Clash of the Cultures


Ciolkowski, Navigating The Wide Sargasso Sea: Colonial History, English Fiction, And British Empire
EL237--Writing About Literature

We could pretty much make the assumption that Jamaica has been a one of the world's melting pots of culture. In this article, Laura Ciolkowski, is stating how both the British and African cultures in Jamaica are colliding in Wide Sargasso Sea for a chance in the spotlight.

The description of how these cultures clash is described in this quote:
Not quite English and not quite "native", Rhys's Creole woman straddles the embattled divide between human and savage, core and periphery, self and other.

Antonette had always had to battle where her loyalties lie, to the mother country (England) or her home (Jamaica). It seems like her very existence is a culture clash. Can she indeed be a model Englishwoman to "expand and defend the English empire" by bearing the sons it needs? I doubt it and so does Ciolkowski. Antonette is what she called "the Hybrid Body", the symbol of the problems of the culture.

Even the novel itself fight for what side in this battle that it is on. Ciolkowski described the typical and most of the time sterotypical view of Jamaica through English eyes. Even though Wide Sargasso Sea is about Jamaica, it was written by a British subject.Nevertheless Rhys steps out of her "God Save The Queen" shell and continue to speak for Antonette, the symbol of the cultures, and a "silent madwoman with a chance to sell her story". There is another quote that I can think of :

Wide Sargasso Sea resists English imperial common sense, mapping out instead the multiple battles over what gets to count as the way things are. That Rhys plays out these battles on the terrain of the English novel, situating her text both beside and against Charlotte Bronte's nineteenth-century canonical narrative of English womanhood, is no surprise; rather, such explicity intertextual struggles have helped critical readers of Rhys's fiction to place Rhys within a postcolonial literary tradition that is specifically interested in rewriting the fictions of English empire.

It was also pointed out in this article that Rhys goes against the grain in this particular mode of postcolonialism. In fact the whole novel is a model of resistance against the empire where the sun never sets. It also fits into the spot of postcolonial opposition, this could be used as a medium to portray resistance at every turn. 



I can understand to some extent how this could be, but I do question it. To me it seemed as if Antoinette was almost scornful of England. Whenever Rochester brought up the subject, she never seemed to be too happy. At one point, I think she even mocked him for it.

Antoinette never really fits in; she belongs to everyone and no one at the same time.

I can understand Antoinette's scorn of England. Her entire perception of the English existed in the form of Mr Mason. Antoinette witnessed the man's abuse of her mother. Perhaps her first experience with the English caused Antoinette's negative disposition towards all British men and society.

Let us be reminded that Rhys herself was Creole, like Antoinette. Since "Bertha" was depicted in Jane Eyre as a savage, maybe Rhys was angry that her people were presented as uncultered and evil. Maybe Wide Sargasso Sea was her response, her chance to present the British society in a bad light, as they had so done to Jaimaica.