Wide Sargasso Sea

Antoinette Cosway Character Analysis

The protagonist and partial narrator of the novel, Antoinette Cosway is a creole, or person of European descent born in the Caribbean. Throughout the novel, her relationships with others are marked by alienation, exclusion, and cruelty, so that she consistently seeks solace in the natural world. She watches her family home burned to the ground by a mob of disenfranchised former slaves, and witnesses her mother’s descent into madness as a result. She is married to an Englishman she barely knows, for his financial benefit. After a disastrous honeymoon, her husband finally locks her away in his attic, from which her only escape is suicide.

Antoinette Cosway Quotes in Wide Sargasso Sea

The Wide Sargasso Sea quotes below are all either spoken by Antoinette Cosway or refer to Antoinette Cosway. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W.W. Norton & Company edition of Wide Sargasso Sea published in 1992.
Part 1 Quotes

They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

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Old time white people nothing but white nigger now, and black nigger better than white nigger.

Related Characters: Tia (speaker), Antoinette Cosway
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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I was bridesmaid when my mother married Mr. Mason in Spanish Town...their eyes slid away from my hating face. I had heard what all these smooth smiling people said about her when she was not listening and they did not guess I was.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker), Annette, Mr. Mason
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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Mr. Mason did not approve of Aunt Cora, an ex-slave-owner who had escaped misery, a flier in the face of Providence.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker), Mr. Mason, Aunt Cora
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
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No one had ever spoken to me about obeah— but I knew what I would find if I dared to look.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker)
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker), Tia
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

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‘Such terrible things happen. Why? Why?’
‘You must not concern yourself with that mystery. We do not know why the devil must have his little day. Not yet.’

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker), Sister Marie Augustine (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2 Quotes

If she were taller, one of these strapping women dressed up to the nines, I might be afraid of her.

Related Characters: The Husband (speaker), Antoinette Cosway
Related Symbols: Clothing and Hair
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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I take up my pen after long thought and meditation but in the end the truth is better than a lie...you have been shamefully deceived by the Mason family...That girl she look you straight in the eye and talk sweet talk and it’s lies she tell you. Lies.

Related Characters: Daniel Cosway (speaker), Antoinette Cosway, The Husband
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

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But they are white, I am coloured. They are rich, I am poor.

Related Characters: Daniel Cosway (speaker), Antoinette Cosway, Annette, Old Cosway
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

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But I cannot go. He is my husband after all.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker), The Husband
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

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It doesn’t matter what I believe or you believe, because we can do nothing about it.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker)
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

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Justice. I’ve heard the word. It’s a cold word. I tried it out...I wrote it down. i wrote it down several times and always it looked like a damn cold lie to me. There is no justice...My mother whom you all talk about, what justice did she have? My mother sitting in the rocking-chair speaking about dead horses and dead grooms and a black devil kissing her sad mouth.

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker), Annette
Page Number: 146-147
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Part 3 Quotes

The rumours I’ve heard very far from the truth. But I don’t contradict, I know better than to say a word. After all the house is big and safe, a shelter from the world outside which, say what you like, can be a black and cruel world to a woman. Maybe that’s why I stayed on...Yes, maybe that’s why we all stay Mrs Eff and Leah and me. All of us except that girl who lives in her own darkness. I’ll say one thing for her, she hasn’t lost her spirit. She’s still fierce. I don’t turn my back on her when her eyes have that look. I know it.

Related Characters: Grace Poole (speaker), Antoinette Cosway, Mrs. Eff, Leah
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

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What am I doing in this place and who am I?

Related Characters: Antoinette Cosway (speaker)
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

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Antoinette Cosway Character Timeline in Wide Sargasso Sea

The timeline below shows where the character Antoinette Cosway appears in Wide Sargasso Sea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
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The novel opens with Antoinette’s narration, looking back at her childhood in 1830’s post-Emancipation Jamaica. Antoinette and her family are... (full context)
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Antoinette overhears her mother one day speaking to Mr. Luttrell, a white neighbor and Annette’s only... (full context)
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One day, Antoinette finds her mother’s horse dead underneath a tree, and tells no one, because she believes... (full context)
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A doctor comes to pay a visit to Antoinette’s younger brother, Pierre, who is disabled. Antoinette is never told what the doctor says during... (full context)
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To avoid her mother, Antoinette begins to spend most of her time with her nurse Christophine. Christophine is also from... (full context)
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When Antoinette asks her mother about Christophine, it is clear that she is the only servant that... (full context)
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One day, Antoinette is followed down the road by a little black girl singing, "White cockroach, go away,... (full context)
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The next day, Christophine introduces Antoinette to Tia, the daughter of Christophine’s only friend, another non-Jamaican black woman. Tia and Antoinette... (full context)
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When Antoinette arrives home, her mother has visitors, relatives of Mr. Luttrell who have come to claim... (full context)
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The rest of the night, Annette does not look at or speak to Antoinette, and Antoinette is sure that her mother is ashamed of her. Antoinette has a nightmare... (full context)
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Annette remarries, to Mr. Mason, an Englishman. Antoinette, serving as a bridesmaid, regards the English guests at the wedding with hatred, because she... (full context)
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When the family returns to Coulibri, Antoinette finds that much more than its appearance has changed. The new black servants brought by... (full context)
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...are abandoned. Mr. Mason thinks they must be at a dance or a wedding, but Antoinette and the rest of the family are uneasy, saying that there are never weddings in... (full context)
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On her way to bed, Antoinette goes into Pierre’s room to say goodnight, and finds him already asleep. As she watches... (full context)
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Antoinette is awoken in the middle of the night by her mother, who tells her to... (full context)
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As Aunt Cora embraces Antoinette and tells her not to worry, that she is “quite safe,’’ Annette rushes to Pierre’s... (full context)
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...The mob laughs and hurls insults at the family, becoming more and more worked up. Antoinette notices that many of the people in the mob are carrying weapons. The crowd suddenly... (full context)
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Antoinette turns before entering the carriage and sees women in the crowd who are crying, insisting... (full context)
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Antoinette wakes up with Aunt Cora by her bedside, at Aunt Cora’s home in Spanish Town.... (full context)
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Antoinette does not mention her awareness of the truth to Aunt Cora, who promises her that... (full context)
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One day, Antoinette is taken to visit her mother at the house where Annette is recuperating. Antoinette insists... (full context)
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After a time of living and getting well at Aunt Cora’s house, Antoinette is sent to the local convent school. On the way to school on her first... (full context)
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Antoinette is crying and dirty when she arrives at the convent. The nuns clean her up... (full context)
At the convent, in a hot and sticky classroom, Antoinette and her classmates practice needlework while listening to the nuns read from a book about... (full context)
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...appearance, as well as chastity and deportment. Though there are no mirrors at the convent, Antoinette once sees a young nun admiring her own appearance, in a cask of water. Louise... (full context)
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Antoinette prays for her mother as if she is dead, though she is still living, and... (full context)
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Antoinette thinks of the convent as a refuge, finding its structure and routine comforting. She learns... (full context)
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After living in the convent for eighteen months, Antoinette is paid a visit by Mr. Mason. He brings her a dress, and tells her... (full context)
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The night before she is to leave the convent for good, Antoinette has her nightmare for a second time, now relayed in much more detail. In it,... (full context)
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The chocolate reminds Antoinette of drinking chocolate after her mother’s funeral, which had taken place more than a year... (full context)
Part 2
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Part Two begins with Antoinette’s new husband’s narration. He is never named in the novel. He and Antoinette have just... (full context)
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Antoinette recognizes a woman in the door of a nearby hut, and goes to speak to... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Antoinette introduces the husband to the servants, whom she has known since childhood. Among them is... (full context)
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Antoinette shows the husband to their suite, where they toast their happiness with rum punch, and... (full context)
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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.”... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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.... (full context)
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During the day, Antoinette is silent and distant, often “chattering” to Christophine in patois. But at night, she opens... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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As Antoinette waits for Christophine, she ignores the husband and begins to shred her bed sheet in... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Antoinette now explains to Christophine that she is no longer rich, that after the marriage she... (full context)
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Antoinette imagines what it might be like to go to England alone. She thinks that she... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Antoinette briefly questions her own trust in Christophine’s good counsel, wondering why she is seeking the... (full context)
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Antoinette continues to insist that Christophine use her power to make her husband come to her... (full context)
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When Antoinette asks if this extends even to Aunt Cora, Christophine tells her that Aunt Cora is... (full context)
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Christophine again instructs Antoinette to “have spunks,” to “do battle for yourself.” She tells her to go to the... (full context)
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Antoinette and Christophine go into Christophine’s two-room house while Jo-jo prepares Antoinette’s horse for her departure... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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The husband and Antoinette are having dinner, with an “endless procession” of moths again flying into the candles and... (full context)
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The husband asks Antoinette if her mother is alive, and Antoinette responds that she died not long ago. The... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Antoinette tells the husband about her mother. She tells him that after her father’s death Annette... (full context)
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Antoinette says that her family would have died if Christophine had not been there to care... (full context)
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Antoinette mentions the night that Coulibri was burned, and becomes upset and very pale. She does... (full context)
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Antoinette tells the husband that a rock was thrown at her head the night Coulibri burned.... (full context)
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Antoinette goes on to tell of her one visit to her mother at her country house,... (full context)
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Antoinette finishes her story, and says quietly, as if speaking to herself, that she has said... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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One afternoon, Antoinette returns to the house, closely followed by Christophine. Antoinette goes to her room without looking... (full context)
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Antoinette reaches for another bottle of rum, and the husband tells her not to drink anymore.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Antoinette laughs a crazy laugh at this, and says that the husband is cold, a stone.... (full context)
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...are menacing him, have menaced him since his arrival. He hears Christophine singing softly to Antoinette while she cries. (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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--... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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.... (full context)
Part 3
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Part Three opens in the point of view of Grace Poole, Antoinette’s caretaker in England. She is speaking to Leah, another servant in the husband’s house. Grace... (full context)
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...is the reason she, Mrs. Eff, and Leah stay at the house. She reflects that Antoinette, “that girl who lives in her own darkness,” does not have the luxury that she... (full context)
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The narration switches to Antoinette’s consciousness. She is watching Grace Poole light the fire in her attic room. She gets... (full context)
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Antoinette looks at a tapestry hanging on her wall and sees her mother in it, looking... (full context)
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One morning, Antoinette wakes up aching, with her wrists red and swollen. Grace Poole tells her that the... (full context)
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As Antoinette looks at and smells her red dress, she is reminded of the colors and smells... (full context)
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That night, Antoinette has her dream for the last time. It is clear to her that the stairs... (full context)
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In her dream, Antoinette runs back up to the attic and climbs out onto the roof, all the while... (full context)