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Lecturer's expectations

Alan Dilnot, Lecturer

In this section, one of your lecturers - Alan Dilnot - sets out what he expects from student assignments on this topic.

Essay topic:

On Page 6 of Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette remembers "Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible - the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell".

Comment on the way in which descriptions of landscape and environment in the novel mark stages in the spiritual and psychological journey of the heroine.

Expectations of the essay

In tackling this topic, recognize that the essential task is set out in the last sentence (beginning "Comment..."). The exercise is requiring you to show knowledge of the novel's structure, and that structure is seen here mainly as a vehicle for tracing the heroine's psychological development. However, if you were to give a comprehensive account of Antoinette's development, you would require far more space than is available in a short essay. The topic therefore limits your field of enquiry by setting up a twin focus: the correlation between descriptions of landscape and the development of character.

A wise way of proceeding, then, would be to select passages that look at landscape in detail, and usually ones where Antoinette supplies the point of view. The passage that is quoted in the topic is obviously one that repays some attention. The references to the Bible and the Tree of Life could be made to relate the themes of the novel as whole. But the full significance of the quoted passage will only emerge if it is contrasted with other landscape passages in the novel. A good, workable arrangement would be for you to select one passage from Antoinette's childhood years, one from her time with Mr. Edward, and one from the closing stages of the novel.

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