the “sweet honeymoon house,” at which point Antoinette slaps her. Amélie calls her a “white cockroach” and hits her back, and the two women struggle. The husband tells Amélie to leave and fetch Christophine. She complies, but leaves the room singing, “The white cockroach she buy young man/ The white cockroach she marry.”
The husband’s interaction with the natural world again mirrors his interior landscape. Disillusioned and suspicious of Antoinette after reading Daniel Cosway’s letter, he tramples the flowers that he previously admired for their connection to Antoinette. When Amélie’s comments rattle Antoinette to the point of violence, it is made clear that Amélie’s insolence toward both the husband and Antoinette is also rooted in racial tension and disparity.
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As Antoinette waits for Christophine, she ignores the husband and begins to shred her bed sheet in quiet distress. When Christophine arrives, Antoinette asks her why she is leaving, and pleads, “What will become of me?” Christophine tells her to get up and get dressed, that “Woman must have spunks to live in this wicked world.” She cites a mutual dislike between herself and the husband as a reason for leaving, not wanting to cause tension in their marriage, and she insists “I have a right to my rest.” During the conversation, Christophine catches Amélie giving the husband a sly and insolent smile. Christophine tells Amélie in a quiet voice that if she sees her do this again she will mash her face “like I mash plantain.” She goes on to threaten Amélie with sickness: “Perhaps you don’t get up again with the bellyache I give you.” Amélie leaves quietly, clearly frightened of Christophine.
All women in Christophine’s vicinity seem to bow to her influence. Antoinette feels panicked and lost when she decides to leave, and Amélie is uncharacteristically terrified and obedient in the face of her threats.
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Christophine calls Amélie worthless, and likens her to a centipede. She kisses Antoinette on the cheek and leaves. Antoinette asks the husband if he heard the song Amélie was singing, and he says he didn’t understand it. Antoinette explains that she, and all white people on the island, “all of us who were here before their own people in Africa sold them to the slave traders,” are what Amélie referred to as the “white cockroach.” She tells him that she’s also heard English women call her and her family “white niggers,” so she wonders, “between you I don’t know who I am and where is my country and where do I belong and why was I ever born at all.” Before the husband has a chance to say anything, she tells him to leave the room so she can dress.
The lines of affinity and alienation in terms of race and class among these people are shown again to be tangled, complex. No one is at home in any group. Amélie refers to Antoinette and the husband as white cockroaches, but Christophine calls Amélie, who is of the same race and class, a centipede, which is not so very far off from a cockroach. Antoinette and the husband are both white and are united in marriage, but Antoinette when expresses her frustration at being excluded from English society, she includes him as a culprit. Also, though Antoinette has displayed comfort with and respect for black people throughout most of the novel, here even she espouses a deeply racist account of the history of the slave trade in her anger toward Amélie.
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After a while, the husband knocks on Antoinette’s door and receives no answer. He sits down to eat, and sees that Baptiste looks demonstratively mournful as he serves lunch, and he thinks to himself that the people here in the Caribbean are very vulnerable. He remembers that he, unlike them, must have been five or six years old when he was taught to conceal his emotions. When his meal is done he goes into the bedroom to find Antoinette asleep, and is disturbed by the silence of the afternoon. He decides to go out walking.
The husband explicitly articulates a clear difference between his and Antoinette’s culture, in terms of emotional expression. He views the Caribbean way of displaying emotion as weak, vulnerable as compared to the English reserve he learned at a young age.
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While walking, the husband thinks of all the people who must have known the truth of Antoinette’s background and not told him-- his father, his brother, Richard Mason, Amelie. He reaches the forest, which he sees as hostile, and walks into it. As he walks deeper into the trees, he wonders how one can ever discover the truth, and concludes that it is impossible, because no one will speak the truth to him. Along the way, he becomes sure that someone is watching him. He comes upon the ruins of a paved road and a house, overgrown, and notices bunches of flowers, tied with grass, left underneath a tree near the house.
The husband’s aimless wandering through the forest mirrors his emotional turmoil. He loses track of his way as he walks, and becomes paranoid that someone is watching him, in much the same way that he loses a handle on the truth, and becomes paranoid that all are lying to him.
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This mysterious place calms the husband, but not for long. He soon sees a little girl carrying a basket, approaching the clearing. When she sees him, she screams, drops her basket, and runs away. He tries to call out to her, but this frightens her more. When he attempts to find the path he’d been on, he cannot, and becomes “lost and afraid among these enemy trees.” He hears footsteps and a voice calling to him-- it is Baptiste, who has been looking for the husband for hours. The husband does not recognize him at first, and does not answer.
The husband’s senses seem to be playing tricks on him in the hostile environment of the woods. He is sure he sees and frightens this young girl, but his failure to see where she has gone, find the path he had been walking on, or recognize Baptiste call into question the reliability of his senses.
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Once the husband recognizes Baptiste, he follows him back toward the house. He asks Baptiste about the abandoned house in the woods, and Baptiste tells him that a priest once lived there, long ago. The husband asks him about the paved road on which he found the and frightened the young girl, but Baptiste tells him that there was never a road there. The husband asks if there is “something wrong about the place,” but Baptiste says nothing. The husband presses him, asking if there is a ghost or “a zombi” there, but Baptiste insists that he doesn’t know anything about it, and repeats that there was never a road there.
Baptiste’s insistence that there was never a road where the husband says he saw one casts further doubt on the scene the husband has described. Either the husband was hallucinating, or Baptiste is hiding something. Either way, the ideas of perception and truth are muddled. This is the first mention of zombies in the husband’s narration-- presumably he has heard the term used and has a vague sense of what it might be.
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Back at the house, the husband goes into his private drawing room and pulls out a book called “The Glittering Coronet of Isles,” about the West Indies, and turns to a chapter entitled, “Obeah,” to the section about the “zombi,” and reads it to himself. The book says that a zombi is “a dead person who seems to be alive or a living person who is dead,” but that it can also be “the spirit of a place.” It goes on to explain that a zombi is usually a malignant force, to be placated with gifts of flowers and fruit. At this point, the husband remembers the tied bunches of flowers near the abandoned house. The book goes on to explain that black people usually refuse to talk about obeah, and often lie about it when asked, and that white people “pretend” to dismiss it all as nonsense.
The husband does not narrate his reaction to what he has read. We are left to imagine the impact of this description on his understanding of the experience he’s had in the woods. It would seem that this description of the zombi, and obeah, confirms the husband’s suspicions about what he’s seen as well as his mistrust of the people around him, black and white alike. However, it is clear that this book was written by an outsider, probably a white man, for the benefit of outsiders, so even its reliability is left open to question. It is also implied that the girl was so frightened of the husband because she believed him to be the ghost or zombi that occupied the place.
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The narration switches to Antoinette’s point of view. She is on horseback, on her way to Christophine’s house. Her horse stumbles along the way, so she gets off and walks. When Antoinette arrives at Christophine’s house, she finds her old nurse sitting on a box underneath a mango tree. Christophine offers Antoinette a box, but Antoinette kneels on the ground close to Christophine instead. She breathes in Christophine’s familiar, comforting smell of clean and starched cotton, and remembers watching Christophine washing her clothes at Coulibri. Antoinette looks around, takes in the beauty of the wildlife and the sky, and feels a desire to stay in this place, her home. After a moment she tells Christophine that her husband does not love her, that he barely speaks to her and will not sleep in the same room with her, and asks Christophine what she should do.
In the face of her husband’s growing distance, Antoinette seeks comfort in the closest thing to home that she has, Christophine. Unlike the husband’s, Antoinette’s journey into the woods yields comfort, security, and connection with her past and identity. Clothing again takes on emotional valence, as Antoinette draws comfort from her memory of Christophine washing clothes at Coulibri.
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Christophine lights her pipe, and after a moment replies, "You ask me a hard thing, I tell you a hard thing, pack up and go." Antoinette balks, asks Christophine where she would go and says that she would be laughed at by all who know her if she left, that there must be something else she can do. Christophine replies that it is the husband who will be laughed at, not her, and tells her that she cannot force the husband to love her, that trying to will only make it worse between them. When Antoinette continues to refuse this advice, Christophine spits over her shoulder and says, "All women, all colors, nothing but fools.” She tells Antoinette that for a rich white girl, she is more foolish than the rest, and tells her again to go.
Christophine again possesses the power and wisdom that other women, especially Antoinette, lack. A rare thing that unites people across race and class divides, according to Christophine, is female foolishness in relationships. Though Antoinette is unhappy, she is too afraid to take Christophine’s advice and leave her husband.
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Antoinette now explains to Christophine that she is no longer rich, that after the marriage she has no money of her own, as it has all been signed over to the husband. Christophine is furious, and blames Richard Mason for the arrangement, calling him, "worse than Satan." She continues, however, to advise Antoinette to leave the house, this time suggesting that she ask her husband nicely for the money to visit a cousin, and when she gets away to stay gone. She tells Antoinette that the husband will eventually come to see where she’s gone, and when he realizes that she can get along without him, he’ll want her back. Antoinette says if she goes, she’ll have to go far away, and says that she’d like to see England.
Christophine is surprised and angry at Antoinette’s disenfranchisement, knowing that financial security is key to a woman’s ability to act for herself. Nevertheless, she sticks to her advice, believing that Antoinette can still be free of her unhappiness if she tries.
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Antoinette imagines what it might be like to go to England alone. She thinks that she could be a different person in England, and pictures England to be “rosy pink,” the way it appears in the geography book map she studied in the convent. She remembers the page in the geography book that named its towns and regions, all unfamiliar to her. She mentally compares fields of corn to fields of sugarcane, and thinks that England’s hills must be half the size of Jamaica’s. She thinks over what she knows of the seasons in England, wonders what snow is like- "White feathers falling? torn pieces of paper falling?" She then has a sudden vision of the house in which she will live with her husband in England, and feels that she already knows it. She fears that in this house she will finish the recurring nightmare she’s had since childhood, but then stops herself.
Antoinette again equates setting and landscape with inner life, emotional reality, and identity. She believes that if she goes to England, it will be possible for her to become a different person. Even while she hopes, though, she fears this unknown place.
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Christophine, who has been watching Antoinette closely while she daydreams, interrupts her by asking her if she really believes that England exists. When Antoinette expresses surprise at this question, Christophine replies, "I never see the damn place, how I know?” Antoinette asks her incredulously if she really does not believe that there is a country called England. Christophine answers testily that she hasn’t said she doesn’t believe, but rather that she doesn’t know, because she only knows what she sees with her eyes and she’s never seen it. She goes on to say that what she has heard of England makes it sound like a freezing cold place where people steal your money, and wonders why Antoinette would want to go there in the first place.
Christophine’s and Antoinette’s understandings of truth, evidence, and belief differ greatly. Unlike Antoinette, who relies on and trusts her geography book’s account of England to shape her knowledge of it, Christophine treats the entire idea of England, a place she has never personally experienced, with skepticism.
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Antoinette briefly questions her own trust in Christophine’s good counsel, wondering why she is seeking the advice of someone who might not believe in the existence of England. She presses on, though, saying to Christophine, "You knew what I wanted as soon as you saw me, and you certainly know now." Christophine tells Antoinette to hush, that she cannot make the husband love her, but Antoinette insists, "Yes you can, I know you can...You can make people love or hate. Or... or die." At this, Christophine laughs loudly, and tells Antoinette that everything she’s heard about obeah is “foolishness and folly.” She warns her that “bad bad trouble” will be the result if they use obeah to meddle with this.
For the first time, Antoinette questions Christophine’s authority and wisdom. She persists, however, and for the first time in the novel speaks of the subject of obeah with Christophine. Her fear of the topic is evident in her continued refusal to name what she is referring to, asking for what she wants from Christophine only through hints. Christophine warns Antoinette against this plan, pointing out that Antoinette's knowledge of the truth of obeah is insufficient, that she does not understand what the consequences might be.
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Antoinette continues to insist that Christophine use her power to make her husband come to her bed for just one night. She is confident that she will be able to make her husband love her again if this happens. Christophine warns her that even if he sleeps with her, he’ll hate her afterward, that nothing can make him love her. Antoinette replies that her husband hates her already, that he refuses to even call her by her name. Instead, he calls her Bertha. She explains desperately that she cannot go away, that the husband would never allow it. Christophine then explains to Antoinette that she knows why the husband has cooled from her, that it is because someone is slandering Antoinette and her mother to him, and he doesn’t know what to believe. She warns her not to trust anyone in Jamaica.
The power of speech to alter reality is implied to be more powerful than the magic that Antoinette is after. It is speech, gossip and slander that have manifested the trouble in their marriage, and the husband’s refusal to call her by her real name has at least as profound an effect on her as the one Christophine believes that obeah would have on him.
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When Antoinette asks if this extends even to Aunt Cora, Christophine tells her that Aunt Cora is now a resigned old woman, and that "she turn her face to the wall." Antoinette demands to know how Christophine knows this. She is shocked at Christophine’s phrasing, because she remembers that Aunt Cora did in fact turn her face to the wall, when Richard Mason was arranging the financial agreement of Antoinette’s marriage. Antoinette remembers overhearing a quarrel between Aunt Cora and Richard, in which Aunt Cora urged Richard to have Antoinette’s interests protected legally. Richard ignored her, telling her to shut up and calling her an old fool. Antoinette went to her after the quarrel and found her in bed shaking, with her face to the wall. She told Antoinette, "The Lord has forsaken us," and did not speak again except to give Antoinette two of her rings to sell in case of an emergency.
Where Antoinette questioned Christophine’s wisdom just moments before, she is now in awe of her knowledge. She cannot imagine how Christophine knows exactly what happened when Aunt Cora fought for her and was defeated. Christophine’s strength is amplified in contrast to Aunt Cora’s surrender.
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Christophine again instructs Antoinette to “have spunks,” to “do battle for yourself.” She tells her to go to the husband and tell him the truth about what happened at Coulibri, and explain what caused her mother to fall sick with grief. She warns Antoinette to do it calmly, without crying. Antoinette responds that she has already tried this, and that it is too late, and thinks to herself that “it is always too late for truth.” She and Christophine finally agree that if Antoinette first tries to speak to the husband calmly, then Christophine will do what she asks. Christophine’s son Jo-jo arrives, and Christophine warns Antoinette not to speak in front of him, because he will surely tell everyone anything that he hears-- “Nothing but leaky calabash that boy.”
Christophine’s warning that Antoinette should not trust anyone is amplified here, as she apparently does not even trust her own son not to spread rumors. While Christophine still believes in Antoinette’s power to remedy her situation by telling the truth, Antoinette seems to share her husband’s distrust in the adequacy or attainability of truth.
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Antoinette and Christophine go into Christophine’s two-room house while Jo-jo prepares Antoinette’s horse for her departure back to the house at Granbois. Christophine hands her something wrapped in a leaf and tells her to listen while she explains what to do. Antoinette tries to give Christophine money in exchange, but Christophine will not take it. When Antoinette leaves, she looks back and sees that Christophine is talking to Jo-jo, and that he seems curious and amused by what she is telling him. She hears a cock crow, and remembers that this signifies betrayal, but cannot discern who the traitor is in this situation. She thinks of the “ugly money” that she offered Christophine, and how she refused to take it, and she thinks of Judas. She leaves with the image of Christophine, with her headscarf tied Martinique fashion, frozen in her mind “for ever like the colours in a stained-glass window.”
Antoinette is disoriented. It seems to be implied that Christophine, for all her talk of not trusting anyone, and not telling Jo-jo any of her business, may now be telling Jo-jo what is going on. Antoinette feels a sense of betrayal, but cannot tell whether she is the traitor or Antoinette is. Belief systems class across cultures here, as concepts of guilt and devotion that were taught to her in the context of Catholicism become bound up in this, her first personal interaction with obeah. When she leaves, her image of Christophine is as of a saint. Considering Antoinette’s experience with Catholic religion, this implies that Antoinette’s trust in and devotion toward Christophine is now shifting and ambivalent, on the verge of disappointment, but still steeped in a longing for peace and rootedness.
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The narrative re-enters the husband’s consciousness. On the day that Antoinette goes to see Christophine, Amélie delivers another letter from Daniel Cosway to the husband. The letter begins by asking the husband why he hasn’t written back, and threatens that if the husband does not come to see him, he will show up at the Granbois house, "and bawl out your business before everybody." The husband stops reading and sends for Amélie. As he waits for her, he pictures the white dress that he knows she will be wearing, pictures her hair and her bare feet. As he looks out at the mountains, now familiar to him, he feels that he is in a nightmare.
Daniel Cosway’s second letter is more urgent and hostile than the last. He now resorts to blackmail in order to persuade the husband to come see him. This implies that his motivation must not purely be a desire to get the truth to the husband, on the grounds that the husband is a good and unsuspecting man. The husband’s preoccupation with Amélie’s dress and appearance foreshadows the sexual relationship that they will soon enter into
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When Amélie arrives, the husband asks her if Daniel Cosway is a friend of hers. She says no, but she knows him. He instructs her to tell Daniel Cosway not to write him any more letters, that they annoy him, and that if he does give her a letter to deliver to the husband, to give it back to him. Amélie smiles at him in a way that makes the husband feel as if she is about to laugh loudly at him. To stop this, he keeps talking, and asks her why Daniel is writing to him. She teases him, saying that if the husband himself doesn’t know after reading two of his letters, how should she know. Then the husband asks if he is really a Cosway, and Amélie replies that some people say he is and some say he isn’t, but that’s what he calls himself.
The husband wishes to have no more contact with Daniel Cosway. Not even Amélie, who is cited by Daniel Cosway as the person that knows him, is sure of his real name or his origins, and like, everyone else, relies on general gossip to draw her conclusions. Amélie’s flirtatious mockery of the husband continues.
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Amélie goes on to describe Daniel Cosway as a “very superior man,” who read the Bible and lived like a white man. When the husband asks what she means by this, she explains that Cosway has a house “like white people, with one room only for sitting in,” and that he has portraits of his parents on the wall. The husband asks if his parents are white, and she says no, they are both black. When the husband protests that Daniel Cosway told him his father was white, was Antoinette’s father, Amélie just shrugs. She says it is all too long ago for her. She is plainly uninterested in the past.
The truth of Daniel Cosway’s identity is further confused for the husband. It is clear, though, that Daniel Cosway, like the Young Bull, behaves in a way that indicates his desire to be included in, approved of by the white upperclass.
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Amélie warns the husband that he should go and visit Daniel Cosway before he comes to the house to make trouble for him, that he is a bad man who speaks like a preacher, and perhaps once was a preacher. She also tells him that he has a very wealthy brother in Spanish Town named Alexander Cosway, whose son Sandi, she heard, once married Antoinette. She goes on to express her belief that this marriage never happened, because Antoinette is rich and white, and would never marry “a coloured man even though he don’t look like a coloured man.” As Amélie walks away, the husband again believes her to be on the verge of laughing at him. He hears her say in a very low voice, "I am sorry for you," but when he asks her what she said she denies saying anything.
Here we get from Amelie yet another account of the family connections in the Cosway family. This is the first time that Sandi is mentioned since the husband asked Antoinette where she learned to throw, and it is the first time anyone has implied to the husband that Antoinette and Sandi had a romantic relationship. With this new information, the expected power dynamic between the husband and Amélie is flipped completely, and the reason behind all of her mocking looks is revealed.
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The narration now jumps to the husband in Daniel Cosway’s sitting room. It is very hot, and there is no breeze, because his house is much further down the mountain than Granbois, almost at sea level. The first thing the husband describes is the large table in the room, covered in a red fringed cloth that seems to make the hot room even hotter. Daniel is telling the husband that he’s been waiting for his reply, and wondering why it was so slow, all the while staring at a framed text hanging on his wall that reads, "Vengence is Mine." He addresses the wall hanging, saying "You take too long, Lord... I hurry you up a bit."
Daniel’s Cosway is deranged with bitterness, and his home is a kind of miniature inferno. The red tablecloth, the heat, his home’s location at the bottom of the mountain, and Daniel’s obsession with vengeance, all give Daniel a devilish, fiendish quality.
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Daniel tells the husband that his name is actually Esau, and that the only things he ever received from his father were curses. He describes his father’s tombstone, which calls him "pious," "loved by all," and "merciful to the weak," as nothing but a tablet of lies, which he hopes will "drag him down to Hell in the end." He reiterates that he is telling the husband all of this so that he will be fairly warned about the family he’s married into. As the husband listens, Daniel relays an encounter between himself and Old Cosway when Daniel was sixteen years old, when, as Daniel claims, Old Cosway put a curse on him. He describes walking five hours to see his father at Coulibri to talk to him about his “rights” as his son, and being received casually, but with disdain.
Esau, which Daniel claims is or should be his real name, is the name of the older brother of Jacob, son of Isaac, in the old Testament. The biblical Esau is famously cheated out of his birthright by Jacob, just as Daniel feels that he has been robbed of his birthright. It seems that the topic of discussion that Daniel really wants to discuss is his own disenfranchisement, rather than Antoinette.
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In Daniel’s memory, Old Cosway cannot remember Daniel’s name, and laughs in his face when he makes a claim on his right to a portion of the Cosway fortune. He accuses Daniel of constantly pestering him for money, which Daniel explains to the husband as having been merely so that he would not have to "go barefoot like a nigger. Which I am not." When Old Cosway denies his paternity of Daniel, Daniel becomes angry and taunts Cosway for his age, his proximity to death, and the youth of his new wife. Old Cosway becomes enraged, curses him, and throws a silver inkstand at his head. Daniel leaves, and never sees or hears from his Old Cosway again, except for a small sum of money that was delivered without a note.
Daniel Cosway’s desire to be distinguished from other black people in the eyes of Old Cosway as well as the husband is expressed again through his insistence that he is not “a nigger.” He even wishes to separate himself from his own mother. The issue of Daniel’s paternity is Old Cosway’s word against his; the truth is never clarified.
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While Daniel is relaying this story to the husband, he drinks rum steadily. The husband asks him why he wanted to see him. Daniel tells him it is because there is no one else who will tell the truth, and that he should be careful who he trusts. He explains that his half brother Alexander would never tell him the truth because he has become “two-faced” in his prosperity. He also names Christophine as untrustworthy, saying that she is the worst of them, and tells the husband that she is on this island because she had to leave Jamaica after being sent to jail. The husband asks what she did to be arrested, and Daniel cannot provide any details. He merely says that she is an “obeah woman,” and she was caught. Daniel claims not to believe in the “devil business” of obeah like many others do. The husband feels a strong desire to leave.
Daniel’s version of reality is, like all versions of reality in the novel, shown to be suspect, biased. He, like Christophine, espouses the belief that no one can be trusted, even while calling his own reliability into question with his inability to give details of Christophine’s arrest. It seems that his information is as untrustworthy, as based in gossip and hearsay, as anyone else’s. Daniel’s insistence that he does not believe in obeah is completely in line with the husband’s book’s assertion that both black and white people will lie and pretend not to know or believe in obeah. The husband does not reflect on any of this explicitly in his narration, but merely wishes to escape.
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Daniel goes on to imply that Antoinette had a sexual relationship with Sandi, his half-brother Alexander’s son, whom he describes as “like a white man, but more handsome than any white man.” At this, the husband gets up to leave, but Daniel stops him. He tells him again that Antoinette and her family have all lied to him with “sweet talk,” and that if he wants him, Daniel, to keep quiet about it, he will have to pay him five hundred pounds. The husband becomes disgusted and enraged. Daniel sees this, and steps aside to allow him to leave, but not without yelling abuse at him, reminding him that he was not Antoinette’s first, and threatening again to retaliate if the husband does not produce the five hundred pounds. The husband exits the little house, and, dazzled by the light after the darkened room, rides home.
Daniel repeats and elaborates the rumor that Amélie introduced, of Antoinette’s relationship with Sandi. When it is clear that the husband does not want to hear any more, Daniel gets to the point, and demands money in exchange for silence. It seems that all of his correspondence was fueled by a desire to regain a portion of the Cosway fortune, which he believes to be his birthright, and to enact revenge on the Cosway family for wrongs committed against him.
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The husband and Antoinette are having dinner, with an “endless procession” of moths again flying into the candles and dying on the tablecloth. They argue. The husband notices that she is wearing the same dress that once aroused him so, but that now it looks sloppy and too large for her. Antoinette demands to know why the husband will not come near her, kiss her, or talk to her. She demands to know if he has a reason, to which he replies, “Yes, I have a reason, my God,” and Antoinette mocks him for his apparent belief in God. He notices that in this moment she resembles Amélie, and wonders if they are related. He asks her if she believes in God, and she replies that it doesn’t matter what either of them believe, because they cannot do anything about it, like the dead moths on the table.
The rift that is expressed verbally between Antoinette and the husband also manifests itself symbolically in this passage. The dying moths return in greater numbers in this scene, bringing with them their symbolism of bad luck and doom, and the husband’s impression of her dress becomes disappointed, where before it was admiring. Their respective belief systems are brought into direct conflict here as well-- where the husband believes in God, Antoinette only trusts the vocabulary of symbols in the natural world that she’s grown up with.
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The husband asks Antoinette if her mother is alive, and Antoinette responds that she died not long ago. The husband then demands to know why she told him that her mother died when she was a child, and Antoinette tells him that it is because she was told to say this, and also because it is true: “She did die when I was a child. There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.” The husband then tells her that he’s been in contact with Daniel Cosway. Antoinette quickly tells him that the man who calls himself Daniel Cosway has no right to the name, and is actually named Daniel Boyd, and that she knows exactly what he would have said to the husband: that her mother was mad, her brother born an idiot, and she herself also mad. The husband asks her if it is true, and Antoinette pauses.
Antoinette’s belief system and understanding of truth is again shown in contrast to the husband’s. The husband assumes that Antoinette lied to him when she said her mother died when she was young, but Antoinette believes in a different understanding of death than he does--the mother that Antoinette knew and loved did die when she was a child, even if her body continued living. This fluid understanding of death is in line with a belief system that includes zombies, as described in the husband’s book, “a dead person who seems to be alive or a living person who is dead.”
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The husband becomes uncomfortable and suggests that they talk about it another time. Antoinette demands that they talk now, and asks him in a mocking tone (“imitating a negro’s voice”) if he is frightened to hear the answer to what he’s asked. He asks why they can’t talk about it the next day, in the daylight, and she says she might not be able to tell him in any other place or time, and tells him he has no right to ask about her mother and then not listen to her answer. He relents, but adds that he feels like this place is an enemy to him, that it is on her side. She tells him that he is wrong, that the place is not for either of them, it is “as indifferent as this God you call on so often.”
Again, Antoinette’s emotions are inseparable from the landscape, the setting-- she feels she cannot speak what she needs to in any other time or place. While the husband here attributes human qualities like malice to the landscape, Antoinette places it in the realm of the divine by comparing its indifference to that of God.
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Antoinette tells the husband about her mother. She tells him that after her father’s death Annette was very poor and very lonely, but that her beauty must have given her hope. She says that they were alone in the loveliest place on earth, that there could never be a place as beautiful as Coulibri. She describes the royal palm trees, which had been cut down, as lost trees, and tells of the poisoning of her mother’s horse. She tells the husband how her mother would stay out in the garden working long after the sun was too hot for her and “they” would tell her to go in. The husband asks who “they” were, and Antoinette names the servants who had remained after emancipation-- Christophine, Godfrey, and a boy named Sass, whose real name was Disastrous, because his godmother liked the sound of the word.
This conversation offers yet another shade or version of the events of Antoinette’s childhood, this time intended to counteract the version that Daniel Cosway has given to the husband. Though this telling and the account in Part One are both in Antoinette’s point of view, even these two versions contain subtle discrepancies and differences in emphasis. The information about Sass’s real name, for example, is new to the novel. It is present in this conversation and not Part One, perhaps because the symbolic significance of names is something that grows in intensity over the course of the novel.
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Antoinette says that her family would have died if Christophine had not been there to care for them. She explains that many people died in those days, especially the old, but that no one speaks of it now, that the only thing people remember are lies, because “Lies are never forgotten, they go on and they grow.” The husband asks what Antoinette remembers of herself, and she says that she was happy in the mornings, and in the garden, where “every flower in the world” existed, and she often drank rainwater from the leaves. She tells him that she was not often happy in the afternoons, and never at night, because the house was haunted. She goes on to remember “the day when she saw I was growing up like a white nigger,” that after this day her mother worked feverishly to remarry, for their security.
One thing that is present in both versions of Antoinette’s story is the comfort she finds in the natural world. The pessimism about the truth that she articulates here is echoed throughout the novel, by the husband, Christophine, Daniel Cosway, herself, and Grace Poole later in the novel.
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Antoinette mentions the night that Coulibri was burned, and becomes upset and very pale. She does not go into detail about what happened that night, but merely laments, “They trampled it. It was a sacred place. It was sacred to the sun!” The husband wonders silently how much of her story is true, how much of it distorted or imagined. Antoinette goes on to explain that after that night, she spent a long time with fever at her aunt’s home in Spanish Town, during which time she remembers hearing screams and loud laughter. There, she was told that her mother was ill and in the country. She says that this made sense to her, because her mother was a part of Coulibri, and if Coulibri was gone then it was natural for her mother to be gone as well.
Antoinette cannot bring herself to detail the events of the night Coulibri was burned, despite the fact that these events are crucial to understanding her mother’s collapse into grief and madness. Antoinette’s belief that her mother was a part of Coulibri and therefore should have disappeared with it again blurs the distinction between setting and emotion in the novel.
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Antoinette tells the husband that a rock was thrown at her head the night Coulibri burned. She recalls that Aunt Cora told her it would heal and not “spoil” her on her wedding day, but she fears that it did spoil her, not only for her wedding day but “for all days and nights.” At this, the husband tries to comfort her by telling her that her days and nights are not spoiled, and urges her to put the past behind her. Even while he is saying this, though, be feels his heart to be “heavy as lead.”
When Aunt Cora says that the rock will not “spoil” Antoinette on her wedding day, she is referring to her physical appearance only. Antoinette, however, is more concerned with the lasting emotional trauma of the event, and considers this to be a more significant type of spoiling. Rather than giving comfort or solace to the husband, Antoinette’s tale unsettles him and fills him with more dread.
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Antoinette goes on to tell of her one visit to her mother at her country house, with a man and a woman caring for her in her madness. Antoinette remembers that her mother was in a fine evening dress, but barefoot, and that the man gave her glass after glass of rum so that she would “forget.” When her mother threw one of the glasses and smashed it, the man told the woman caretaker to clean it up or Annette would walk in it, and the woman replied that if she did it would be a good thing, that then maybe she’d keep quiet. Antoinette describes how her mother walked back and forth and addressed Mr. Luttrell, who at that point was long dead, and that when she sat down the man caring for her forced her to kiss him. After this, Antoinette ran from the house.
The neglect and sexual abuse of Annette by her caretakers is something that Antoinette as a narrator would not or could not include in Part One. Reasons for concealing, revealing, or glossing over the truth in the novel are myriad and complicated. It is possible that the younger Antoinette glossed over this trauma for the same reason that she refused to speak to her mother about her poisoned horse-- in hopes that not speaking about it could make it not true. The fact that Annette’s caretakers were black further complicates the situation, making it an echo and reversal of the abusive, coercive sexual relationships that went on between masters and their slaves before emancipation.
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Antoinette finishes her story, and says quietly, as if speaking to herself, that she has said all she wants to, and nothing has changed. She laughs, and the husband says, “Don’t laugh like that, Bertha.” She replies that her name is not Bertha, and asks why he calls her that. He answers that Bertha is a name he is fond of, so that is how he thinks of her. He asks her where she went off to earlier that day, and she tells him that she went to see Christophine, and that she will tell him anything now, because she sees that words are no use. She tells him that Christophine has advised her to leave him. He is surprised, but replies that perhaps Christophine is right, that he wants to do what is best for both of them and maybe this will help.
Antoinette sees that her story has not brought about a change of heart in the husband, just as she predicted when Christophine urged her to tell him the truth. The husband’s insistence on calling her “Bertha” at this point both deepens the distance between them and shows the husband’s desire to control his perception of Antoinette, to make her something he is “fond of,” rather than afraid of and disconcerted by. Paradoxically, now that Antoinette has decided once and for all that the truth will have no power over him, she feels free to tell the husband anything he asks her about.
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They get up to go in to bed, and the husband again calls her Bertha, despite her protests. When they get into the bedroom, the husband sees that there is white powder on the floor, which Antoinette claims is to keep cockroaches away. He notices that there are six candles lit on the dressing-table, and three on the table near the bed. He feels that the light changes Antoinette, makes her more beautiful than he’s ever seen her. She hands him a glass of wine to drink, and he insists, in his narration, that he desired her before she gave him the drink, that “she need not have done what she did to me. I will always swear that, she need not have done it.” He puts out the candles, and that is all he remembers of the night.
The husband takes note of and wonders about the specific number of candles in the room, and the powder on the floor, all presumably put there under instructions from Christophine, though he does not know this at the time. Despite his feeling of alienation from Antoinette, and his refusal to use her name, he insists that he felt love for her on this night, without the enchantment she attempted to put on him.
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The husband awakes before the sun rises, having dreamt that he was buried alive. He is cold and sick, in pain. He believes he has been poisoned. He gets up and staggers to his dressing room, where he retches and vomits for what “seemed like hours.” When he is finished, he gets up, weak, and returns to the bedroom. He watches Antoinette sleeping, feeling a cold hatred for her despite her beauty. He picks up his wine glass from the night before and dips his finger into it to taste it, discovering that it is bitter. He immediately dresses and runs from the house. He runs through the woods, exhausted, and finally finds himself at the ruined house of the preacher, where he falls to the ground and sleeps through the day.
Christophine’s predictions are proven correct-- when the husband wakes from the enchantment that Antoinette has attempted to put on him, he feels hatred for her. In his distress, he runs through the woods and finds himself at the place where he either saw or was mistaken for a zombie-- a living person who is dead, or a dead person who appears alive.
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When he returns to the house, the husband is fed and cared for by Amélie, and they spend the night together. Though Amélie expresses a small amount of apprehension at Antoinette’s being right next door, on the other side of a thin partition dividing the two rooms, the husband says he feels no remorse. The following morning he recognizes the complication he’s created, and feels “satisfied and peaceful, but not gay.” Amélie dresses, and he admires her dress. He gives her a large sum of money, which she accepts without thanks. The husband asks her what she plans to do with her life, saying that she is beautiful enough to have anything she wants. She agrees matter-of-factly, and says that she plans to go to Rio, because there are rich men in Rio. He asks her if she still feels sorry for him, and she says she does, but that now she feels sorry for Antoinette as well.
It is clear that the husband’ tryst with Amélie is overheard by Antoinette, and that the husband commits this act of infidelity in full knowledge of this fact. His lack of remorse seems to signal his complete rejection of his marriage to Antoinette. Again, he is taken by and attracted to clothing, this time Amélie’s. Amélie, who would have been a slave just a few years before this, uses manipulation and sex to gain power over both the husband and Antoinette in this instance. She clearly recognizes the power that she possesses, and plans to continue capitalizing on it in Rio.
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The husband goes back to sleep, and is woken by Baptiste telling him that the cook is leaving, quitting. He notices that, though Baptiste does not comment explicitly on The husband’s behavior, he no longer calls him “sir” or “master.” Antoinette has gone away from the house, and stays away for several days. The husband is content, spending most of the day in a hammock on the veranda. On the third day, he writes a letter to Mr. Fraser, the magistrate. The letter says that the husband has been reading a book about obeah, and remembers a particular case that the magistrate had mentioned, about a woman. He asks if Mr. Fraser knows the whereabouts of this woman now.
Baptiste’s behavior, and the cook’s resignation, imply that the staff also overheard the husband’s indiscretions with Amélie. Rather than feeling chastised, the husband seems to grow even more pleased with himself, spending his days lounging in the hammock, more comfortable and content than he’s been since before his marriage to Antoinette. His letter to the magistrate suggests that he is formulating a plan of retribution against Christophine.
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Fraser writes back at once, saying that the woman’s name was “Josephine or Christophine,” and she was imprisoned in connection with obeah before becoming a servant at Coulibri. He says that her whereabouts now are unclear, but that she is considered a “most dangerous person.” He tells the husband that if she lives near him and gets up to “any of her nonsense,” that he should report it to the police immediately, and Fraser himself will make sure that she does not get off lightly. After reading this, the husband thinks to himself, “So much for you, Josephine or Christophine. So much for you, Pheena.”
In his imagined address to Christophine, the husband uses all three names for her- the erroneous name that Fraser uses, her real name, and Antoinette’s pet name for her. His desire to obliterate her extends to every possible version of her-- the rumor of her, the real her, and the idolized pet version that belongs to Antoinette.
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One afternoon, Antoinette returns to the house, closely followed by Christophine. Antoinette goes to her room without looking at the husband, and rings for Baptiste. Baptiste fetches a bottle of rum to bring her, and ignores the husband when he tries to intercept him. When the husband goes to Antoinette’s room, he discovers that she has blockaded the door with a heavy piece of furniture. He pushes the door open enough to see her lying in bed with the empty rum decanter next to her on a chair. He leaves and waits on the veranda. After a while, Antoinette wakes and begins ringing and yelling for Baptiste and for Christophine. The husband goes in to her room to find her extremely disheveled, with her hair hanging tangled and her face swollen. He is at first too shocked to speak.
Like her mother before her, Antoinette is given rum to calm her in her distress. The servants’ loyalty to Antoinette, though, is clear. The husband sees that his actions have upset Antoinette so deeply that her appearance has completely changed, and for the first time feels a shock of emotion in relation to what he’s done.
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Antoinette reaches for another bottle of rum, and the husband tells her not to drink anymore. She snaps back that he has no right to tell her what to do. She accuses him of hypocrisy, of having committed with Amélie the same acts of sexual coercion that went on during slavery, after he’d expressed distaste for these very acts. She accuses him acidly of liking “the light brown girls.” The husband counters that what went on during slavery “was not about liking or disliking, it was a question of justice.” She scoffs, saying that justice is a cold word, a lie. She refers to her mother, demands to know what justice her mother had, and likens the husband to her mother’s abusive caretaker, the “black devil kissing her sad mouth. Like you kissed mine.”
In her grief, Antoinette feels a strong connection to her mother’s experience. She seems to identify the husband with all three of the destructive males in her mother’s life, implicitly or explicitly: When the husband tells her not to drink, she bristles at being told what to do by a man who has ignored, betrayed, and abandoned her, recalling Mr. Mason’s ignoring, control and abandonment of Annette. Next, her condemnation of the husband’s actions in the context of race and class coercion recalls her father’s notorious indiscretions with his slaves. Finally, she explicitly connects the husband to her mother’s sexually abusive and neglectful caretaker.
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The husband opens the window because it has become unbearably hot in the room. When he turns back, Antoinette is drinking again, and he reproaches her, saying simply, “Bertha.” She rails against him, saying that he is trying to make her into someone else by calling her by a different name, and warns him that this too is obeah. She begins to cry, and tells him that, worse than his infidelity is the fact that he has destroyed this place for her, this place that she once loved. She tells him that she hates him, and before she dies she will show him how much she hates him. She then quite suddenly stops crying, and asks the husband, "Is she so much prettier than I am? Don’t you love me at all?” The husband replies that he does not, not at this moment.
Here, Antoinette is disempowered and alienated from herself on three symbolic fronts. First, the husband again imposes a false name on her, and she feels that he is forcibly enacting a magic that is robbing her of her identity. Next, she expresses alienation from the landscape that has always been so connected to and emblematic of her feelings and cosmology (for Antoinette, this is the worst of all possible offenses). Finally, she displays a loss of faith in her own beauty, which, after learning from a young age (through her mother and the convent school) that appearance is the locus of power for a female, amounts to an expression of disempowerment.
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Antoinette laughs a crazy laugh at this, and says that the husband is cold, a stone. She says that it serves her right, because Aunt Cora had warned her not to marry him, “not if he were stuffed with diamonds.” She begins to speak and sing incoherently, and takes another drink from the bottle of rum. The husband tries to take the bottle from her, and she bites him. He drops the bottle. She smashes another bottle against the wall and threatens him with the broken half of the bottle in her hand, "Just you touch me once. You’ll soon see if I’m a dam’ coward like you are." She proceeds to wildly curse the husband, and every part of his body. The husband feels as if he is in a dream. She only quiets when Christophine comes in and tells her to stop crying. She collapses onto the sofa and sobs.
Having lost all emotional or symbolic power in the situation, Antoinette reaches a fever pitch of distress and turns to physical violence. Just as he has described the hostile landscape of the Caribbean as dreamlike, the husband again feels like he is in a dream, faced with the hostility of his wife. The only person who can still reason with and calm Antoinette is Christophine.
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Christophine turns to the husband and asks him sadly why he did what he did with Amélie, why he didn’t at least take her somewhere else to do it. She says that he and Amélie both love money, which must be why they came together. At this, the husband leaves the room and goes out to the veranda. As he wraps his bleeding arm, he looks out to the trees and feels that they are menacing him, have menaced him since his arrival. He hears Christophine singing softly to Antoinette while she cries.
The husband does not answer Christophine’s accusations. In the face of this conflict, as well as the conflict that has just occurred between himself and Antoinette, he is mostly silent, paralyzed. He feels powerless, menaced again by his surroundings.
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He goes back to his room, where Christophine finds him. They argue. She tells him she hopes he’s satisfied, that she knows what he’s done and there’s no use lying to her. The husband demands to know what happened when Antoinette was with Christophine these last few days. He calls Antoinette “my wife,” and Christophine laughs maliciously at this. She tells him that everyone knows that he has married Antoinette for her money, that he has taken everything she has and now wants only “to break her up,” because he is jealous of her goodness. She says that the first time she, Christophine, saw him, she could tell that he was cold, that he fooled Antoinette into thinking he loved her. The husband thinks silently that she is right, but allows her to go on.
The husband knows that Christophine speaks the truth, that the coldness that she sees in him is the true core of his feelings. This again silences him, allowing Christophine to continue speaking. As has been the case many times throughout the novel, here it is speech that holds the power to shape reality, so it is Christophine who wields the power in this instance.
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She accuses him of making love to Antoinette until she couldn’t do without it, until she was completely in love with him, when all he wants is to hurt her. Her words begin to echo loudly in the husband’s head, as she accuses him of pretending to believe the lies that Daniel Cosway has told him, so that he can have an excuse to leave her. He accuses her in turn of poisoning him. She corrects him, telling him that Antoinette begged her for something to make him love her again, but that he doesn’t love. She says that she knows he started to call Antoinette by a different name in an effort to control her, and that when that didn’t work he bedded Amélie and let Antoinette hear it, that he meant her to hear it.
The power of Christophine’s speech enacts a kind of magic or hypnosis on the husband. It echoes and expands in his mind, so that, at this point in his narration, everything she says appears at least twice. He is left with no space, in his mind or on the page, to respond or reflect, further amplifying Christophine’s dominance over the moment. It is unclear whether these echoes are created by actual magic, or are an effect of the husband’s remorse.
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The husband again knows that she is right, that he meant for her to hear what happened. Now in addition to Christophine’s words echoing in his mind, he can hear Antoinette’s voice as it sounded or must have sounded when she went to Christophine, telling her what happened between the husband and Amélie, that she stayed up all night listening, "O Pheena, Pheena, help me." Christophine goes on to explain that she gave Antoinette something to help her sleep these last few days, to calm her, but that the husband’s telling her he doesn’t love her has undone all of her good work. She tells him that she thinks he is neither the best nor the worst, but that he can love Antoinette again if he waits and tries.
Now Antoinette’s voice enters the fray, further crowding out the husband’s thoughts and agency in the conversation. It is unclear, again, whether the husband is imagining Antoinette’s distressed pleas through a movement of mind inspired by remorse, or whether these thoughts have been planted in his mind by Christophine. Either, or both, are possible and implied.
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When he shakes his head, Christophine repeats that everything Daniel Cosway told him is a lie, and that she would have warned him but there was no time. She reminds him that it is not Antoinette who traveled to England to convince the husband to marry her, it is he who came here to beg her. She asks him what he is going to do with her money now that he doesn’t love her. At this mention of money, the husband stops feeling “dazed, tired, half hypnotized,” and is ready to defend himself. Christophine asks him why he can’t just leave Antoinette half of her dowry and go back to England, if he doesn’t want her. The husband asks exactly what sum she has in mind, and she replies that he can fix it up with the lawyers, and she, Christophine, can take care of Antoinette. The husband thinks to himself that Christophine means that she will also take care of the money.
Just as was the case with the husband’s encounter with Daniel Cosway, any inclination toward compassion or remorse is extinguished when the conversation turns to money. The husband’s priority becomes his own defense. Where just moments before, he had listened to Christophine and knew she was right, he now suspects her of planning to take Antoinette’s money for herself.
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The husband asks Christophine if she and Antoinette would both stay here at Granbois, and she says no, they will return to Martinique. She says that Antoinette will marry someone else and forget him. At this, a pang of jealousy and rage shoots through the husband, and he laughs at Christophine. He tells her coldly to leave, that all that has happened is her fault. She tells him that he has no power to tell her to do anything. In response, he reads aloud to her the part of the magistrate’s letter that tells the husband to report Christophine to the police, that she won’t get off lightly this time. He says that he knows that she gave Antoinette the “poison” that she put in his wine, that he’s saved the wine glass and will use it against her.
While remorse seems to paralyze the husband, he is driven to decisive action by jealousy, anger, and desire for vengeance and control. When the idea of Antoinette marrying another man comes up, he acts immediately and silences the once powerful Christophine by utilizing his knowledge of her arrest history, which he has by right of his position of privilege with white law enforcement.
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Christophine relents, but demands to know what he will do with Antoinette. He says he will consult doctors and her brother and follow their advice. She spits on the floor in outrage, tells him that she knows he means to pretend that she is mad, that she will end up like her mother, who, she says, was abandoned to the care of a man who "take her whenever he want, that man, and others." She says that if he is willing to do this for money, then he is “wicked like Satan self!” He shouts back that he did not choose any of this, that he would give his life to undo it. She says this is the first word of truth he’s spoken so far. When the husband next looks at her, it looks as if there is a mask on her face, “and her eyes were undaunted.” The husband feels respect for her strength.
Christophine too connects Antoinette’s current misfortune and apparent future of imprisonment with the abandonment, imprisonment, and abuse of Annette. For all their clashing and enmity, the husband recognizes in Christophine the same talent for concealing emotional vulnerability that he possesses, and respects her for it.
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He asks Christophine if she wants to say goodbye to Antoinette, and she tells him that she has given her something to sleep, and she will not wake her up to misery, that that is for him to do. He tells her stiffly that in that case she can write to Antoinette, and Christophine replies, “Read and write I don’t know. Other things I know.” She leaves the house without looking back.
Remorse seems to creep back into the husband’s demeanor, as he offers to allow Christophine to speak to, and then write to, Antoinette. Christophine’s refusal is her final assertion of power in the novel.
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Agitated after his confrontation with Christophine, the husband paces his room and speaks aloud to himself a letter he wants to write to his father. In it, he accuses his father of setting up this marriage in order to get rid of him, that his father and his brother had no love at all for him. He says that their plan succeeded because he, the husband, was young, conceited, and foolish. the husband thinks to himself that he is no longer young, and sits down to write a real letter to his father. In this letter, he merely informs his father that “unforeseen circumstances” have dictated that he and Antoinette return to Jamaica very soon, that his father can likely guess what has happened, and that the less he speaks of it to anyone else, the better. He then writes a letter to his lawyers in Spanish Town, requesting that they set up a house with two separate wings and discreet servants.
For the second time, the husband mentally writes a letter to his father before physically writing it. As is the case with the first example of this, the husband’s thought or spoken letter contains his true emotions, which are then concealed in the written version. These letters provide yet another example of the possibility for multiple versions of each reality, each utterance within the novel.
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While he is writing, a cock outside crows persistently. the husband throws a book at it, but it merely walks further away and keeps crowing. Baptiste comes into the room, and the husband requests more rum-- he is drunk. He asks Baptiste what the cock is crowing about, and Baptiste replies indifferently that it is for a change in the weather. The husband sees Baptiste looking toward Antoinette’s room, and shouts at him that she is asleep. Baptiste scowls and walks away. The husband realizes that he will never be able to buy discretion from Jamaican servants, that as long as he and Antoinette are in Jamaica they will be gossiped about constantly. He draws a picture of an English house surrounded by English trees, with a woman on the third floor.
The cock, symbolizing betrayal, returns here louder than before. Unlike Antoinette, the husband does not mention the symbolism attached. His annoyance, however, his desire to silence the creature, suggest that he understands its import and desires not to acknowledge it. When he realizes that he will not be able to control the stories that will be told about himself and Antoinette in Jamaica, he begins planning their return to England. Even now, he envisions Antoinette in the attic of their future home.
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The next day is cool and misty. He watches the royal palm trees with respect, imagining that they will stand tall and defy the hurricanes that are coming soon, while the bamboo will merely lie on the ground and let them rage past. He thinks of his own revenge as a hurricane, and wonders why there is no pity for him, who is “tied to a lunatic for life.” He remembers Christophine telling him that Antoinette loves him, thirsts for him, and thinks to himself that Antoinette thirsts for anyone, that she makes love like only a mad girl can, not caring who she’s loving. He thinks about locking her away, to prevent her from seeing anyone again. He then thinks that if he watches and sees Antoinette display any real emotion, “one human tear” when they leave Granbois for good, then he’ll drop all of this and take her in his arms gently, because “she’s mad but she’s mine, mine.”
The husband’s prideful cruelty, as well as his passion and longing for Antoinette, are locked in conflict here, as two equal and opposing forces. On the one hand, he desperately wants a reason to feel tenderly toward Antoinette and treat her gently, but on the other, he is consumed by his own jealousy, rage, and need for control. He equates his own desire for revenge with a coming hurricane, and his respect for the royal palm trees that will defy the hurricane suggest that he longs for Antoinette to defy his rage, in this case by displaying an emotion that will soften it.
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On the morning of their departure, the husband and Antoinette are dressed and packed for the journey, and Baptiste, along with some remaining servants, are waiting by the horses to see them off. Antoinette’s face is blank, and the husband wonders if she remembers or feels anything. He remembers her telling him the names of the mountains, and that a green sunset is called an Emerald Drop, and it brings good fortune. He is caught by surprise by the sadness he feels looking at the house for the last time. He feels its shabbiness, feels that it is crying to be saved from desolation. He blames the forest for the house’s inevitable destruction, addresses the house in his mind, “Don’t you know this is a dangerous place? And that the dark forest always wins?” Though Baptiste addresses him politely, the husband feels his contempt and dislike strongly.
The lack of emotion displayed by Antoinette upon their departure from Granbois unsettles the husband. Rather than seeming an indication of strength in concealing emotional vulnerability, he fears that her outer blankness reflects an inner blankness. As he looks at the house at Granbois for the last time, feelings of sadness take him by surprise and cause him to reflect. In his mind, he pities the crumbling house, and blames the forest for its destruction. This pitting of the natural world against the domestic realm, or the realm of people, is consistent with the husband’s viewpoint throughout the novel.
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The husband is filled with a bewildering and sudden certainty that everything he’d imagined to be true about Antoinette these last few days was false, that “only the magic and the dream are true-- all the rest’s a lie.” He looks at Antoinette staring blankly out to the sea, and wishes that she would sing to him as she once did. He imagines what he should say to her-- to not be sad, to chatter and laugh as she used to, to tell him stories. He remembers their nights together tenderly, and wishes for them both to give everything they have to each other. He says to her, “I have made a terrible mistake. Forgive me.” When he sees that she looks at him with hatred, he feels in himself “a sickening swing back to hate”. He vows to himself that his hatred will be stronger than hers, that she will be left with nothing.
The nostalgia of leaving affects the husband deeply, and he is filled with the desire for things to be as they were when he and Antoinette were in sync. Once again, the his remorse weakens and quiets him, but gives way quickly to the solidity of his vengeful anger. Where his tenderness and remorse are accompanied by sad wishes and a tentative apology, his anger comes with hatred and an absolute vow.
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A servant boy begins to cry “loud, heartbreaking sobs,” and the husband thinks that he could have “strangled him with pleasure.” The husband asks Baptiste why the boy is crying, but Baptiste ignores him. Antoinette tells him, in a detached voice that the husband hardly recognizes, that upon their arrival the boy asked to be taken with them when they left Granbois. She explains that the boy wants no money, merely to be with the husband, because he loves him very much. Baptiste has told the boy that the husband won’t take him, and this is why he sobs. Antoinette says the boy has tried very hard to learn English. The husband becomes angry at her for speaking for him, and making promises to the boy, and says he will certainly not bring the boy with them.
In the face of Antoinette’s silence, the boy’s display of bald emotion at first gives the husband intense pleasure. The weeping boy is a feebler, defeated echo of the Young Bull, the porter who appears at the start of the honeymoon. The Young Bull was a black man who vied confidently for the attention and approval of the husband. But now, after the emotional destruction that has taken place at Granbois, the novel is left with only a desolate young black boy, who sobs powerlessly at his rejection.
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They leave, and the husband notices that when Antoinette says goodbye to Baptiste she very nearly cries, but recovers her cold composure at once. He feels exhausted and empty, but sane. He feels tired of the place and its people. He feels hate for the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the sunsets “whatever colour.” Above all, he feels hate for Antoinette, for “she left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.” The boy follows them some distance as they leave, crying still. The husband marvels that a boy would cry like that, “for nothing.”
The husband’s feelings of alienation and exhaustion are directed at everyone and everything in his sight. After a sizable struggle between the forces of compassion and bitterness within him, bitterness finally takes the upper hand.
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