Coco and Antoinette: A Parallel

It is clear to me that Wide Sargasso Sea was written by Jean Rhys to make a clear statement about the unfair representation of the Caribbean and its peoples in Jane Eyre. This statement is decidedly anti imperialism and highlights the subtly racial stereotyping found in Jane Eyre. This is evident in the way she highlights the social struggles left over from competing British and French colonization and slave emancipations, and in the way Antoinette’s descent into madness and ultimate death is hastened by her removal from her home and intentional isolation from society by her husband. Antoinette’s death is sad but easily predictable by the trail of breadcrumbs Rhys leaves throughout the text to foreshadow it. We are a story about Coco’s change after Mason’s arrival, namely that, “After Mr Mason clipped his wings he grew very bad tempered, and though he would sit quietly on my mother’s shoulder, he darted at everyone who came near her and pecked their feet” (25). It is important to note that Coco’s wings were clipped by her mother’s husband and that Rhys notes it is bad luck to see a parrot die. This serves as forshadowing for Antoinettes fiery suicide at the end of the novel. Like Coco with his clipped wings pecking at feet, Antoinette’s loss of freedom as she is locked away in the third-storey room only further enraged her, pushing her to act out in violence “…once to secrete a knife with which she stabbed her brother, and twice to possess herself of the key to her cell, and issue therefrom in the night-time” (129). These violent outbursts do not gain her the freedom she seeks and continue to escalate to the point of Antoinette lighting her prison on fire and throwing herself from the roof. We are given an image of Antoinette straddling the roof “waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting… She was a big woman, and had long black hair: I could see it streaming against the flames as she stood… she yelled, and gave a spring, and the next minute she layed smashed on the pavement” (131). This scene brought to mind her mother’s beloved pet parrot Coco’s final swan song off the deck of her family home in Dominica where Antoinette tells us, “I opened my eyes, everybody was looking up and pointing at Coco on the glacis railings with his feathers alight. He made an effort to fly down but his clipped wings failed him and he fell screeching. He was all on fire… I heard someone say something about bad luck and remembered that it was very unlucky to kill a parrot, or even to see a parrot die” (25). Like Coco, Antoinette had he wings clipped by her husband, who’s racist tendencies colored him against her from the start and led to him locking her away from the world in his home. Anointte seeking death over spending another second imprisoned by the white man she was convinced to marry strengthens Rhy’s stand against imperialism. It makes a statement that, like Antoinette, the Creoles would rather see death then be forced under the thumb of the white men that enslaved them.

One thought on “Coco and Antoinette: A Parallel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *