Jean Rhys" novel Wide Sargasso Sea is a text that explores the concept of madness. It does this from many angles, including exploring the following questions: What is madness? Who gets to define madness? What does madness depend on? The characters that will be analysed in order to understand the concept of madness in this novel are Antoinette and her mother Annette, as well as Rochester.
English society with its morals and values, pronounces Antoinette as unsuitable to be an ideal "English" wife because according to their morals, a woman who does things excessively is an outcast. According to Laura E. Ciolkowski (1997:339), "Antoinette is deemed unsuited for English domestic bliss not because of any psychological disorder from which she might be suffering but because of the appetites and excesses she so liberally exhibits". Because Antoinette hands out food, drink and money to her relatives, this is equalled to madness. Rochester himself says of this,.
As for the money, which she handed out so careless, not .
counting it, not knowing how much she gave, or the .
unfamiliar faces appearing and disappearing, though .
never without a large meal eaten and a shot of rum, I .
discovered -sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles- if she .
asked no questions how could I? (p75).
Rochester further says, "[Antoinette will] loosen her black hair, and laugh and coax and flatter (a mad girl) . Shall not care who she's loving" (p136). Antoinette is thus deemed mad, because an ideal English woman would suppress her sexuality and sexual appetite. .
Because Antoinette has got coloured relatives, she becomes a threat to Rochester's pure Englishness. Being poor and vulnerable makes it possible for a Creole to commit miscegenation. It makes Antoinette very vulnerable and she becomes a source of corruption. Rochester somehow sees similarities in Anto8inette and the coloured servant girl, Amelie.