What is the significance of slavery and entrapment in Wide Sargasso Sea?

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ms-t eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea of slavery and entrapment in Wide Sargasso Sea is through the novel - beginning with the title. The Sargasso Sea is an almost lifeless area located between the Caribbean and Europe where there are no ocean currents and often there is a complete lack of wind - causing ships to become trapped. It is symbolic of Antoinette being trapped lifeless, suspended between the two worlds.

The Cosway family were former slave owners, their poverty make them outcasts from the white Jamaicans, and the former slaves have either run away or despise the family. Their poverty and the death of their horse isolates and traps them at Coulibri. Antoinette seeking to find a place repeatedly reaches out for love, but ultimately is always rejected and faces isolation both figurately and literally, culminating in her being locked away and trapped in the attic.

Rochester feels isolated by his feelings of being 'exiled' from England and trapped in the situation once he is married to Antionette. His marriage to her was for financial reasons, and as he begins to doubt her he wonders if he has sold his soul to fulfill his family's ambitions.

The character's social positions make them slaves to other's wishes. Both Antoinette and Rochester must marry because of their families, which creates a feeling of entrapment for both. The idea of slavery is destructive from the beginning of the novel, with the burning down of Coulibri by the former slaves. Entrapment runs throughout the novel through the isolation the characters feel.