Wide Sargasso Sea

by Jean Rhys

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Part 1, Section 2 Summary

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Antoinette is recuperating at her Aunt Cora’s house in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Antoinette has been in bed for several weeks. She finds that her long hair has been cut off and is surprised that she does not recall anyone cutting it. She also has no memory of how she arrived at her aunt’s house. When she asks about her brother, her aunt tells her that Pierre is dead. Her aunt also says that Antoinette’s mother has been taken to the country to regain her health. Antoinette recalls having heard her mother shouting before she left. Her mother threatened to kill Mr. Mason, her husband. She called him a coward.

A few weeks later, Antoinette travels with Christophine to visit her mother. When they reach the house where her mother is staying, Antoinette runs out to find her. She notices that her mother keeps looking behind her as if she is expecting someone else. When her mother is told no one else has accompanied Antoinette, her mother pushes the girl away so hard that she falls to the floor. Antoinette calls out to her mother, “But I am here.” These words have no effect on her mother, who obviously continues to hope that her son is still alive.

When Antoinette is fully recovered from the head injury she received when Tia hit her with a rock, Aunt Cora sends her to a Catholic school down the street from her house. The walk is not long, but it is treacherous for Antoinette. She is aware of danger but has no way of protecting herself. There are children on the street who taunt her. One girl tells Antoinette that she thinks Antoinette is crazy like her mother, whom she had seen Antoinette’s mother walking barefoot in the streets and heard scream. She had listened to the rumors that Antoinette’s mother threatened to kill her stepfather. One boy threatens Antoinette by telling her one day he will get her when she is all alone.

Another boy appears to rescue Antoinette. His name is Sandi Cosway; he is a son of her mother’s first husband. He is Antoinette’s cousin, though the family prefers that she never acknowledge this because Sandi has a black mother and is the product of an illicit affair. When Antoinette reaches the school, she breaks down in tears. The nuns soothe her and promise to contact her aunt to make sure that Antoinette has an escort in the future when she walks to school.

Eventually, Antoinette not only accepts her new environment at the school but begins to thrive there. When her aunt tells her that she is leaving her in Jamaica while she returns to England, Antoinette is not dismayed. She enjoys the thought of closing her life off from the outside world and living entirely within the walls of the convent, which quickly becomes her refuge.

After two years at the school, Mr. Mason, her stepfather, who had often visited, comes to the school and announces that it is time for Antoinette to re-enter the outside world. She is grown up and must learn to be a lady. Antoinette does not completely understand what lies ahead for her, but she senses that she is about to go through a very important transformation.

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Part 1, Section 1 Summary


Part 2, Section 1 Summary