Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summary of the Fourth Session, Post-Session #4 Assignment, Preparing for the Beginning of the School Year

1. Summary
On Monday, August 17 we discussed Wide Sargasso Sea (also known by former student Felicia Lowe as Why'd Sargasso Sea?).
My plan was to tackle it section by section so as to keep narrative perspective & other differences between the sections fresh in mind (& I think we did!). For each section I solicited passages from you -- the passages you marked as you read -- & to conceptualize the conflict in the novel I made two columns. One column linked that which made Antoinette feel "safe" and another column linked that which made Antoinette feel "bold" "free" and "happy" but not safe. We tried to use the break between safety and happiness to help explain the difficulties Antoinette had trying to construct a healthy identity that worked within the environment she was given. (We also talked about her exclusion from various communities and her attempts to connect. & we situated her struggle to form a viable identity within the larger social context of the social, cultural, and economic issues in the Caribbean and England.) At the end of class we tried to make bold, insightful assertions (thesis statements) about the work as a whole that could be supported by the passages we examined closely.

2. Post-Session Work
I decided to cut back on the writing a bit. So at the end of class I had you write some bold, insightful assertions about Wide Sargasso Sea. These assertions -- perhaps a single sentence, perhaps several -- are, as Nick, I think, noted, also known as thesis statements.

You will hone one of these assertions and post the bold, insightful assertion in the comment box below. (The best assertions will be clear, will be bold*, will take on some element of the novel that you found significant (even essential), and will go beyond what we discussed in class. One way to think about generating a thesis is to isolate some aspect of the novel's style or technique -- shifting points of view, contrasting settings, symbolic imagery, significant motifs, etc. -- and to explain how Jean Rhys' use of that technique is meaningful in the novel as a whole.)

Instead of writing a full essay to support the assertion write down five or more passages from the novel that you would use to develop the thesis if I did ask you to write an essay. Make sure that you cite at least one passage from each of the novel's three sections. Write the "first few words...last few words" of each of the five or more passages along with (the page number). If you feel its not immediately apparent how the passage relates to the assertion it would be wise to explain the connection.

Turn this work in by Monday, August 24, pumpkin time (11:59 pm).

3. Preparing for the Beginning of School
I'm going to add to this when I return from a quick camping trip in New Hampshire this weekend but in the meantime don't forget to read the summer reading book you signed up for last spring. (Have fun with it.)

I'm reading As you Like It by Shakespeare and Kafka on the Beach a bildungsroman (novel of identity formation) by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. If you're interested write down what you're reading (or anything else you've read this summer) at the end of your post-session work in the comment box.

More soon.
best wishes,
Mr. James Cook


nFrye said...

Nancy F.

In a time where much change is taking place, Antoinette and her husband are forced into a world where nothing is exactly what it used to be, or even what it is supposed to be. Nothing is certain. New perceptions are created with a change from slavery to freedom and respect that once came of fear appears to have come no more.

"Somebody yelled…white niggers!'" (pp 21)

"Then, not so far…a looking-glass." (pp 23)

"As she was going…her too.'" (pp 90)

"She blinked…never see it.'" (pp 69)

"Dear Sir…to this island." (pp 57-60)
"'But you know him?...himself'" (pp 75)
"Give my love to your wife—my sister." (pp 79)
"You saw him…isn't it?" (pp 81)

Andrew Ryan said...

Andrew Ryan

Dresses in the novel Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys help mask and protect one’s true identity from the environment and without one especially in Antoinette’s case she feels vulnerable and unidentifiable. Antoinette’s dresses allow her to be comfortable and safe.

Pg. 14 “I wrapped myself in my torn towel…but that was years ago.”

Pg. 21-22 “Myra came in again looking mournful…because you never kiss him.”
I picked this quote because the image of this English girl in a dress allows Antoinette to drift off away from her sorrowful world into a safe haven where she feels comfortable.

Pg. 50 “Her coffee is delicious but her language…Don’t you like Christophine?”
I picked this quote because of the fact that a dress protects the person wearing the dress from getting dirty. In other words, the dress helps protect her from her environment.

Pg. 76 “The telescope was pushed to…and wisdom of my creator.”
I picked this quote because the dresses that Antoinette wears are no longer able to mask her true identity to her husband. The husband at this point is able to see through the dress.
Pg. 110-111 “I took the red dress…I will remember quite soon now.”

Molly A said...

Molly A.

While Antoinette endures a difficult life of constantly changing surroundings, she becomes either too resistant or too reliant on the people in her life. Without a happy medium, she is faced with many situations where her trust, or lack there of, in another person leads her to an unexpected outcome that has a negative impact on her life.

Page 18 “A frown came between… I was useless to her.”

Page 41 “I ran to her, for she was all… in a looking glass.”

Page 83-84 “Why did you make me want…’ by candlelight.”

Page 92 “You’re not leaving… must have spunks to live in this wicked world.”

Page 138 “Everybody know that you marry her… you want is to break her up.”

Page 165 “I remember that he did not… when something happens to you like that?”

Page 162 “There is no looking-glass…who am I?”
(This quote is one that doesn’t directly relate to my statement. However, the looking-glass is referred to a few times throughout the book, often when Antoinette is looking at another person. She compares looking at them, with looking at herself in the looking-glass. In the passage she’s unaware of what she looks like and has also lost touch with those around her. It is likely this means that, similarly to Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, she’s a figurative “sponge”, absorbing traits from the personalities of people around her, and without the people she relied on, she has no sense of who she is.)

Megan Keegan said...

Megan K.

The environment in which Antoinette grew up greatly influenced her throughout the rest of her life. When she was developing, she was not in a secure and loving environment which lead her to believe all households were like that. As she matured and was married to Rochester the same situation occurred and she became more like her mother because she was in the same kind of relationship, her mother was trapped in her own life and by the end of the book so is Antoinette.

p. 17-18 “Standing by the bamboos she had…as if she had decided once and for all that I was useless to her.”

p. 32-33 “Then I looked across the white tablecloth…and afterwards I may be saved whatever Myra says.”

p. 45 “Half way up they closed in on me…Why won’t you look at me.”

p. 81 “So this place is as lonely as it feels…But you don’t know the world.” This passage shows that Antoinette has never loved anything as much as she loves her homeland. It is the only place she feels safe in the whole world.

p. 111 “My father old Cosway…he walk like he own the earth.”

p. 121 “I am not a forgetting person…Look me trouble, look me cross!”

Anonymous said...

Antoinette is grew up in time and place where she has no one to connect with through out her childhood. The native islanders do not like her, her father died, her brother dies and her mother pushes her away. As she matures she finds it hard to communicate with others, and eventually her husband.

She gets labeled as crazy because her mother was; however her mother also had no one who she could really lean on either. It was hard for these women to be virtually alone because people made up things about them. The situations that they were in made it awkward and difficult to relate to anyone, even when they had a chance of being close to another individual.

Antoinette and her mother took on the ways of an insane woman because they had did not have anyone they trusted or could truly depend on.

Part One
Pages 29-31
The first day I had to go to the convent, I clung to Aunt Cora as you would ling to life if you loved it……..’Now look at me’, she said. ‘You will not be frightened if me’….I did not like walking to school alone.

1. Antoinette is a character that cannot connect with anyone. The state of her mother’s affairs affects her where ever and with whom ever she tries to relate with, even when she tries to relate to herself. As a child it is easier because there are some adults that she can fall back into a safety net type state. This scene is an example of how she has trouble fitting into the environment with other children. The nun’s could give her a little refuge, but in the end she had no one.

Part Two
Page 78-80
You have no right to ask questions about my mother and then refuse to listen to my answer’………’I have said all I want to say. I have tried to make you understand. But nothing has changed.’ She laughed

2. Antoinette is trying to connect with Rochester and is struggling. She tells him the entire story. She pours out her heart, but something about the way she communicates is disturbing Rochester because he tells her to stop laughing. The way Antoinette cannot communicate with Rochester or others causes problems for her, it is really sad because this seems like a break through speech, but it does not do anything for their relationship.

Part Two
Page 56-59
‘Is your wife herself going the same way as her mother and all knowing it?

3. David gives Rochester a “heads up” about the craziness/issues in Antoinette’s life. This is example of how Antionette is labeled and this causes a strain on her and Rochester’s relationship.

Part Two
Page 67 and 68
‘You talk foolishness. Even if I can make him come to your bed, I cannot make him love you’

4. Antoinette wants to be close to Rochester. She goes to Christophine to ask for a spell to make him love her, an attempt of connecting. This is the wise reply given by Christophine.

Part Three
Pages 108-112
‘I’ll never try to help you again. You are too far gone to be helped.”

5. Grace Poole who is taking care of Antoinette is not compassionate towards her. The book led me to believe she did not even give a chance to be sane she just accused her of things and Antoinette took on the accusations for lack of better use of her time.

Anonymous said...

Terri M.

amycarpenter57 said...

A large part of Wide Sargasso Sea is Antoinette’s failure of a marriage with Rochester. Her marriage to him was doomed before she even met him, largely in part because of her mother. Annette did not have anyone forcing her to get married and so she married Mr. Mason for love. Antoinette also expects love in her marriage which is an unrealistic hope for a woman of her social status in that day. Many marriages were arranged for money and most people understood this. Therefore, Rochester does not enter into his marriage while in love with Antoinette and never expects anything more. It is due to this miscommunication on both of their parts that Antoinette begins to grow insane.

(Penguin Student Edition)

Pg. 12 “There was no need….thinking of them.”
Pg. 44 “It was all…expected to play.”
Pg. 46 “I kissed her…peace, happiness, safety.” (He doesn’t promise her love)
Pg. 67 “At last I…he hates me.”
Pg. 116 “Long ago…with my breath.” (Antoinette desperately wants to be loved)

Nick B said...

Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea from multiple perspectives in order to, from insiders’ points of view, equally and indiscriminately critic each culture involved in the great culture-clash fiasco we call emancipation.

Pg. 1 – “Jean Rhys… Paris and Vienna”
Jean Rhys experienced first hand what you gain from seeing the issue from multiple perspectives, and therefore decided to use that to convey her meaning to her readers.

Pg. 50 – “I knew… to the ground.”

Pg. 78 – “The morning… Only nodded.”
By using Rochester’s point of view Rhys conveys the contradicting idea that despite his resistance to the knowledge that he was forced into marrying Antoinette, he still felt the need to go after her and convince / woo her into marrying him.

Pg. 95 – “Dear Sir… to this island.”

Pg. 108 – “You smell… at first.”

Pg. 110 – “He will not… English law.”


fenkor said...

Hidenori O.
Wide Sargasso Sea (Norton Critical Edition)
Jean Rhys

Multiple personalities within the novel give a clear understanding of what each person understands or lacks and how people come into conflict.

“These were all the people….and Sass who had left us.” (p13, section one)
This gives the feeling that Antoinette lives in a small world with few life experiences.

“I never looked…but that was years ago” (p13 to p14, section one)
Right after getting called names by a African American girl Antoinette opens her heart and becomes friends with Tia, an African American girl. In class it was discussed how the girl who made fun of her and Tia could be the same person. By opening her heart Antoinette showed how naïve she is.

“It was all…only nodded.” (p45 to p47, section two)
Rochester shows that he didn’t really care about Antoinette and only married for the money. He is playing a part that he was chosen for and Antoinette is looking for love. This shows the difference between cultures and the different purposes each of them has.

“When they…quick in the end” (p50 to 51, section two)
This shows that though Antoinette doesn’t know some things Rochester is ignorant of some things too.

“On the contrary…where is it.” (p 109, section three)
In the end Antoinette and Rochester can no longer connect. Antoinette is locked up and the only thing she controls is how she views the world. She talks about how time can mean nothing no matter how long or short.
It was discussed in class that women were supposed to be calm and whenever they has a breakdown or showed too much emotion they were classified as being crazy. There were so many things going wrong for Antoinette that she got too emotional for other people to understand her.

Meredith S said...

Meredith S.
Antoinette's eventual lose of sanity was inevitable. The environment she was surrounded by as a child did not present her with any compromise between the extreme differences it contained. She spends the rest of her life before being locked up by Rochester trying to find a balance of the things she knows, which she is unable to accomplish.

1. Page 28: "And if the razor...myself any longer."
2. Page 56: "The convent was...happiness, well."
3. Page 132: "No, I said...hide it."
4. Page 111: " I have been... And snow."
5. Pages 188-189: "Suddenly I was...went away from it."

Francesco P said...


Many of the significant characters in the novel, Antoinette, Annette, and Rochester suffer from a debilitating unhappiness, that when actually examined and analyzed for it's source and truth, is unstable. They base their unhappiness from their adamant refusal to acknowledge and accept the world for what it is, and rather enter a cycle of incessantly rejecting inevitable aspects of reality and their life which will inevitably continue to arise and erode their well being.

pg 19
"They are curious. It's natural enough. You have lived alone far too long Annette. You imagine enmity which doesn't exist. Always one extreme or the other. Didn't you fly at me like a little wild cat when i said nigger. Not nigger, nor even negro. Black people i must say.'
'You don't like, or even recognize, the good in them,' she said,' and you won't believe in the other side"

pg 56
"Reality might disconcert her, bewilder her, hurt her, but it would not be reality. It would be only a mistake, a misfortune, a wrong path taken, her fixed ideas would never change."

pg 66.
"I have been too unhappy, I thought, it cannot last, being so unhappy, it would kill you. I will be a different person when i live in England and different things will happen to me.."

pg 82.
"We are letting ghosts trouble us. Why shouldn't we be happy?' She said, 'Christophine knows about ghosts too, but that is not what she calls them.' She need not have done what she did to me. I will always swear that, she need not have done it"

pg 88.
"Do you know what you have done to me? It's not the girl, not the girl. But i loved this place and you have made it into a place i hate. I used to think that if everything else went out of my life i would still have this, and now you have spoilt it. It's just somewhere else where i have been unhappy, and all the other things are nothing to what has happened here."

pg 103.
Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness, She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it."

Katina T said...

hellloo Mr. Cook! I found the blog post you didn't recieve. Apparently I sent to a nonexistent email that never reached you, but here it is :] (and I'll bring a copy of it on monday to school just in case)

Katina T.

The concept of insanity is a huge conflict throughout Wide Sargasso Sea. Did Antoinette inherit the trait of madness from her mother, or was she driven to it by all the characters around her? Or maybe once she heard that she was thought of as insane, that she decided to go along with these assumptions. I personally think that she was driven by others to her state of craziness.

5 points of evidence that certain characters actions led to Antoinette’s madness:

Pg. 41 “Then, not so far off, I saw Tia…Like in a looking glass.”

Antoinette looked at Tia as someone who was always a familiar face to turn to. When Tia threw the rock at her, Antoinette realized that a friend she used to feel safe around is no longer a part of her life.

Pg. 44 “She looked at the door…Trouble enough without that.”

When Antoinette goes to visit her mother, her mother neglects her. The fact that her mother acts this way makes Antoinette feel like she is not enough.

Pg. 40-41 “But now I turned too…and the picture of the Miller’s Daughter.”

After the angry group burns down her house, Antoinette realizes that nothing would be left of her home. The fact that people around her have such hate towards her family makes her feel like an outcast.

Pg. 136-137 “What did I do…you pay for it one day.”

After everything that has happened to Antoinette, one of the final straws is finding out that her husband has cheated on her with a servant. Antoinette had become dependent on her husband for love, and perhaps addicted to his attention, that once she finds out this information, she reaches a point of certain madness.

Pg. 168 “I’ll never try…too far gone to be helped.”

Antoinette is finally put away like her mother once was. Grace, who took care of her, once thought that she was pretending to be this insane, but once Antoinette attacked a visitor, she thought differently. This is the last person to finally give up on Antoinette and call her crazy. As people call her crazy, Antoinette also starts to believe it herself.