The novel "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys is the story of Antoinette Cosway's life. She is a Creole girl growing up on a decaying plantation in Jamaica. When she gets older, she is married to the second son of a noble English family and he takes her with him to England, away from the place where she has lived her entire childhood - a house with a magnificent garden where "the paths were overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest tree ferns, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach for some reason not to be touched"(p.6). In fact, Jean Rhys uses floral symbols to show the mental condition of the novel's principal character. Above all, the garden at Coulibri serves to clarify Antoinette's emotional state, because of its present state and because it is compared in different ways to the biblical garden of Eden. .
The first and most important floral symbol in the novel is the garden at the estate of Coulibri. "But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest tree ferns, the light was green" (p.6). Antoinette describes the garden to be full of life ("mixed with the fresh living smell"), but now it is partly dead ("a smell of dead flowers"). This symbolizes something that is beautiful but has gone back to a bad condition or is not going to last for a long time. The state of the garden shows in so far Antoinette's mental state as she had once a very happy and beautiful life, as beautiful as the garden was. But then the slaves were set free and racism started to go into the opposite direction: Not the white people oppressed the coloured people any more, but coloured people started to become racist towards the white people. This is the main reason why Antoinette's mental condition became gradually worse in the same extent as the garden at Coulibri gradually decayed.