Tag Archives: Sandra Drake

The Rise of the White Creole Zombie

8 Feb

Like Joellyn, I too see England and the other European colonial powers as a zombie makers in the Caribbean, although I think the link Joellyn makes between being a zombie and being colonized goes deeper than just political, economic, and cultural domination.  Through colonialism and the migration of Europeans to the Caribbean, England and France created the  “white creole” – a people that do not fit completely in neither European nor Caribbean society.  We discussed in class the evolving term “creole”, but regardless of which definition Rhys intended, “creole” is still a term used to describe a mixture of cultures, so “white creoles” like Antoinette, her mother, and her father, are a mixture of Europe and the Caribbean with an ambiguous race, culture, and identity.  European are “[r]eal white people, they got gold money” while “old time white people [i.e. white creoles] nothing but white nigger now, and black nigger better than white nigger” (Rhys, 14).

Had the European colonizers not come to the Caribbean, the class of white creoles never would have been created.  But after they were created, these white creole plantation owners (e.g. Alexander Cosway) immediately became dependent on Europe as a market to sell their sugar cash crop.  But when England abolishes slavery in 1833, it transforms these white creoles, dependent on slavery for sugar cane cultivation and processing, into a type of zombie by forcing them to change the life they had known; in the process, the white creoles mentioned in Wide Sargasso Sea are transformed from “real white people” with “gold money” into “white niggers”.  The white creole’s new state of alienation from both Caribbean and English societies resonates with Sandra Drake’s argument that “the zombi’s state is symbolic of alienation on the social as well as the individual level” (199).  So in answer to Joellyn’s question – If Antoinette had refused to be called by a name that is not hers, or if she had refused to travel to England, would she have lost her culture and, in doing so, lost herself? – I think she would have lost her culture and her self because she, and the other white creoles, had already undergone a process of “zombification” through colonialism; the story of Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea is therefore a story of England’s zombification of the white creoles in the British colonies in the Caribbean.

The Colonizer as Zombie-Maker

8 Feb

Sandra Drake makes some really interesting observations regarding Caribbean culture and Antoinette’s “reanimation” at the end of Wide Sargasso Sea. She writes, “Antoinette’s ‘real’ death is not a demented suicide in the flames of Thornfield Hall…Her ‘real’ death is her subjugation by Rochester – by the colonizer – the long slow process of her reduction to the zombi state.” I find this fascinating, the idea that Jean Rhys not only creates an entire story for an admittedly minor but important character in Jane Eyre, but she also recreates her story so that even though she dies, Antoinette is, in fact, reborn. In class on Tuesday, we talked about what Rhys had changed about the original text in order to adapt her own; I think this may be one of the biggest changes, the idea that Antoinette may be better off in death than she was in a life that did not completely belong to her.

Drake also states that the “zombi” state, as it is known in Caribbean culture, is not permanent, but can be reversed. Drake compares being a “zombi” to being colonized – the person or group who is taken over becomes robotic and unemotional because their own culture has been taken away from them. When Antoinette sees her red dress in her prison-like room at Thornfield, then, she is reawakened to the idea that she does not have to live like that – like a prisoner in her own body.

Thinking about zombies in this way is totally different from any other type of zombie I have seen portrayed in movies or on television. The fact that the person who is “zombiefied” can still recognize aspects of his or her old self makes the whole state seem like something that can be prevented. If Antoinette had refused to be called by a name that is not hers, or if she had refused to travel to England, would she have lost her culture and, in doing so, lost herself?