- on the author's writing style
In her "Madwoman as the Imprisoned Other," Marja-Liisa Heleniius of the University of Helsinki writes that Rhys
celebrates the female emotionality as a strength, but she also acknowledges it as a weakness.
Adding that the submissive female characters often use this submissiveness as a "mask" to subvert "the roles that men and patriarchal conventions have imposed on them," the unconscious is omnipresent in the narrative. Thus the thematic derives from what is called "the mystical 'semiotic' stream." Clearly, Rhysls novel exemplifies what is called ecriture feminine [feminine writing].
Unfortunately for Antoinette, this mask that is used against Rochester causes her madness in the end because he, too, wears a mask, a mask of hatred that destroys her tenuous hold on sanity.
The author also manipulates color to express the inner feelings and contrasts in characters.
- on the verbal expression of characters
The extremes of the environs of the West Indies set against England reflect the antagonistic domains of Rhys's novel. These differences, of course, are evinced in the dialects of the characters such as Christophine Dubois, a native of Martinique. She speaks a patois. For example, in Part I, Antoinette as narrator comments that her family does not quite fit into society because her mother is Creole. Athe Jamacian ladies disapproved of her because, as Chrisophine describes her, "...she pretty like pretty self."
Also referred to as "broken English," Chrisophine's communication often is lacking in verbs and important syntax; for instance, when she tells Annette that she neglects her daughter, she uses the wrong form of the verbs, "She run wild, she grow up worthless. And nobody care."
Yet, Chrisophine is wise, seeing all clearly. Near the end of the novel, she cryptically tells Rochester that he will be punished for his cruel treatment of Antoinette, "As for what you do, you pay for it one day."
As the narrator, Antoinette points to the sense of fatality in her mother, Annette. Her character, too, is, of course, reflected in her speech. In Part I, for instance, she demonstrates her nostalgia for her beautiful island home and all its resplendent colors:
...I lay in the shade looking at the pool--deep and dark green under the trees, brown-green if it had rained, but a bright sparkling green in the sun. The water was so clear that you could see pebbles at the bottom...Blue and white and striped red.
When she is stressed, Antoinette dreams of the forest and the beauties of nature. All this beauty is lost to her after she marries Rochester and is taken to England. In fact, her fears are raised before she travels to England as she tells Rochester that a friend who went there wrote that "this place London is like a cold dark dream sometimes. I want to wake up."
At Thornfield Hall, color again visits the imagination of Antoinette, but this time it is threatening as she speaks of the flame of the candle flickering and dying down. This flame from the candle she uses to ignite the drapes and other furnishings of the house.
As the narrator of the first half of Part II, then is replaced by Antoinette, but returns later in this part of the novel. Edward Rochester exhibits the English antipathy for foreigners as he speaks of Antoinette's "dark alien eyes." Of his marriage, he comments,
I have sold my soul or you have sold it, and after all the girl is thought to be beautiful, she is beautiful. And yet...
From the beginning, there is mistrust in Rochester's heart. After Antoinette drugs his wine in an attempt to get him to love her, he cruelly retaliates by making love to one of the black servants who resembles Antoinette. This act expresses physically his hatred. Later, he narrates,
Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.
Rather than loving the beauty of the island as Antoinette does, Rochester feels its color is excessive:
Everything is too much....too much blue, too much purple, too much green.
After he takes Antoinette to Thornfield Hall, Rochester notes the "red-eyed wild-haired stranger" who curses him.