Jean Rhys makes you love Antoinette Cosway, a Coulibri heiress. Jean Rhys’ book is captivating, especially the curious title ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’s. The Sargasso Sea is located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has no land boundaries and can be distinguished by a characteristic brown Sargassum seaweed and mostly calm, blue water. Antoinette Cosway is a rich character plagued by dark things, who finally gets consumed by Madness. A lot has been said on this book by a lot of book reviewers, therefore this isn’t exactly a book review.
In 2015, different species of Sargassum accumulated along the shores around the Caribbean sea causing foul odour and metal rust that led to respiratory problems amongst other issues. What an interesting extraction for a title (written before anywhere near the twenty-first century)! Madness can be, though greatly disturbing, a fascinating interest in fiction, particularly Gothic fiction: love-madness in Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita‘, mad love in Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights‘, “Though this be Madness, yet there is method in’t”- Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the chilling Madness in ‘Frankenstein‘ (very good book, but I read it only once for good reason), the list is endless. Nevertheless how bizarre as ‘The Lord of the flies‘, by William Golding, it is far from pleasant in planet earth’s reality. Madness is an abnormality, a substantial deviation from a statistically calculated average. Unlike Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in wonderland‘, a nonsense literature, where Madness is welcomed and indeed rational sensibility, it isn’t the case outside literature.
There are a lot of themes in this book, about racism, womanhood, beauty, chastity, feminine docility, displacement, mortality and Madness; Jean Rhys brings the unpleasantness of madness, going as far as pointing to what could bring one to Madness. Madness is a lot of things, from the road frenzy on Nigerian roads to the mad people you see on the streets. Some causes of madness in relation to Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea….
1. A dysfunctional family. When you read it, you see how complicated and simple it is.
2. Genetics- Madness is a mental illness, which can be inherited.
3. Traumatic event. It is depicted everywhere in the novel, most especially where her mother’s horse was killed and then their house was set on fire and her life changed.
4. Neglect. She is left alone, while her mother, Annette devotes most of her time and energy to Antoinette’s brother, Pierre who suffers from Cerebral palsy and Christophine.
5. Social and cultural expectations- the heavy themes of hatred and tension, especially from her supposed stepbrother, who voiced out what everyone would not say; that she was showing characteristics of madness, after all, her mother was a mad woman and her previous ancestors.
6. Poverty. Antoinette lived in a dilapidated estate called Coulibri.
7.Stress, which can trigger mental illness in a person, who was already susceptible from genetics.
‘They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not their ranks. The Jamaican ladies had never approved of my mother, ‘because she pretty like pretty self’ Christophine said’
‘I waited a long time after I heard her snore, then I got up, took the keys and unlocked the door. I was outside holding my candle. Now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do.’
We are not all mad here and this madness isn’t something you can don on and then leave behind, like The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Here is a link to a review on the Wide Sargasso Sea: