Wss: Caribbean Islands Essay

Submitted By kpeaquin16
Words: 1512
Pages: 7

Kate Peaquin
Thursday, October 2, 2014

Less A Title More a Synopsis

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked this timeless question in his classic play Romeo and Juliet and Jean Rhys attempts to answer it in her novel Wide Sargasso Sea (Romeo and Juliet II.ii.1). A name would appear to be just a title, but upon closer inspection it is revealed that a name holds a piece of a person. Names serve as a synopsis giving a little glimpse into a person’s soul, status, and perspective as well as how others view them. Throughout her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys uses the motif of names to convey the idea that a name is not solely a title of a person but also a definition of them that communicates their personal identity as well as how others view them. The name Christophine defines the character as it highlights her strong, independent nature as well as her deep connection to the Caribbean islands. The name Christophine partially originated from the great general and later president Henri Christophe. Christophe was a black native to the Caribbean who defeated Napoleon’s French forces in 1804 and later aided in the formation of an independent Haiti. Christophine is similarly strong willed as seen in her having "three children...but no husband" as this is a clear divergence from societal norms (66). Both Christophe and Christophine do not rely on others but instead desire to cultivate their own life. This is seen in the fact that Christophe did not rely on the mother colony of France just as Christophine does not rely on the supposed power of men. Society would dictate that both of these individuals comply with the status quo by accepting and embracing their respective roles, but each rejects this notion. Ultimately, Christophe and Christophine both do what they think is right, not what others think is right for them, and this aspect of their personalities is what makes them particularly unique. The origin of Christophine’s name stresses her inner independence, and it also draws attention to her strong connection to the Caribbean Islands. The christophine is a vegetable native to the Caribbean region just as Christophine is a native to the Caribbean Islands. Christophine clearly aligns herself with the islands that she inhabits and this is evident in that she "ties her handkerchief in the Martinique fashion” and practices the native voodoo Obeah (12). The Caribbean islands give Christophine life and energy similarly to how the Caribbean soil allows the christophine vegetable to grow and thrive. Without the Caribbean atmosphere Christophine would wither and die just as the christophine vegetable would if removed from its tropical home. Christophine is a strong independent women who is deeply connected to the Caribbean and these aspects of her are reflected in her name. Antoinette’s name is significant as it reveals her true status first socially and later mentally. The rival nations of Britain and France have had a notoriously tension filled relationship and as such anything of French origin was regarded as alien and suspicious to the British. Antoinette is a distinctly French moniker and thus stands out and is regarded with an air of deceitfulness by the Dominicans, who are themselves subjects of the British Empire. Antoinette’s name suggests her status as an outcast and this is confirmed by the fact that Antoinette and her mother "were not in their ranks" of the European women and that the "Jamaican ladies had never approved" of them (9). While her outcast status is not directly caused by her French name but rather by her racial identity, her name still serves as a constant reminder that she is different from her neighbors. It is not, in fact, until she returns to the French island of Martinique that she begins to truly feel at home, and this feeling of comfort is again emphasized by her name. On the French Martinique her name no longer makes her stand out but instead brings her into community with the…