Essay on the key theme of alienation in the first two parts of the novel.Wide Sargasso Sea

Authors Avatar

Adriana Zapata

Essay on the key theme of alienation in the first two parts of the novel.

Wide Sargasso Sea

        The theme f alienation runs deep at the core of this novel and is presented as being overt and covert, physical and emotional, social and existential. The first two parts of Wide Sargasso Sea are narrated by the two central protagonists respectively, both of whom experience and deal with alienation in different ways. However, neither narrator really belongs to their surroundings and this sense of not having a defined identity and not fitting in is key to the theme of alienation.

        Part 1 of Wide Sargasso Sea is narrated exclusively by the central protagonist, Antoinette Cosway. ‘The Paper Tiger Lunatic’ of Jane Eyre, Antoinette is here given a voice and a background that will help the reader understand her subsequent decline into madness. Physical, social, and emotional alienation in her childhood are shown to be at the root of her later insanity. All three facets of alienation in her childhood are shown to be at the root of her later insanity.

All three facets of alienation are present on the opening page of the novel. Firstly it is clear that the family has been socially ostracized by white Jamaican society. The military metaphor, “they say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks…” suggests that they are living in a society at war with itself but the Cosway family has been alienated from any form of group protection. We learn that the family is alienated because Annette is not Jamaican (and is very attractive “pretty like pretty self”, and therefore disliked by Jamaican women) and before Emancipation had been Slave Owners. Emancipation brought with it mistrust and bitterness directed from the former slaves to the former slave owners. The former would stand “about in groups to jeer” at Annette.

On the first page of the novel we also learn that the family is physically isolated from any save haven as since Emancipation infrastructure has broken down with “road repairing…now a thing of the past”. Their nearest neighbor, and Annette’s only friend is introduced in the third paragraph  but has killed himself and “was gone for always” by the fourth thus suggesting Antoinette’s sense of her previous safe world rapidly and inexorably disappearing. Arising rarely comments on her feelings as to what is happening to her family and it is through the gaps and absences in the narrative that one can read her alienation from self. Her matter-of-fact acceptance of not being in the “ranks” of the white Jamaicans, Mr. Luttrell’s suicide and that “no one came near [them]” suggest a degree of fatalism and resignation which culminates on the opening page with Antoinette’s comment that she “got used to a solitary life”. Although not explicitly stated on the opening page, the reader also gets the sense that Antoinette is “solitary” because she is alienated from and rejected by her mother.

Join now!

        Rejection is further imposed on Antoinette both socially and existentially. A sense of being “marooned” (abandoned) arises with the murder of the horse; thus presenting Antoinette as a character who is isolated from society. This sense of isolation is reinforced by the narrative technique the central protagonist employs; making her writing disjointed and unclear. Antoinette’s later identity crisis can be predicted from her narrative, which fails to express her feelings.

        Antoinette, after this incident, acts as if nothing had happened, believing that “if [she] told no one, it might not be true”. This can be seen as a rather childish ...

This is a preview of the whole essay