The novel “Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys is based on the period when it was written, the time when America was just coming out of ethnic and racial prejudice directed mostly towards the black population. Because of the period it was written in, many readers as well as I see this novel as postmodern or, in other words, postcolonial enabling readers to reflect on the dark activities in the periods before this book was written. The novel is actually divided into three parts, with each part having a different personality.
Generally, the story has got deep complexities which require extensive explorations and investigations in order to get deeper meaning. In this perspective, therefore, I will take five critical passages that present certain complications and subsequently follow it thorough the investigations to understand what it says.
To begin with, on page 27 of the novel, I find certain complexity that needs investigation. The passage is summarized by the quote where Antoinette is agreeing that they (she and her friend) stared at each other with some kind of blood on her face and tears on her friend. Such illustration she says was meant to reflect on her inner self using objects like crystal glass. One important thing that I have to take into consideration is the fact that Antoinette who is a Creole is staying with outsiders in the Caribbean island. But, from the passage and the quote on this passage, one is likely to notice that Antoinette is not feeling well in the island. The complexity in this passage is seen out of the fact that Antoinette comes from a superior white Creole race and that she should be enjoying her stay in the island, but as things tend to be, that is not the case, and I will have to launch an investigation as to why a superior race seems to be suffering at the hands of the long neglected black race.
On page 103 of the novel, another complexity can be seen. In the passage, Rochester is deeply claiming how he is tired of the people around him, he is neither interested in their laughter nor their tears. Actually, he vividly admits that he has a lot of hatred for the place including all its sceneries like mountains, hills, rivers, and the rain that comes from heaven. The passage is summed up when Rochester vividly declares that above all the things he hated, his wife topped the list. From this passage, it becomes apparent that there is deep-seated hatred in Rochester’s heart. He hates almost everything in the island, even his wife Antoinette should be his greatest companion in events of despair. What is worth investigating therefore, are the reasons precipitating t his hatred for almost everything in the Caribbean Island.
Despite all the hatred elements brewing majorly from the racial and ethnic prejudice in the island, there seems to be biblical undertones in the story. These kinds of events seem to bring complexity in page 110 of the novel. In this page, there is analogy of life and death kiss which, according to biblical teaching, resembles the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus on three occasions and betrayal of Jesus by Judas. For instance, when going through the passage, there is analogy of a white sheep whistling three times where, on one occasion, the whistling is gaily, the other time it is calling, and the last time it is saying good-bye. Just from the onset of this passage, I personally will investigate how the elements of betrayal and denial have been used in the story. That is, who betrayed whom, who denied whom, and what is the reason behind all these undertakings. Generally, what makes passages in this page more complex and confusing is the fact that biblical linkages have been made in a novel where prejudices are dominant in the preceding pages. Therefore, the reader has to be careful in correlating events of the past with the biblical changes brought in the passage.
Another complexity that needs full investigation is found in one of the passages on page 43. Here the writer is presenting a situation where somebody is blacker as compared to the rest of her clothes. To make it worse, the writer says that even the handkerchief the character had on her head was all immersed in the world of colours. From this passage, therefore, it becomes evident that the issue of race is taking a centre stage in the novel. and it would, therefore, be more important if the reader investigates through critical reading the different aspects of racial abuse in the rest of the passages. What this passage seems to present to the reader is that it informs the reader of the deep seated racial segregation that was evident in the earlier periods before the book was written, hence the reader needs to investigate deeply how the vice of racism took centre stage in the Caribbean Island.
Lastly, there is some complexity on page 34 of the novel that requires deep investigation to understand its full implications. In one of the passages on the page, Antoinette is confessing how she quickly forgot about the happiness which culminated to her leaving her practice of offering daily prayers. Despite her leaving prayer, she admits that she never felt any safety afterwards. To put this into perspective, Antoinette seems to be a battling with her religious stand points. She lost touch with her long practice of prayer and I, therefore, have to investigate the reason for this sudden change.