The Color of Memory in Wide Sargasso Sea

Claire Dunnington '05, English 156, Brown University, 2004

In Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette feels after only a short period of marriage that her husband has begun to turn against her. She flees to her childhood nurse and household member, Christophine, who is rumored to be an "obeah" or conjurer. Although Christophine advises Antoinette to leave her husband, and denies being an "obeah", she eventually gives her something to use in her attempt to make her husband fall in love with her. As Antoinette leaves Christophine's, the image of the way the island looks that morning is burned into her memory, making such a strong impression that she still recalls the colors and details years later.

I looked back at the end of the path. She was talking to Jo-jo and he seemed curious and amused. Nearby a cock crew and I thought, "That is for betrayal, but who is the traitor?" She did not want to do this. I forced her with my ugly money. And what does anyone know about traitors, or why Judas did what he did?

I can remember every second of that morning, if I shut my eyes I can see the deep blue colour of the sky and the mango leaves, the pink and red hibiscus, the yellow handkerchief she wore round her head, tied in the Martinique fashion with the sharp points in front, but now I see everything still, fixed for ever like the colours in a stained-glass window. Only the clouds move. It was wrapped in a leaf, what she had given me, and I felt it cool and smooth against my skin. [71]


1. Antoinette contemplates the idea of betrayal in biblical connotations and with relation to her own situation. Who do you think she feels is the traitor? Is it she betraying Christophine, her husband betraying her, or some other combination? Does she sympathize with "traitors"?

2. Antoinette refers to money as "ugly." What prompts her to feel that way in this passage? How is it related to the way money alters her life and initiates her marriage?

3. Colors are extremely prominent in Antoinette's remembrance of the morning. How does this contrast the island with her ideas about England, in her projections or her later residency there? Do the colors connect at all with the ideas of racial identification throughout the novel? Is her reference to a stained-glass window a religious allusion?

4. This passage marks a turning point in Antoinette's life. What does the fact that she refers to the memory as "still, fixed for ever" indicate? Does it relate to the theme of being trapped? What is the significance of the clouds, the only moving part of the picture?


Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). New York: W. W. Norton, 1982.

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Last modified 9 January 2004