Narrated by Antoinette, Part One of Wide Sargasso Sea focuses on her childhood in Jamaica.
Section one (p3 to 7)
In this section Antoinette tells how her family and herself grow more and more isolated, after her father’s death. She lives in a place called Coulibri Estate with her mother, her handicapped brother Pierre, and three servants,Christophine, Godfrey and Sass.
The Emancipation Act of 1833, i.e. the abolition of slavery, has left the family, like other slave owners, waiting for financial compensation from England (compensation that apparently will never come). They are therefore in a difficult financial situation: Coulibri Estate is in a poor state of repair, Annette’s clothes become increasingly shabby and the only horse lefton the estate is poisoned (probably by angry former slaves).
Antoinette’s mother is rejected by everybody. The white people, who are mostly colonials and not native of Jamaica, reject her because she is a white Creole from Martinique. The Jamaican ladies do not accept her either because they think that she is too young and pretty and “worse still, a Martinique girl”. The black people laugh at herand do not respect her because she is now penniless.
One day a doctor comes to visit Pierre. The diagnosis is not described but when he leaves, Antoinette’s mother changes; she becomes silent, she never leaves the house and she is cold and frightening to her daughter. As a consequence Antoinette spends her time in the garden or in the kitchen with Christophine who sings her songs fromMartinique.
In this section we learn that other women are terrified of Christophine. When Antoinette asks her mother about her, she replies that Christophine was a wedding present from her husband. She assures her daughter that she has been with them a long time and that her presence has protected them in many ways. Unlike other servants she has decided to stay with them after the Emancipation Act wasproclaimed. When Antoinette reminds her mother that Godfrey and Sass also stayed, she angrily tells her that Godfrey is a rascal who stays because he is old and lazy and has nowhere to go and Sass stays because he has food and a bed, but she predicts that he will leave. Antoinette begins to worry that Christophine might leave them too.
Section 2 (p7 to 11 )
One day, a little girl followsAntoinette, calling her a “white cockroach” and singing “go away”. Antoinette takes refuge at the end of the garden and she sits close to the old wall which is covered with moss. Christophine finds her there, takes her back home and the next day she arranges for a young girl called Tia to come and play with Antoinette. They become friends and spend their days together at the bathing pool. The younggirls’ friendship is broken, however, whenTia cheats on a bet and steals three pennies that Christophine gave to Antoinette. Tia has heard what people say about her family and she mocks Antoinette saying that real white people have gold and that she is a “white nigger” now. She leaves, taking Antoinette’s dress forcing her to return home in Tia’s dirty dress.
When Antoinette arrives at the houseshe is surprised to find visitors. Ashamed of her dress she runs to her room and hides until they leave. Her mother is angry that Antoinette is wearing Tia’s dress and she tells Christophine to burn it and find the girl another one. Christophine knows that there are no other clean dresses and she only finds an old muslin one which is too small. The visitors are new neighbours, relatives of old MrLuttrell. Christophine calls them “trouble”. In the evening Antoinette’s mother does not even look in her direction and the little girl is convinced that her mother is ashamed of her. She goes to bed and has a nightmare about being chased in a forest. She awakes crying and her mother scolds her for waking her brother.
The next morning Antoinette feels that their lives are going to change....