Jean Rhys has constructed a Caribbean where racial identities are ambiguous and unstable. What are some scenes from the book where Daniel Cosway supports this argument?

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danielle1978 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Daniel Cosway (the illigitimate son of Alexander Cosway) illustrates several different ways in which racial identitites in the Carribean (specifically within the Cosway family) are unstable and ambiguous. In the second part of the novel, Daniel writes to Rochester in an attempt to alienate him from Antoinette by enumerating all of the transgressions of the Cosway family. To demonstrate this, Daniel points to the fact that the Cosways were “wicked and detestable slave-owners” (96). The irony in this context is that Cosway himself married a woman of mixed race (Anette, Antoinette's mother) and subsequently had several bastard children with other Caribbean women. Daniel Cosway, his son, personifies the very instability and ambiguity because he occupies a hybrid space of being Jamaican and also being white.

In another scene, we see how Daniel's hatred for whites has helped shape an unstable racial identity. It is not surprising that Daniel detests white people – at least according to Antoinette. “He hates all white people, but he hates me the most,” she tells Rochester. He tells lies about us and he is sure that you will believe him and not listen to the other side” (120). Even though Antoinette tries to invalidate Daniel's position, there is a grain of truth to his possible hatred towards “white people.” After all, his own white father disowned him, which compelled alienation and instability insofar as his own racial identity is concerned.

Lastly, after Rochester reads one of the letters, Amelie (one of Annette's former servants) describes Daniel as “a very superior man, always reading the Bible,” who lived like a “white person” because he had a house with a sitting room in it (126). The contradiction between Daniel's alleged hatred and simultaneous affinity for living like a “white person” also points to his own unstable racial identity. Again, we see a character who occupies a space where their identity cannot be easily defined, either internally or externally.

Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: Norton, 1992. Print.

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Wide Sargasso Sea

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