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SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
PART ONE - SECTION 1
In Part One we can see that the ruin of Coulibri Estate parallels the ruin of the people who prospered in the slave based economy. This part of the novel is narrated by Antoinette and consists of piecemeal memories of her childhood. Her recounting brings forth strong feelings of isolation. She, her mother Annette, and the servant Christophine, the main characters of this section, are all outsiders. There is tension between both races and classes. Mr. Luttrell’s suicide points out the intensity of these feelings.
Tia’s betrayal underscores the role money plays in these strained relationships. Tia has traded her own island values for those of a degraded capitalism. In contrast, Antoinette’s superstitions and acceptance of Christophine’s ideas show that she has assimilated the black West Indian culture. Wearing Tia’s dress symbolizes the decline of the Cosways and causes both Annette and Antoinette to feel shame. Without money, Antoinette and her mother are not accepted by native black or wealthy white society. Antoinette and Tia have become each other’s reflection, an image that is shattered when Tia hits Antoinette with the rock as Antoinette reluctantly leaves Coulibri to join with the white people.
Antoinette fears the new English colonials who are coming to the islands to profit from the former slave owners’ demise. The heavy footsteps in her dream represent her paranoia of being followed and watched by those who look down upon her. The dream forebodes that the changes that were coming would be nightmarish.
Rhys uses the mechanism of overhearing to inform the reader how others see the Cosways. The remarks that Tia makes at the bathing pool mimic the condescension that Tia has overheard. The comments Antoinette overhears at the wedding add credibility to Antoinette’s feelings of alienation and insecurity. They also set a tone of ignorance around the Englishmen who like Mr. Mason, jokingly misjudge how much control the blacks have. It is this ignorance that allows the disaster at Coulibri to occur.
Finally, the falling and burning of Coco symbolizes the lives of the Cosway women. Englishmen have clipped their “wings” and bound them for destruction. In terms of Jane Eyre, Coco’s fate foreshadows Antoinette’s (Bertha’s) flaming plunge from Rochester’s house in England.