Wide Sargasso Sea

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The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees Symbol Analysis

The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees Symbol Icon
Throughout the novel, the natural world reflects Antoinette’s and the husband’s respective feelings of comfort and/or alienation. When Antoinette is rejected by her mother and ridiculed by her peers, she hides in the gardens at Coulibri and feels that even biting ants and sharp, stinging foliage are “Better, better than people.” Conversely, a major feature of her nightmares, which turn out to be of England, is the unfamiliarity of the trees. The husband, on the other hand, who finds the people and customs of Jamaica disorienting and even disturbing, is similarly disoriented and disturbed by the Jamaican landscape. He becomes lost and delirious in the jungle, and says that the landscape is, “not only wild but menacing. Those hills would close in on you.”

The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees Quotes in Wide Sargasso Sea

The Wide Sargasso Sea quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the W.W. Norton & Company edition of Wide Sargasso Sea published in 1992.
Part 1 Quotes

And if the razor grass cut my legs and arms I would think ‘It’s better than people.’ Black ands or red ones, tall nests swarming with white ants, rain that soaked me to the skin— once I saw a snake. All better than people. Better. Better, better than people.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

As Antoinette grows up, she becomes more and more isolated from other people, even her own family members. The racial and political tensions in Jamaica are so distressing to her that she prefers spending time with herself; or rather, time with the natural world.

Although Rhys suggests here that Antoinette has a strong connection to the natural landscape (particularly that of Jamaica), it's also clear that the relationship between Antoinette and nature is far from idyllic. Antoinette only focuses on the negative aspects of nature here--sharp grass, biting ants--and only prefers such a world because it's better than the world of race and civilization.

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Part 2 Quotes

This a very wild place — not civilized. Why you come here?

Related Characters: The Young Bull (speaker), The Husband
Related Symbols: The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the narration has shifted to the point of view of a new character, Antoinette's husband. Antoinette and her new husband have traveled to a town called Massacre. During their time in the town, a porter named the Young Bull asks the Husband, seemingly a rich, sophisticated man, why he's brought his wife to an uncivilized area.

The word "civilized" carries with it many connotations. As the passage suggests, civilization is a kind of shorthand for whiteness and wealth: the Young Bull's definition of "civilized" is, of course, biased by a colonial history of language in favor of white, English-speaking people like the Husband. The Young Bull is hoping to raise himself up socially by being especially submissive to the Husband and showing his disdain for his fellow workers.

I was tired of these people. I disliked their laughter and their tears, their flattery and envy, conceit and deceit. And I hated the place. I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and loveliness.

Related Characters: The Husband (speaker), Antoinette Cosway
Related Symbols: The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the second Part of the book, the Husband has essentially separated with his wife, Antoinette. Moreover, the Husband has become deeply disillusioned with Jamaica and Antoinette both. He notes that he despises the Jamaican people, dislikes their language and culture and customs, and even hates the beauty of the Jamaican landscape and sky. This hatred, it's suggested, comes not from any kind of reasonable aversion but rather from pure bitterness: the Husband hates what he can't have, what remains "magic and lovely" and unreachable to him.

As the novel comes to a close, the Husband makes Antoinette a "representative" of Jamaica itself. Antoinette, the Husband has recognized before, is a good woman--and yet the Husband, because of his own weakness and coldness, struggles to appreciate such beauty--just as he struggles to embrace the beauty of Jamaica itself. Ultimately, then, it's because of the Husband's own weakness and inability to appreciate beauty that the marriage breaks apart. Although he pretends to be a just, progressive liberal, he ends up seeming like a shallow fool who doesn't know how good he had it until it's too late.

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The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees Symbol Timeline in Wide Sargasso Sea

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Natural Landscape: Gardens, Jungle, Trees appears in Wide Sargasso Sea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
One day, Antoinette finds her mother’s horse dead underneath a tree, and tells no one, because she believes if she doesn’t speak of it, it might... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...to look at the sea, she is gawked at by passersby. Antoinette describes how the gardens at Coulibri during this time are allowed to grow beautiful and wild from neglect, without... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
...girl singing, "White cockroach, go away, go away. Nobody want you." Antoinette hides in the garden, where Christophine finds her many hours later, lying on the ground covered in moss. (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...they only came to see what had happened. As she watches the house and the gardens burn, Antoinette mourns the loss of the beautiful trees and flowers. She sees her former... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
...walk through the convent Antoinette is comforted by Louise’s beauty as well as by the trees and flowers in the convent’s gardens. (full context)
Truth Theme Icon
...in much more detail. In it, she is being lead through a forest of unfamiliar trees wearing a beautiful white dress. She does not know the man leading her, but she... (full context)
Part 2
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...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”... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
The husband leaves the shelter of the tree to speak to the two porters also accompanying them on their trip. One of them... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
The husband describes the pools and the surrounding jungle as beautiful and untouched, “with an alien, disturbing, secret loveliness,” and yearns to possess the... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...be gossiped about constantly. He draws a picture of an English house surrounded by English trees, with a woman on the third floor. (full context)
Otherness and Alienation Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
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... (full context)