The Psychological Interpretation of Antoinette


In this paper, the main area of concern is the psychological interpretation of the female protagonist, Antoinette Cosway, in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. The analysis and interpretation will be from the use of the theories of Karen Horney and Carl Jung. The theories by the two persons were referred to the psychodynamics and the neo-Freudian theories (Carducci, 2009).

Carl Jung is a believer of the psychoanalytic theory, which states that everyone is not only motivated by experience, but also by emotional experience inherited from the parents or ancestors. These inherited experiences contribute to collective unconscious that includes experiences which we have never encountered individually, but have come to use from the ancestors. Karen Horney is a leading contributor of the psychoanalytical social theory and neurotic personality theory. Neurotic personality theory is based on the assumption that cultural and the social conditions experienced during childhood are responsible for shaping an individual’s personality.


The main objectives of this paper are to give an interpretation of the female protagonist Antoinette Cosway in wide Sargasso Sea by jean Rhys having read and analyzed the novel. In addition, such interpretation bases on the theories of Carl Jung and Karen Horney. A close analysis of the relationship that exists between the people involved in the novel as compared with the theories is an issue. A literature review on previous analysis and interpretations will form part of the paper. Towards the end of the paper, possible results mentioned; conclusion discussed, and finally, possible recommendations made.

Literature review

According to the previous analysis by a variety of persons, the novel concentrates heavily on the harshness of discrimination, racial inequality, and assimilation. The novel is divided into three parts, and the whole story of protagonist Antoinette give the whole story of her life right from childhood to her marriage life to an English man whose name is not mentioned (Rhys, 2011). As the novel progresses together with their marriage progression, Antoinette renamed bertha goes down to madness.

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Part one of the novel is conducted in Coulibri Jamaica where we have Antoinette narrating the story. She gives the whole story of her childhood experience where she mentions a number of facets of her life. For instance her mother having instability in mind and the way her disabled brother who was doing some studies died.

Part two of the novel is set in Granbois Dominica where it alternates between the views of Antoinette and hose of her husband. In part three, is from the perspective of Antoinette who is at this point referred to Bertha living in a mansion referred to Rochester and she calls it the famous house. Her relationship with Grace her servant has been discussed. While conscious, Berth decides to take her own live because she believes that there is her destiny lying (Burns, 2004).


Antoinette's childhood story was that of outmost unhappiness that was further contrasted by her attempt at love the English man. As a result, her final state shows the resultant condemnation to her soul. This is in line with Karen Horney and Carl Jung psychological theories. Being a young woman, she finds happiness nature and peace from the world. When Antoinette chance of love arises; the main challenge that comes in is the destination of her life and develops a hope to undo her demise that is doomed (Unger, 2008). However, despite the downfalls, Antoinette is understood due to her clear voice during the narration because of her view of life as being complex, her plausible condition that cause her to direct her life to a state that is fragile and not trusted.

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On analysis of Antoinette character some of her characters that are outstanding as claimed by the various individuals include; self identification, she believes that freedom and self exemption results from death or rebirth, she desires rebellion against men dominance (Charlotte, 2001). Psychologically interpreting the character of Antoinette based on neurotic personality theory of Karen Horney, which believes that the social environment one is exposed to during childhood, has a lot of impact; it is true to say that her character of self identification has resulted due to the lonely surrounding she had during her childhood contributed.

According to the psychological theory by Carl Jung that everyone is not only motivated by experience, but also by emotional experience inherited from the parents or ancestors form part of her character. For instance, her desire for rebellion from the men dominance has resulted from her mother’s action. In addition, her feeling about self exemption might have been due to the social environment she had during her childhood. This is because; when she was young; her young brother passed away thus affecting her psychological thoughts to believing that death is the only source of freedom.

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It is worth nothing that, from the analysis and interpretation of the surrounding social environment and experience, one gets during the childhood has a significant impact on an individual’s behavior. In addition, inheritance experience has an influence on an individual, as well. This is in line with the theories put forth by Karen Horney and Carl Jung. In the case of Antoinette majority of her characteristics have been contributed largely by the social environment and inheritance from the parent. Therefore, the psychodynamics and the neo-Freudian theories to some extent explain the various characters exhibited by an individual.


As a result, of the above finding, for one to live a frustration life like in the case of Antoinette; it is necessary to expose one to a favorable social environment. In addition, it is necessary to encourage one to learn the importance of perceiving life from a positive point of view right from the childhood. As a result, it will be possible to have a child who has been brought up in a humble background living positively with others.

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