Final Take-Home Exams
|Compare and contrast the complicated race relations between the whites and the creoles, the creoles or mulatto and the blacks in Wide Sargasso Sea and Sugar Cane Alley. Although the two texts are set in two historical periods, they still overlap in time (with Madouze's story about his grandfather) and we can still relate Leopold to Antoinette.|
Both of Wide Sargasso Sea and Sugar Cane Alley depicts the tangled relations among the white, the creoles/mulattos and the blacks in Caribbean area. Being a daughter of a plantation owner, Antoinette, after Emancipation, is caught in a dilemma because of her being neither completely white nor fully creolized. Leopold, in Sugar Cane Alley, encounters the same situation. Unable to be acknowledged by his white father, Leopold suffering from his mixed identity.
In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys presents the difficult situation of the white inhabitants in Caribbean area after Emancipation. Antoinette¡¦s crisis of position and identity derives from her being an inbetweener. She, on one hand, is excluded by the white society and unable to really enter the society of them, for her mother is a ¡§Martinique girl¡¨(17), not a 100% white woman. On the other hand, Antoinette has a hard time in completely blending with the Creole society. Though she partly identifies herself with the native culture and has the intention to cut off from the old time, she is still called a ¡§white cockroach¡¨(23) by the native inhabitants. Antoinette and her mother, who used to be rich before Emancipation, are now as poor as ¡§beggar¡¨(24). Under this kind of circumstance, Antoinette realizes ¡§Old time white people nothing but white nigger now¡¨(24). Because of the rise of the newly rich, ¡§the black nigger¡¨ is now ¡§better than white nigger¡¨(24). To certain extent, although Antoinette has the intention to assimilate with Creole culture, she still possesses the pride of being partly a white. From the bottom of her heart, she resists to be categorized as the same rank with the black people as Tia, her Creole friend. Even though she cannot be totally accepted by the white society, her basic pride makes her claim her being superior to the dark skinned ones. It is never possible for Antoinette to be a part of the Subject¡Xshe is always labeled as the Other, no matter which racial groups they are compared with. Being secluded by the white never means they are a part of Creole culture. Similar to Antoinette, Leopold is in the position of being an in-betweener who is black skinned but wears a white mask. Because of his white father, Leopold identifies himself with European culture and therefore feels superior to those natives. However, his Europeanized disposition does not help him to win the white identity from his father. Before he dies, although Leopold¡¦s mother asks him to give his son the ring, which represents the name of being a real white, he rejects, for he still regards Leopold an illegitimate son who is not purely white but a mulatto boy. Leopold¡¦s dark skin does not make him a part of the Caribbean society. In the eyes of his native friends, Leopold is from a rich family that is possessed by a white dominating plantation owner. His white mask does not helps him to be acknowledged by his white father. Like Antoinette, who is excluded by both the white and the black, Leopold is secluded because of his mixed race identity.
They will never become a part of the Creoles. No matter
how hard Antoinette tries, even though she and Tia ¡§had eaten
the same food, slept side by side, bathed in the same river,¡¨
she is after all an outsider who can never enter Tia¡¦s world.
Leopold, either. Deeply caught by the plight that is created by the tangled
relations among races, the mixed identity of Antoinette and Leopold lead
them to confront their harsher fates.
In Wide Sargasso Sea, the black people hate Antoinette¡¦s
family because her family is rich. I think that the black-and-white complex
is not only caused by the racial reason, but also caused by the economical
situation. Antoineette and her family are not original residents there
like those black people, although Antoinette and her mother have the blood
of the black(or Mulatoo), they are not purely black. With this reason,
the black people still regard them as sort of whit people. So some black
kids call Antoinette white cockroaches, this calling reflects their hatred
and scorn for Antoineette and her family. Besides, Antoinette¡¦s
family is rich there, this makes native black people feel unbalanced. Contrary
to Wide Sargasso Sea, in Sugar Can Alley, those Africans
are not native people in that place. They escaped to that place, and be
ruled by French Government. Moreover, they are tortured by white men there.
I use ¡§contrary¡¨ to convey the idea that Antoinette¡¦s
family is tortured by black people there, and those African in Sugar
Cane Ally is tortured by white people. Both the two groups are not
original residents in the place they live. And they are treated with racial
hostility. The same thing in these two texts is that black people are poorer
than white people. And the black usually hate white people. Leopold and
Antoinette are two characters who float and struggle between being a whit
and a black. Their mixed blood makes them not able to be purely white or
black, but they are eager to seek their own identity in the two stories.
Leopold¡¦s way out is to be against to the white in order
to be a part in his black friends¡¦ world, while Antoinette
seems not to have any way out in the ending of excerpt of Wide Sargasso
In Wide Sargasso Sea, the creole or the black identity can not be separated from the white. First of all, Annette is a French creole from la Martinique, an outcast of the outcasts. She could not be better accepted than Christophine was in Jamaica. Christophine, unlike Annette, was an Obeah woman that she was endowed with more power and privileges. Antoinette the daughter is the communication of the untouchable in Annette with the white culture and people and the ultimate failure of this connection and contact. Annette is further bound by female passivity in marriage and discrimination towards the white or ¡§recognized¡¨ creoles. The position of the Creoles in this work (the passages we read) is double-edged. On the one hand, they were victims stuck in the middle; on the other, they can simply a class of oppressors as well to the local blacks. With so many brothers or cousins with black blood, only Antoinette was admitted and recognized as the right heir. This heir was not so privileged as a normal white heir in England could be. She was forced to marry herself with someone chosen for her. She could not incorporate herself completely with the local community either. This is shown in her intimacy with Tia and the hostility engendered in the friendship. The exchange of the dresses was firstly considered a taboo as far as the purism of blood went. She was given two extreme choices. Like Leopold in Sugar Cane Alley, she seems to be able to choose between aligning with the white or the local. Actually, both Leopold and Antoinette can not sever themselves from either side. This is the very tragedy of m?tisses or creoles, particularly those born of two oppositions. In her marriage with an English person without any knowledge about Jamaican or creole culture, a criticism arises in Jean Rhys¡¦ writing. Antoinette¡¦s heritage from either side did not help her secure her inferior status as a woman in the 19th century colony. If we presume that the white were the oppressors and the black the oppressed, Rhys¡¦ illustration of Antoinette inherits the contradictory and complex nature of these conflicting identities. Also, it seems that there was no possibility of compromising the two except by withdrawing into herself as the last part of the chapter suggests. To retreat into a convent offers a chance for her to look into her own identification instead of what the social labeling process must produce. Despite its being a European institution, Antoinette could be acquainted with the another lineage possible to creoles. It was a pity then that she was still forced out of the shelter to face the trial of reality.
In Sugar Cane Alley, distinction is made between the black locals/mulattos and the white rulers or managers. The colonial rule was manifest only in the language and the systems/institutions. The optimism expressed in their daily life marks the potential of generating a more easily identified culture as long as it does not clash with the dominant French rule. With the outer rule and oppressions, deaths in the film lead to the hope beyond this life of labor and slavery. Interestingly, the going back to the continent exists in both works. In the Sugar Cane Alley, Madouze¡¦s Africa was the land of joy and happiness with its fictionality and concreteness, but in Wide Sargasso Sea, England ended up being the land of nightmare and imprisonment. In this comparision, we may somehow conclude that the spiritual homeland is much more ideal than the actual homeland, which could represent further or another level of oppression. In the later or the present diaspora, this kind of disillusionment can just happen everyday. In France each year, a lot of young Africans born in France but without a regular legal status are shipped back to the home countries of their parents without ever knowing the culture and the language. They are discriminated against there and stuck in between. Another different treatment of the relationship between the white/creole/black/mulatto people is Leopold¡¦s alignment with the blacks constituted criminality and rebellion. This act of crime reinforces the cruel reality which is the unneglectable gap and opposition between the two groups. Though Jos? achieved to excel the general white and mulatto kids, he was co-opted into the colonizing system. He could be aware of the banana complex, but he could only assert himself under a limited condition. This is not the focus of the film of course, but it is worth considering after the education of Jos?.