Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*West Indies. Island chain separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean from the Atlantic Ocean, colonized by European powers. Antoinette blames her lack of identity on having grown up there. Her husband mistrusts his bride because of her foreign ways and blames the islands for tricking him into a loveless marriage. In contrast to England, the West Indies are warm and seductive, with the power to make people behave irrationally. Antoinette’s final desperate act is an attempt to return home.
*Jamaica. Island in the West Indies taken from the Spanish by the British, who made fortunes using slaves to raise sugarcane. Since emancipation in 1834, many freed slaves have grown to hate their impoverished former masters. Antoinette’s deceased father is a decadent, rich Englishman, her mother a beautiful young Creole from Martinique. After her father’s death and emancipation, the former slaves poison Antoinette’s mother’s horse, call the women “white cockroaches,” and burn their home. The English people in Jamaica scorn and gossip about the family.
Colibri. Jamaican estate where Antoinette spends her childhood. Like its row of royal palms which have been either cut down or have fallen, Antoinette is proud but lost. The warm, wrought iron handrail in front of Colibri comforts her, but the orchids in the overgrown garden seem like snakes and octopi. Despite the comforts of the isolating sea and mountains which surround Colibri, the stones which cannot be stolen or burned, and a big stick, her widowed mother’s focus on her sickly younger brother makes Antoinette feel unloved. The beauty and returning wealth of the place frighten the wild girl and help bring about Colibri’s destruction, just as Antoinette’s beauty and inheritance destroy her.
*Spanish Town. Town near Kingston where Antoinette lives with Aunt Cora after Colibri burns. The convent there, especially its cool stones and shadows, provides Antoinette some safety and security, though the threatening half-caste children and English people who gossip about her mother’s insanity grieve Antoinette. In Spanish Town, Antoinette’s mother marries Mr. Mason, just as Antoinette marries the groom arranged for her by Mr. Mason’s son. Unlike her mother, who dances gaily at her wedding to a wealthy man, Antoinette does not want to marry the strange, young Englishman who Aunt Cora and Christophine believe is only after her inheritance.
*Martinique (mahr-teen-EEK). French-ruled Windward Island near Antoinette’s honeymoon island. A former slave of Antoinette’s mother, Christophine is a strong woman feared by the indigenous population, of which she is a member, and is rumored to practice a form of magic called obeah. When Antoinette’s marriage erodes, the servant offers to take her to Martinique. The English husband refuses out of fear that there she may find someone else and be happy. Martinique is an island of mystery, sexuality, and tolerance, a place the English despise and fear as they do both Christophine and Antoinette’s mother.
Granbois (grahn-BWAH). Shabby white summer home inherited from Antoinette’s mother, located on an unnamed Windward Island near Martinique, probably based on the island of Dominica, where Jean Rhys was raised. Granbois is the setting of Antoinette’s disastrous honeymoon; she loves the place until her husband’s betrayal makes her hate it. The bathing pool where she throws rocks at a crab is a happy place, contrasted to the pool at Colibri, where Tia mocks her and steals her clothes. In Granbois Antoinette shows some self-confidence, feels almost at home and safe except at night, when she dwells on insanity and death and compares herself to the moths that fly too close to the candle’s flame and are burned to death. Antoinette’s husband is attracted to the beauty of Granbois yet feels that the place and its surroundings have a personal grudge against him. In contrast, the more realistic Antoinette asserts that Granbois is impartial and indifferent. He finds its colors too bright, its jungle hostile and threatening, and the perfume of its night-blooming flowers too sweet. He wants to conquer its wildness and penetrate the secret of its beauty but fails to do so, just as he fails with Antoinette. Instead, out of revenge, he decides to destroy her psychologically. Though he softens as they leave Granbois and pities the little white house struggling against the “black snake-like forest,” he asserts that the dark forest always triumphs, just as he has triumphed over Antoinette. Not only have his greed, intolerance, and lack of love destroyed Antoinette, but also they have damaged him.
*Sargasso Sea. Region of the North Atlantic between the Caribbean Sea and the Azores islands in whose comparatively warm and calm waters large amounts of seaweed float. Although mentioned only in the title, the Sargasso Sea symbolizes Antoinette’s rootlessness and her husband’s feelings of being smothered and trapped by her.