Antoinette’s immediate family consists only of her impoverished, widowed mother and her idiot brother; a small number of black servants remain at the dilapidated Coulibri estate. Rejected by blacks and whites because of her mixed heritage and her family’s poverty, Antoinette drifts through a troubled and lonely childhood. Her mother ignores her, pushing her away without emotion of any kind, and only Christophine, the servant from Martinique, is kind and nurturing.
Annette Cosway, Antoinette’s mother, still young and beautiful, fights for survival by using her beauty, her only resource, marrying Mr. Mason, a wealthy Englishman. This rescue does not last long, however; one night an angry mob of newly freed slaves burns down Coulibri. Antoinette’s brother dies. Antoinette is physically attacked. The terror of the night drives Antoinette’s mother completely insane.
For six weeks Antoinette lies ill at her Aunt Cora’s. After regaining her strength, Antoinette attends convent school. Mount Calvary convent provides a refuge of sorts. Antoinette first prays there for the freedom of death, then stops praying and feels “bolder, happier, more free. But not so safe.”
Antoinette’s stepfather visits her and finally tells her she will soon be leaving. Just prior to her departure from the convent, she dreams of herself dressed in white following a man with eyes of hatred into the dark of the jungle. She awakens and recalls the dream as one of “Hell,” and the hot chocolate she is given to calm her recalls her mother’s funeral, one year prior.
The Englishman proceeds on horseback with his new bride, Antoinette, to their honeymoon house, Grandbois. The rain, the colors, the mountains, and even the servants all seem “too much” to him, too bright, too vibrant. All of this world seems uncivilized, including his new wife, and already he regrets this marriage. When Antoinette refused at the last minute to marry, the Englishman persuasively reassured her, most concerned with having to return to England “in the role of the rejected suitor jilted by this Creole girl.” After he settles into the house, he writes to his father but leaves out any anxiety regarding his marriage. The Englishman marries for money: Antoinette owns property.
At Grandbois, their differences are inescapable, although initially Antoinette enchants him. He desires the alien nature of the island passionately. He...
(The entire section is 999 words.)