Wide Sargasso Sea Places Discussed

Jean Rhys

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*England. Although only the brief third section of the novel actually takes place in England, the country’s influence reverberates throughout. All the people in power are English: Antoinette’s father, stepfather, stepbrother, and husband; Aunt Cora’s husband; the island police; and the people in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Antoinette admires an English girl in a painting called “The Miller’s Daughter” but identifies with Tia, an African American girl. Antoinette cannot believe that England is real, just as Christophine does not believe its reality because she has not seen it. Christophine prophetically calls it a “cold thief place.” Even when Antoinette is taken to England, it seems real to her only once, when she is allowed to visit the countryside and see its grass, water, and trees. Otherwise she compares the house in which she is imprisoned to “cardboard” and thinks that she and her husband became lost on their way from the West Indies. For Antoinette, England is a cold place, and she is left longing for the passion and beauty of the West Indies.

*West Indies

*West Indies. Island chain separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean from the Atlantic Ocean, colonized by European powers. Antoinette blames her lack of identity on having grown up there. Her husband mistrusts his bride because of her foreign ways and blames the islands for tricking him into a loveless marriage. In contrast to England, the West Indies are warm and seductive, with the power to make people behave irrationally. Antoinette’s final desperate act is an attempt to return home.


*Jamaica. Island in the West Indies taken from the Spanish by the British, who made fortunes using slaves to raise sugarcane. Since emancipation in 1834, many freed slaves have grown to hate their impoverished former masters. Antoinette’s deceased father is a decadent, rich Englishman, her mother a beautiful young Creole from Martinique. After her father’s death and emancipation, the former slaves poison Antoinette’s mother’s horse, call the women “white cockroaches,” and burn their home. The English people in Jamaica scorn and gossip about the family.


Colibri. Jamaican estate where Antoinette spends her childhood. Like its row of royal palms which have been either cut down or have fallen, Antoinette is proud but lost. The...

(The entire section is 995 words.)