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Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
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Subjects / Keywords: Siren
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Abstract: This project draws material from classical mythology then moves to focus mainly on the 19th and 20th century's artistic depictions of the siren in the visual arts and literature in order to trace her metamorphosis from a prophetic, predatory bird-woman to a seductive femme fatale and analyze her ensuing domestication through spiritualization. In chapter 2, going by the understanding of the siren and her song as a symbol for woman as "Other" and her (denied) subjectivity within patriarchal society, I analyze two stories about sirens: Baron Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué's novella Undine and Hans Christian Andersen's tale, The Little Mermaid. I look at certain aspects of the heroines' narrative journeys, which allows me to construct a framework by which to understand these tales and then apply it to my reading in Chapter 3 of Jean Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso Sea as a more contemporary siren tale. The siren's hybridity (and fluidity) is what sustains her significance as a translatable metaphor for the dynamics of power, discourse, and gender within society that continue to be relevant today.
Statement of Responsibility: by Sandra Werb
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2013
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Portugal, Jose Alberto

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Classification: local - S.T. 2013 W48
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Material Information

Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Werb, Sandra
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2013
Publication Date: 2013


Subjects / Keywords: Siren
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This project draws material from classical mythology then moves to focus mainly on the 19th and 20th century's artistic depictions of the siren in the visual arts and literature in order to trace her metamorphosis from a prophetic, predatory bird-woman to a seductive femme fatale and analyze her ensuing domestication through spiritualization. In chapter 2, going by the understanding of the siren and her song as a symbol for woman as "Other" and her (denied) subjectivity within patriarchal society, I analyze two stories about sirens: Baron Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué's novella Undine and Hans Christian Andersen's tale, The Little Mermaid. I look at certain aspects of the heroines' narrative journeys, which allows me to construct a framework by which to understand these tales and then apply it to my reading in Chapter 3 of Jean Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso Sea as a more contemporary siren tale. The siren's hybridity (and fluidity) is what sustains her significance as a translatable metaphor for the dynamics of power, discourse, and gender within society that continue to be relevant today.
Statement of Responsibility: by Sandra Werb
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2013
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Portugal, Jose Alberto

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2013 W48
System ID: NCFE004885:00001

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FOLLOWING THE SIREN'S SONG: FEMALE SUBJECTIVITY IN UNDINE, THE LITTLE MERMAID, AND WIDE SARGASSO SEA BY SANDRA WERB A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree Under the sponsorship of JosŽ Alberto Portugal Sarasota, Florida May, 2013


! "" Acknowledgments I would like to thank my advisor and sponsor, JosŽ Alberto Portugal, for his sagely wisdom and steady encouragement through every stage of the thesis journey and every iteration' of this project. Thank you for helping me to designate a path for myself and guiding me back to it when I would have gotten lost in the tangential riptides of the endless circular connections I made between this project and everything else I was interested in discussing: for your patience through all my half baked ideas and panick ed moments and bad puns: and for helping me to translate what was in my head first into Spanish, then to articulate it anew in prose poetry, and finally to channel it into this thesis. Thank you Cris Hassold, for showing me that twenty page papers are no t impossible beasts, but rather opportunities for passionate exploration and development of a topic that may induce some delirium but only enough to inspire me to throw away caution and engage with it better. Thank you for always being willing to talk and explain and listen. Thank you Nova Myhill, for asking me the questions at the beginning of my college career that pointed me to completely novel ways of thinking about things including and beyond Shakespeare in a way which now characterizes, in my mind, my education here at New College. *** To all my friends the people who are my New College, and who welcomed the person I was and helped me become who I am now. I took little parts of you all with me to Europe and it helped me to get back home T he only thing I can return to you is my love : Mak and Mad my lovely ladies of Room 301, k yra bg ( aka Rosie ) Amelia N. Rachel W. Dave and Gen ( my 2 nd court support ) Kotick and the soccer contingent, the poetry kids, Tim Rich, Chelsea, Tessa, Elena, Liz H. Laurel (and Roxy ) Emily Z Hudson, Jed (formerly Kejt ) Walsh, Samson. *** This thesis is dedicated to you, Daj, for always encouraging me to sing. (Ba dum chhhhaaa) Always, forever, and no matter what.


! """ TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowle dgments...............................................................................................................ii Table of Contents............................................................................................................ ....iii List of Images............................................................................................................... ......iv Abstract..................................................................................................................... ...........v Introduction......................................................................................................... .................1 Passage from The Odyssey ...................................................................................................3 Chapter One: The Siren's Seduction...................................................................................4 Chapter Two: The Wave and the Sea Maid.......................................................................26 Chapter Three: Wide Subjective Space............ .................................................................59 Conclusion................................................................................................................... ......92 Appendix 1: Figures................................. ..........................................................................95 Appendix 2: Synopses......................................................................................................107 Bibliography....................................... .............................................................................112


! "# LIST OF FIGURES Fig. 1. Caccioli, Giovanni Battista. A mermaid or a siren, seen from behind, lying on a rock by the sea with the prow of a ship on the horizon 1638 75 Fig. 2. Leighton, Lord Frederic. The Fisherman and the Syren, 1856 1858. Fig. 3. Ekvall, Knut. The Fisherman and the Syren date unknown. Fig. 4. Burne Jones, Edward Coley. The Depths of the Sea 1887. Fig. 5. Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. A Sea Spell 1877. Fig. 6. Draper, Herbert James. The Captured Mermaid or The Sea Maiden, 1894 Fig. 7. Klimt, Gustav. Mermaids, 1899. Fig. 8. Magritte, RenŽ. The Forbidden World, 1949. Fig. 9. Magritte, RenŽ. Les Merveilles de la N ature 1953. Fig. 10. Delvaux, Paul. The Village of the Mermaids, 1942 Fig. 11. Rackham, Arthur. Undine Lost in the Danube 1909. Fig. 12. Dulac, Edmund. The Little Mermaid, 1911.


! # FOLLOWING THE SIREN'S SONG: FEMALE SUBJECTIVITY IN UNDINE, THE LITTLE MERMAID, AND WIDE SARGASSO SEA Sandra Werb New College of Florida ABSTRACT This project d raws material from classical mythology then moves to focus mainly on the 19th and 20th century 's artistic depictions of the siren in the visual arts and literature in order to trace her metamorphosis from a prophetic, predatory bird woman to a seductive femme fatale and analyze her ensuing domestication through spiritualization. In chapter 2, goin g by the understanding of the siren and her song as a symbol for woman as "O ther" and her (denied) subjectivity within patriarchal society, I analyze two stories about sirens: Baron Friedrich de la Motte FouquŽ's novella Undine and Hans Christian Andersen's tale, The Little Mermaid I look at certain aspects of the heroines' narrative journeys, which allows me to construct a framework by which to understand these tales and then apply it to my reading in Chapter 3 of Jean Rhys' n ovel Wide Sargasso Sea as a more contemporary siren tale. The siren's hybridity (and fluidity) is what sustains her significance as a translatable metaphor for the dynamics of power, discourse, and gender within society that continue to be relevant today. JosŽ Alberto Portugal Humanities


Introduction: Approaching the Siren I understand the siren and her song as metaphors for the woman as "O ther" and her denied subjectivity in society. The metamorphoses that the siren has undergone in both the realms of literature and visual art are sy mptomatic of artistic desires to control her and her meaning. The intention of the first chapter is to construct a visual and verbal field of reference from which to identify key aspects related to the siren: her song and silencing, her physical transform ation, and the significance of water as her domain. I utilize Julia Kristeva 's notion of the "A bject to help frame my study of the selected imagery and cultivate a vocabulary through which to approach the siren and t he paradoxes she represents: to unders tand and excavate the layers of meaning beneath the siren's surface significance as a femme fatale Her continuing metamorphosis points to a deeper ambiguity and resistance to meaning that invites further inquiry if not definitive conclusions. In Chapt er 2, I compare and contrast the narrative journeys of two iconic siren figures: Hans Christian Andersen's little mermaid and Baron Friedrich de la Motte FouquŽ's elemental spirit, Undine, and their failed attempts to attain human souls through marriage an d integration into the patriarchal order I first look at Andersen' s biography in order to gain an understanding of how the author's life and the text inform each other. I then an alyze The Little Mermaid along with Undine, using the same features outline d in my first chapter as a rubric for comparing the two This enables me to discuss how these heroines' respective endings differ in order to identify the issues and impulses that drove Andersen's rewriting of the canonical siren tale.


! 2 For my last chapte r, I r epeat the strategy of looking at the author, Jean Rhys and her life to understa nd what inspired her to write Wide Sargasso Sea and thus contextualize it I r ead the novel as a siren story by mapping the same thematic layers onto it as in the previo us chapter and contrasting the main character's journey with Undine and the little mermaid. These key points are symbols for the essential issues in Wide Sargasso Sea and can enable us to under stand gender relations and power dynamics in the greater socia l context. The main character of the novel, Antoinette, attempts to speak for herself, but like the sirens, fails to become integrated into a society that does not accept her. Through this thesis, I am not looking for answers but rather, attempting to en gage with earlier siren stories as an interpretive framework for read ing a more contemporary text. Ultimately, this is a process of exploration, identification and questioning that will reveal the reasons why the sire n's song has been obscured, and which hope fully both listen s to and engage s with her on her own terms.


! 3 First you will raise the island of the Sirens, those creatures who spellbind any man alive, whoever comes their way. Whoever draws too close, off guard, and catches the S irens' voices in the air no sailing home for him, no wife rising to meet him, no happy children beaming up at their father's face. The high, thrilling song of the Sirens will transfix him, lolling there in their meadow, round them heaps of corpses rotting away, rags of skin shriveling their bones Race straight past that coast! Soften some beeswax and stop your shipmates' ears so none can hear, none of the crew, but if you are bent on hearing, have them tie you hand and foot in the swift ship, erect at the mast block, lashed by ropes to the mast so you can hear the Sirens' song to your heart's content. But if you plead, commanding your men to set you free, then they must lash you faster, rope on rope. 1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 Homer, The Odyssey trans. Robert Fagles (New York: Penguin Books, 1996), 12.44 60.


! 4 Chapter 1: The Siren's Seduction Many cultures the world over h ave produced tales of creatures that ar e half women, half bird, fish or serpent In Western tradition these figures have been cast as sed uctive and dangerous their song fateful and their presence fatal T hey possess the b eauty of human women promise animalistic sexuality and portend t he past and future y et most attempts at communion with them can only lead to death. While sirens were first depicted as avian, their literary and historical links to the sea eventually cam e to dominate their semiotic realm There are many mythical variations of this aquatic woman : mermaids nixies, the Cornish F inn folk the Russian Rusalki the Ondines, the Assyrian goddess Atargatis the Caribbean Aycayia the Greek goddess Aphrodite th e African Mami Wata the French fairy Melusine, and the Scotch Irish seal woman, the selkie number amon g them 2 In this first chapter, I will trace the shifting depictions of sirens and mermaid s and the conflation of the two both semantically and symbol ically and then present analysis of a select survey of images that allows me to discuss the different meanings that the siren accrued through different artistic periods : as first inscribed by classical texts, compounded by the proliferation of hybrid mons ters in the Renaissance then re ap propriated and renewed in the Romantic and Pre Raphaelite fixation with mermaids as femme fatale icons Finally, I will touch briefly on some Surrealist and Symbolist works where we can see the psychological impulses be hind the iconic f orm that surface most viscerally !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 Linda Phyllis Austern and Inna Naroditskaya i ntroduction to Music of the Sirens (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 2 3 Au stern and Naroditskaya use s iren' as a blanket term for many of these figures, so long as they are connected by the power of their voice and musicality. The sirens' I look at either correspond with this formulation or through what I see as similar aspect s of their narrative journeys.


! 5 My focus on the creation of this figure by male authors and artists will establish how these differe nt depictions alternately reveal and obscure projected notions of female sexuality that reflect the s ocial contexts, psychological fears and desires of the men that painted and inscribed sirens into our cultural consciousness. The selection of paintings in this discussion were all mostly created w ithin a span of fifty years from the fin de sicle int o t he beginning of the 20 th century ; however, my objective will primarily be to demonstrate, through pointing to different morphologies rather than adhering to a strict timeline, how the change in imagery both renders the siren more domesticated and distances the origi nal creators from their part in the construction of this fantasy. 3 Subsequently, m y analysis of these variations in morphology from bird women to fully human nudes and then amphibious or aquatic figures will allow me to identify the continuati ons and submersions of what I hold to be the most salient aspects related to the siren : the representation of speech/song, of sexuality and power dynamics, and the significance of the water as the siren's domain The purpose of this chapter is to establ ish the general cultural milieu that the tales of Undine and the Little Mermaid have arisen from and which they have subsequently developed T he aspects I have identified will help me to st ructure my reading of siren tales in the following chapters. I un derstand these aspects ultimately, as manifestations of the underlying matter of the expression ( and re pression) of female subjectivity, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 Austern and Naroditskaya, Music 8: "Just as the siren has most often been femalethe artists who accomplished her transmission from the oral to the written realm were, for the most part, men. Describing hertranslating he r story, painting her image, and writing her song, the male artists acquired an often uneasy ownership of the siren and her various relations, especially during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries." Also see: Bram Dijkstra, Idols of Perversity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). Dijkstra also acknowledges that there were plenty of women artists who may have followed this trend, but we must keep in mind the society within which they operated and the artistic avenues that were open to them and lucrat ive.


! 6 embodied, in her myriad forms by the sign of the siren : the doubly o th ered, both female and animal, a transgressive h ybrid. In myth, her song was a spell; should men listen, they were doomed to crash their ships and drown. In reality, this power of speech and the need to silence it clearly points to a way in which this figure, as a femme fatale is ultimately one of m ale desire a patriarchal construct a signifier of projected notions of female' a s synonymous with sex' and a marker of submerged truths that she and her song may once have signified. 4 The siren challenges the patriarchal subject's identity both physi cally and psychologically, by continuously reminding him of what he has cast aside to be integrated in to the social order : death and the acceptance of a fluid reality In this way, k ey aspects of Julia Kristeva's notion of the A bjec t inform my understa nding of this figure and reading of the stories Kristeva maintains that: The abject has only one quality of the object that of being opposed to I [ ... .] what is abject [] the jettisoned object, is radically excluded and draws me toward the place wher e meaning collapses [.... ] Abject. It is something rejected from which one does not part, from which one does not protect oneself as from an object. Imaginary uncanniness and real threat, it beckons to us and ends up engulfing us. 5 Abject: that obs cured female form that beckons to us from below the waters of the unconscious, the untamed realm that whispers of the mother's womb and promise s a return to our origins through death by deluge. Th at place where everything that man's !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 Ian Buchanan, A Dictionary of Critical Theory (Oxford: Oxford U niversity P ress 2010), 361. When I use the term "patriarchy" and its derivatives, it is as defined thus: In Feminism this term is extended to describe an entire society in which mea n are in control on both a micro and macro scale, that is to say, in control of individual families as well as the principal organs of power. Patriarchal societies are inherently hierarchical, privileging one group of people, namely men, over another for no other reason than gender." Henceforth, when I say "male desires" or indicate a man' as responsible for this construct, I mean this in reference either to a specific artist and/or as a representative of the patriarchal order. 5 Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (Ne w York: Columbia U niversity P ress 1982). 1 2, 4. (The last sentence's italics are my own).


! 7 identity is founded up on ceases to matter, and the figure that ferries us there is the female upon whose subjugation his authority depends. .. And yet, from its place of banishment, the abject does not cease challenging its master [....] A massive and sudden emergence of u ncanniness, which, familiar as it might have been in an opaque and forgotten life, now har ries me as radically separate, loathsome [....] A weight of meaninglessness, about which there is nothing insignificant, and which crushes me. On the edge of non existence and hal lucination, of a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me. There, abject and abjection are my safeguards. 6 She can be r epulsive but compelling, dangerous yet desirable. The inscription of the siren as a subversive character t hat refuses to exist within the proper boundaries of the patriarchal world, and her continual resurfacing, points to something that makes her both frightening and fantastic This menace that the sire n embodies the prohibition that she flaunts is her resis tance to definition. As Kristeva reveals: It is thus not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in between, the ambiguous, the composite Th e traitor, the liar, the criminal with a good conscience, the shameless rapist, the killer who claims he is a savior Any crime, because it draws attention to the fragility of the law, is abject [....] Abjection [ ] is immoral, sinister, scheming and shady: a terror that dissembles, a hatred that smiles, a passion that uses the body for barter instead of inflaming it [ ] a friend who stabs you. 7 The true seduction of the siren is her enigma. She is threatening, above all, by virtue of her ambiguity and impossibility, and as a result, she has been relegated to the margins of myths, the borders of maps and the great beyond of the imagination. Insofar as Kristeva's lexicon coincides with my own aims, this notion provides me with a way of understanding the paradoxes embodied by the siren, and I will refer back to it at pertinent moments. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 6 Kristeva, Horror 2. 7 Ibid., 4. The ellipses in brackets are mine, while the others are Kristeva's orig inals.


! 8 Although some of her original mea ning may have been silenced, the siren continues to speak; t here are an ever increasing number of female artists within the past century who have positively identified with her and have claimed her as their own. 8 This retrospective survey then, i nsofar as I think it relates to the history of the siren i s an archaeology of erasure, a reclamation of what we may call a n abj ected and marginal figure, in order to see what emerges in her wake Avian Singers As we saw in the epigraph from T he Odyssey the goddess Circe warned the hero Ulysses not to listen to the Sirens Their song, i.e., the speech that enables their power o f persuasion enacts the presentation of their subjectivity If we go by the understanding of the "Subject" as a subject in language then it follows that t he subject that speaks does so in order to connect with and be validated by the o ther another subje ct and th at th is process of recognition necessarily demands r eciprocation. 9 The sirens speak to that which lies within Ulysses and his crew and will respond to them; because it is the men's inner animality and desire for illicit knowledge that would answ er the bird women must be ignored In T he Odyssey and other classical texts, men often resort to some type of silencing technique whether it be physically blocking their ears, or, as in T he Argonautica playing music that is sweeter than the sirens' own, so as to su r vive the encounter with their rationality and bodies in tact. T he crew must fight to retain their subjectivity by repressing their unconscious desires. If by Lacan 's formulation desire is !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 8 Austern and Naroditskaya, introduction to Music of the Sirens 10. 9 Mary Klages, Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Continuum Publishing, 2006), 76 83. This text provides a concise breakdown of Lacan's notions of the speaking sub ject and self in language .'


! 9 that which is left unfulfilled, the only possib le ends for this fulfillment would be a forbidden jouissance : "that which goes beyond mere ple asure and risks death and courts disaster." 10 It is thus easier to fight against a known external enemy than t hat which lies within oneself. Perhaps the figures of the siren and mermaid are so threatening because as functioning hybrids, they retain their human ego and animal istic id in tandem ; they use their sexuality for power rather than procreation or the male's pleasure : "a passion that uses the body for barte r instead of inflaming it." 11 Ovid's Metamorphoses recounts the origins of such creatures when the speaking Muse tells the story of Proserpina's rape and abduction to the Underworld: But why ar e Achelous' daughters wearing The claws, th e feathers of pe culiar birds And yet they have t he faces of young girls? Was this beca use, O Sirens of sweet song, You were am ong the friends of Proserpina Who joined her in the game of plucking flowers? However far they travelled, land or sea, They could no t find her; then they begged the gods To give them win gs to skim the waves of ocean, Renew the search again. The gods were kind, And quickly Sire n limbs took golden feathers, But human girlish faces did not change, Nor did their voices cease to charm the air. 12 The Sirens were the handmaidens of Proserpina, know n as Persephone in Greek mythology ; when she disappeared they were transformed into birds because they wanted to search for her over the seas. Other versions give different reasons for their metamorphosis : in some it was a punishment for losing her while in others it was a defensive measure taken to preserve their virginity 13 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 10 Klages, Literary Theory 83. For entry on Jouissance see: Buchanan, Critical Theory 263. 11 Kristeva, Horror, 4. 12 Ovid The Metamorphoses trans. Horace Gregory (New York : Penguin Group, 1960), 155 6. 13 Leofranc Holford Strevens, "Sirens in Antiquity and the Middle Ages" in Music 18 and 23.


! 10 T he sirens were granted wings but retained their heads for the beauty of their voices. They a re not sinister characters in this passage yet they can bring harm to sailors, as indicated in The Odyssey Circe's warning to Odysseus speaks of the breakup of family life "no sailing homeno wife rising to meet [her husband], no happy children beaming up at their fath er's face" and the resulting death: symbolically, a threat to the patriarchal order. Odysseus would become just another corpse, "rotting away, rags of skin shriveling [his] bones Yet, by being tied to the mast to stay erect he can remember he is a man can keep his life and know the sirens' song Odysseus recounts what he heard the Sirens say to him : Come closer famous Odysseus Achaea's pride and glory moor your ship on our coast so you can hear our song! Never has any sailor passed our shores i n his black craft until he has heard the honeyed voices pouring from our lips, and once he hears to his heart's content sails on, a wiser man. We know all the pains that the Greeks and Trojans once endured on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods w illed it so all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all! [and his desire to continue listening:] So they sent their ravishing voices out across the air and the heart inside me throbbed to listen longer. 14 The original pro mise the proffered fruit, is knowledge : thus, the sirens originally symbolized forbidden truth, rather than mere predatory sexuality They have knowledge o f the past, prese nt, and future of time and reality beyond mortal ken. Just as Adam and Eve were t empted by the Tree of Knowledge and punished for their desire to be more God like through such wisdom Odysseus is tempted by a knowledge that is immortal a !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 14 Homer The Odyssey 12.200 209.


! 11 revelation beyond the physical plain : jouissance and a promise of the longed for ob livion in death 15 The winged sirens move freely in between sky, water, and earth refusing demarcation and domestication, disturb ing system a nd order, and disregarding borders. 16 But it is more than this ; Odysseus describes th eir very voices as ra vishing" the voic e as a power of seduction, a form of sex in itself. In her essay, "Teach Me to Heare Mermaides Singing: Embodiments of (Acoustic) Pleasur e and Danger in the Modern West," Linda Phyllis Austern focuses on the penetrative power of the siren's music which i s thus cha racterized as masculine 17 The usurpati on of it renders the siren as a femme fatale 18 Austern 's emphasis on orality makes a strong case for the other meanin gs of the siren song beyond sex, but t hat being s aid i t is unsurprising that this idea o f sexuality and forbi dden knowledge beca me conflated. 19 K nowledge of sexuality is the knowledge of creation, as well as the acce ptance of one's inner animality In Western binary thought, rationality is posed (and valued) against this suppos ed inner anim al the "Id" repressed for the subject to exist in society. 20 To listen to the siren's song is to all ow her spell to take hold and give in to temptation. The femme fatale as a figure of man's imagination, is the projection of his own baseness against whic h he struggles, which he must contain. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 15 Bernard Knox, i ntroduction to The Odyssey 33 4. Knox's discussion is limited to the quality of death in the Underworld, the hero's weariness, a nd the knowledge offered by the Sirens. It is my connection between these things and jouissance 16 Kristeva, Horror, 4. 17 Linda Phyllis Austern, Teach Me to Heare Mermaides Singing :' Embodiments of (Acoustic) Pleasure and Danger in the Modern West in Music of the Sirens 52 104. 18 The siren can be characterized as a femme fatale in general, but this specific claim serves to support it. 19 Austern also utilizes some of the same vocabulary but mostly in the context of the siren's song,' whereas I use the se terms more broadly in discussing the mermaid as a sign, her song included but not all encompassing. 20 Nandor Fodor and Frank Gaynor, Eds Freud: Dictiona ry of P s y choanalysis (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950). See : "Id" (90) and "Repression" (15 8 ).


! 12 In the character of the siren, as with many femmes fatales her carnality is both her power and her demise If a femme fatale is in essence, a female whose sexuality is destructive to both others and herself, 21 th en th is definition applies most notably in The Argonautica and other Roman accounts in which, w hen Orpheus played better than the sirens and escaped unscathed, they drowned themselves true to an oracle's prophecies In some versions the sirens washed ashor e at different Italian cities and were buried there 22 While Orpheus' actions are presented as survival tactics, Austern and Naroditskaya maintain that this silencing was also a method of usurpation of the (feminine ) creative role: But a n encounter with a siren is not always about sex. It may be about creativity, the dream, artistic transgression or the nature of music itself [ ] By failing to fill his ears with "honey sweet wax" as [Odysseus] instructs his men to do, it becomes clear that it is, in fact, the sirens' song he desires a song that that challenges man's sexual and creative potency. The song itself, and its poetic promise, embodies prophetic knowledge and the meaning of life and death. She the song, may be the key to immortality and om niscience. But we don't know the original [.] The poet, the composer, the painter, the visionary wh o (re)presents the song of the siren in his own terms usurps her power. He thus disarms her and emerges victorious in what becomes a battle for the pow er of creativity, of artistic expression; her performance is not heard without his mediation 23 We are always told about the song' through the filter of another character, who essentially usurps the siren's words by speaking for them. Painted or outpl ayed by men the siren is altern ately recast or replaced by them because of her perceived threat to their masculinity One of my key projects in looking at the images in this chapter is to see how this dynamic plays out: how the se different representation s obscure or depict the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 21 See: Mary Ann Doane, Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory Psyc h oanalysis (New York: Routledge, 1991). 22 Theoi Greek Mythology s.v."Seirenes" from: Pseudo Hyginus, Fabulae 141 (trans. Grant, Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.), Accessed: 11/01/2012. htt p:// 23 Austern and Naroditskaya, introduction to Music 9 10.


! 13 siren's song and stress or de emphasize her personal power 24 The bird siren's message has been filtered, translated, and edited so that she has b ecome silent and unreadable and only her grotesque form points to her original transf ormation and powers. The avian sirens evoke a strong sense of the uncanny th at which is famil iar and not : the female fac e combined with a bird's body, a being of the animal world that is cunning and desirous and observant, the monstrous female in all h er gory glory who would sooner kill than kiss. 25 The beasts possess the bodies of birds with animal instincts and behaviors, yet they exhibit the speech and countenances of human females. Ulysses may understand their speech but he cannot understand them th eir motives, their actions, their desires. They are unknowable and the kn owledge they offer is forbidden: a double threat. Siren s and Mermaids: a Rebirth in the Water The change in the morphology of the mermaid was not a fully linear progression. Tex tually, the connection to the sea was already present in the classical mythology as seen in the story of Proserpina Symbolically, we can interpret the descent from the cliffs and the sky to the sea as a typical sex space dualism: wherein woman, as life giving, represents the earth, while man, as striving for higher knowledge,' is aligned with the sky through his desire to transcend the realm of earthly delights in favor of a spiritual !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 24 We will see how this aspect surfaces in Chapters 2 and 3, when I turn to look at Hans Christian Andersen's recasting of the mermaid that removes her impli cit threat, and in Chapter 3, where the polyphony of Wide Saragasso Sea enacts a duel of discourse between Rochester and Antoinette which eventually subsumes the voice of the heroine. 25 Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny" in The Stan dard Edition of the Complete P sy chological Works of Sigmund Freud trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1955), 17: 224 225.


! 14 calling. 26 Water is often presented as a feminine and maternal space because of its life giving and immersive qualities : its connotations of fluidity, transformation, the lunar cycles and bodily fluids. 27 Consequently, classical g ods of the sea often possessed the powers of prophecy and the ability to change form. 28 The sym bolism of water as the earth's blood 29 and that flood which br ings both destruction and life, reminds us that these significations are both revered and repellent and thus, woman's association with them can render her altern ately stigmatized and idolized. T he aerial and aquatic sirens both symbolized fluid ity through freedom of movement, which only strengthene d the connection with the water. A s such, sirens were appropriated as symbols of imperialism and exploration. 30 They adorned the prows of ships and t he edges of maps to mark the places that for sailors, were as of yet uncharted corners of the world: the places where "here there be dragons" as the cartography legend goes. Many depictions from the Renaissance period posit a siren with two legs that end in fins or two separate tails that are more flex ible than legs, such as Figure 1 Giovanni Battista Caccioli's drawing from the 1600's, which is identified by its description as A mermaid or a siren, seen from behind, lying on a rock by the sea with the p row of a ship on the horizon 31 She appears nude from behind, voluptuous and nubile and somehow !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 26 See: Dijkstra, "Chapter 6" in Idols of Perversity 161 onwards. On page 265, Dijkstra also identi fies water as a passive element, another reason why wom en were equated with it in the 19 th century ideology. 27 Austern and Naroditskaya, Music 4. See also: Gaston Bachelard, "Chapter 5: Maternal Water and Feminine Water" and "Chapter 7: Violent Water" in Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Water trans., Edith R. Farrell (Dallas: Pegasus Foundation, 1983) 14, 61,115 132. Bachelard maintains that it can also become masculine, and the dual connotations of semen and milk evidence this. 28 Theoi Greek Mythology See: entry on "Thetis." 29 Austern, Musi c, 55. 30 Austern and Naroditskaya, introduction to Music, 7. Also see: Chapter 3. 31 Please see Appendix 1.


! 15 unhindered by her curling ends even though her form rapidly diminishes with the narrowing of the tails. This split tail imagery has been around for centuries if not longer; the reasoning behind it, however, is not certain. It may very well be t hat t he split tail as an imagistic device allowed for the fantasy notions of seduction to remain mechanically grounded in anatomical evidence i.e., that this explained the possibility of sex with sirens. 32 The first textual evidenc e of a siren with a fishtail appears in the 8 th century Liber monstrorum and until the 13 th century an Old English term translated from Latin, "sirina mer emenin" or "sea wench" was equivocated with the Late Latin siren a and linked, thanks to Chaucer, with the image of a fish tailed maiden. 33 Another reason that scholars believe that the name "siren" became connected with water beings is because of the zoological class ification siren i a which i ncludes different sea mammals. In fact, s ome contemporary h istori ans believe that sailors who gave accounts of seeing ugly mermaids actually saw manatees sea cows were mistaken for sea maids 34 The shift from bird to fish imagery has partially obscured th e sirens' original power R educed to pure l y physical and sexual predator s they do not hold the same type of menace as the one s that descended from on high to offer knowledge of the past and future ; a man can close his eyes and turn away from their beauty but it is much harder to ignore his own desire for the wisdom that would eleva t e him to the level of the gods and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 32 Alexander, Skye, Mermaids: The Myths, Legends, and Lore (Avon: F+W Media, Inc., 2012), 33. 33 Leofranc Holford Strevens, "Sirens in Antiquity and the Middle Ages" in Music ": 29 34 Holford Strevens goes on to detail how the two primary images (bird/maiden or fish/maiden) came into conflict during the 12 th century on, and how medieval bestiaries, Biblical commentaries and translations shuffled all t his imagery together and recast it in various combinations. Eventually, on page 36, the author asserts that "in the long term not even Renaissance learning could restore [the bird maiden] in Romance speaking countries, where sirne or sirena remained the standard word for mermaid.' Folklore and scholarly literature crossed paths and became entangled. Holford Strevens ends the chapter by concluding that eventually : "The social order has been restored: mermaids are for sailors, Sirens for scholars" (37). 34 Austern Music, 73.


! 16 that ultimate prize of immortality. The representation of the sensual spell of sonority came to take precedence ov er that of the sirens' pr ophetic knowledge and even the musical imagery at times became subsumed beneath a purely aesthetic depiction of the sirens' physical beauty Inna Naroditskaya and Linda Austern, in their introduction to Music of the Sirens shed light on the opaque parad oxes in representation s of the siren : Fashioned into an innocent, lonely Lorelei, a sou l seeking Little Mermaid, or a morbid rusalka the sirens [ ] often provide their creators with as much angst as desire, offering dreams of virgin whores to mak e the men who market or consume them feel intensely alive, aroused by sex, fear, and music. Acros s many cultures, the siren has been a sort of hallucinogenic stimulant that gives the sensitive man a feeling of fullness in life by paradoxically killing him. A virtually undefeated seductress, she rarely completes her sexual act, and her promises are usually unfulfilled. For her lover, fulfillment would mean a loss of hope, th e end of the road, everlasting depression, and the extinguishing of desire as wel l a s his mortal body [ ] Does he die because sexual fulfillment would leave him no dreams, o r because he realizes that his desire will never be fulfilled? 35 The siren's ability to seduce sailors through sound is replaced by a physical allure an aspect t hat coincides better with carnality and baseness Indeed, in a Roman commentary around 400 C.E. we see the Sirens identified as "harlots ;" their transformation from women to hybrid creatures was linked with the weapons of love and the beguilement of men. Thus, they were, to the early Christians, seen as heretics, pagan figures of sin. 36 Some of the many images that depict sirens with a split fish tai l or serpentine bottom halves allude to Jean d'Arras' late 1 4 th century French story of Melusine the curs ed princess with a serpent tail. Because of her affliction, Melusine had to retreat to her room on Saturdays, and her one prohibition to her husband was that he never see her during that time. Unsurprisingly, circumstances conspired so that he broke this taboo and as a result she had to leave him. 37 Melusine's curse evokes one of the most well known !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 35 Austern and Naroditskaya Music, 8. 36 Holford Strevens, "Sirens in Antiquity" in Music, 24 27. 37 Knapp, Bettina L. Melusine : The Beauty of Things is Swift and Fleet" in French Fairy Tales: A Jungian


! 17 literary connections between women and snakes the story of Eve and the Serpent in the original Temptation. The blame can thus be located back with Eve and her initial moral weakness, and a ny h int of man's internal threat became submerged beneath the physical evidence of the siren's abili ty to pull a victim into her primordial realm. The water evokes both the womb and the tomb the origin of life within the m other and the obliteration of the subject's self in death 38 In these next sections, I will briefly analyze different iconic images of the siren to demonstrate how these motifs have been illustrated. Siren as Threat to the Male Subject The theme of "The (Hapless) Fisherman and the Siren" abounded in the salons of the art world of the 19 th century ; Lord Frederick Leighton's Fisherman and the Syren (1856 58), Fig. 2, shows a siren with a low scaled tail i n the suffocating position of clinging vine 39 to th e dead or unconscious fisherman, while Knut Ekv all's version, ( The Fisherman and the Siren, date unknown ) Fig. 3 appear s to be, at first glance, a more candid depiction of the moment of seduction/death. The fisherman has an openly wary expression on his face and gesture from his hands as he is pulled into the whirlpool from which the siren rises. We know that it is too late for him, as evidenced by the vice grip the milky white siren has upon his tanned, muscular arms, and the way in which her torso visu ally obscures most of his body. Her long red hair, pulled into the swirling !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!! Approach ( Albany: S uny U nivers ity P ress 2003 ), 23 42. There are parallels in Undine with Melusine's story, insofar as both the love interests break a taboo and both women return to a water element. 38 Austern, Music, 55 56. 39 Dijkstra, Idols 269: Dijkstra discusses the posture of sire ns in relation to the sailors they seduced. This clinginess' reminds viewers of the woman's engulfing, natural origins. It is in the same vein of iconography as her snaky tendrils of hai r and the serpent imagery.


! 18 waters around her, echoes the lines; she is a part of this maelstrom the water storm th at will claim the man's life Yet, paradoxically, at the moment of her triumph, the viewer gets to have the last leer; her body is oddly contorted, even given the situation. The viewer has full visual access to her body her labia less vulva and her smooth, pliant skin that stretches as if she is lying in bed. Even if she were not the antagon ist in this painting, as Bram Dijkstra indicates: "[These prostrate and naked women of nature ] are passive, but in the intensity of their primal needs, their passivity is the source of aggressive suggestions." 40 Thus, the siren is eternally caught in a dou ble bind: portrayed as predatory, she is condemned for usurping the male role and seen as monstrous; portrayed as passive, she is believed to be knowingly inviting violence. 41 Edward Coley Burne Jones's piece, The Depths of the Sea (1886), Fig 4 shows the audience a slightly different view of the typical seduction scene: post mortem. We see the mermaid taking her trophy down to the netherworld of the ocean. The hapless sailor appears dead already, as none of the bubbles in the painting issue from his m outh or nose. S he hugs the sailor around his middle, close to reaching the golden brown depths. The overall effect is both compelling and repulsive; she embraces the corpse which Kristeva views as the the utmost of abjection. death infecting life 42 T he siren is that cunning innocent, that beckoning mirage, the fertile virgin that w ould enact a reverse baptism of her prey by drowning him and speeding him along his transition from life to death. She cannot give life ; we can infer that the sailor in her arms !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 40 Dijkstra, Idols 99 100. 41 Ibid., 104 5 : "All too often the gestures and expressions of ecstatic transport accompanying the supine posture of these nudes suggest a perverse excess of erotic abandonment as the origin of the women's forced posture [....] The sprawling nymphs' helpless postures, j oined with their obvious ecstasy, thus suggested quite deliberately to the viewer that these women were, so to speak, asking to be raped. 42 Kristeva, Horror 4.


! 19 has experienced the oblivion of bodily death before he could ever know the pleasure of la petite mort The siren's offer is a bait and switch: s he pr offers herself but it is his body that is bartered. Yet, though t he mermaid in Fig. 4 looks at us with what at first seems like a carnivorous expression, upon closer inspection we realize her face is more hopeful than desirous, wistful even. 43 There is no malice in the slant of her e yebrows or her uplifted lips. Although this picture is thematically s inister, I would argue that the mermaid culprit is rendered humanely, as a sympathetic innocent desirous of connection with another It is worth noting, too, that the facial features of the two beings are very similar, almost as if they are related, or tw o twin souls. Even though he may be dead, the man has a warmer tint than the mermaid does, and it complements her; t heir colors are infused in the scenery, he with the sand, she with the rocky columns that reach above them. They both fit into the watersc ape. Her tail/fins creates a moving diagonal, so that even though they appear to have reached the bottom, there is movement still. The painting, as a tall, almost narrow vertical piece, evokes this dept h from which there is no escape and perhaps, no desi re for one Mermaid and Sirens: Demonization and Domestication The Pre Raphaelites and Romantics were obsessed with fat al and monstrous female figures, not least among them the siren. In Idols of Perversity Bram Dijkstra suggests that the radically shifting socio sexual politics of the late 19 th and early 20 th !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 43 With his typically hyperbolic tone, Bram Dijkstra describes this piece as that of "a wo man with hypnotic eyes and a vampire's mouthis carrying her prey as if it were a huge, flowery bouquet of lost male morality into the oblivion of her sensuality where, we can be quite sure, he is to suffer the brain death which unfailingly accompanied the state of perpetual tumescence promised by the hollows of the siren's lair" ( Idols 269).


! 20 centuries prompted a nostalgia for a by gone era and engendered a reactionary artistic movement: the portrayal and proliferation of an antiquated and constructed image, the many faces of Lilit h, the Judeo Christian proto femme fatale 44 One prominent artist among them, Dante Gabriel Rossett i (1828 1882) is fa mous for his many portrayals of femmes fatales Many of his women including the sirens, do not look directly at the viewer but elsewher e to modestly let themselves be looked at: the objects rather than the subjects of the spaces they inhabit. The siren's power through her music is typically signified through the instrument in her hands that she plays; yet the subject' of Rossetti's piec e, A Sea Spell (1877), Fig. 5 does not seem deeply invested in her pursuit of persuasion. The siren plays a lute, and a seagull sits near her head, p erhaps on her shoulder. She offers her neck to the viewer, arrested by the male gaze. 45 Although her milk y skin is swathed by flowing robes that recall the sea, and the flowers and apples that denote sexuality and temptation envelop her, she remains passive. 46 While Ros s etti often depicted the siren as another variation of La Belle Dame Sans Merci" (a refer ence to a Keats' poem), 47 this woman here does not appear to be very threatening, safely encased (for the viewer) as she is within her viney landscape. Ros s etti painting in the context of a p rotestant Victorian society, typically portrayed Sirens (as a ty pe of femme fatale) as pagan forces, and as s uch, perfect characters to use for commentary on a convergence of themes: seduction, sin, sexuality, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 44 Dijkstra, Idols 6 8. 45 The term "male gaze" is attributed to Laura Mulvey, from her essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema". Originally Published in Screen 16.3 (Autumn, 1975), 19. 46 Griselda Pollock, "Woman as sign: psychoanalytic readings in Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism, and Histories of Art. (London : Routledge 1988),135. 47 See: McGann, Dante Gabriel Rossetti "The Doom of the Sirens." Acce ssed: 11/10/2012. Stable URL: 1869.raw.html.


! 21 internal versus external beauty, vanity and wisdom, connection with nature. 48 The siren of A Sea Spell bewitch es not just sailors but even other sea creatures, although it is the sailor for whom her song will prove fatal. But, in Ro s setti's poem of the same title the siren also "sinks into her [own] spell" as well; the author implies that this is some sort of al l encompassing narcissistic reverie, rather than an act of violent sexuality, even if it results in death. The artist invites the audience to think of her as a sphinx type character who uses "summoning rune[s]" 49 to entrap her prey; hers is a mad language we cannot read, a system of mysterious and forbidden signs a figure of in articulable desire left unfulfilled. We can, how ever, read these selected art pieces fairly easily as visual language. Desire' as it is embodied in oils and on canvases, is not di fficult to see, or interpret, no matter what n arratives are provided. A famous nude siren from the end of the 19 th century is Herbert Draper's The Captured Mermaid (1894), Fig. 6 a painting that dwells lasciviously on another scene of the so called batt le of the sexes.' The colors and lines of this painting are luxurious and flowing, the tone excited and lively, yet the scene they depict is ominous. A lone siren is caught in a net, fearfully looking back at the sailors that leer at her as they haul in their struggling catch. Dijkstra 's discussion in Idols of Perversity of the turn of the century artists' relish for the voyeuristic, falsely distanced portrayal of sado masochi stic violen ce by men upon women presents this as symptom atic of the changes i n society that threatened hegemonic !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 48 Pollock, Vision and Difference 133 146. 49 See: "A Sea Spell" in The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: a hypermedia archive ed. Jerome J. McGan n. S table URL: 1869.blms.rad.html The artist poet often paired pictures with ballads or poems he had written, so that we can see his thought process behind his depictions and his interpretation of the classical mate rial both visually and textually.


! 22 masculine identity. Dijkstra views this artistic trend as a cathartic fantasy, a way to alleviate the "cost" of ( the social construction of ) manhood: Clearly, the heavy weight of spiritual responsibility which the tur n of the century male felt elected to carry made his dread of the siren's enticements echo with disturbing elements of wish fulfillment and a yearning for freedom from the b u rden of responsibility [ ...] T he male's fantasies of helplessness before the sire n's physical enticements were not infrequently laced with a yearning to be seduced. Such a fantasy of seduction allowed him to combine the pleasures of indulgence with the innocent stance of the unwilling victim thereby placing the responsibility for his weakness once again squarely on the shoulders of woman. 50 The proliferation of images such as Fig. 6 perpetuated the idea that the nymphs' (and by inclusion, woman's) seduction was all the more dangerous and deceiving because she pretended passivity on p urpose that the mermaids caught in nets allowed themselves to be captured in order to attain their prey more easily. 51 Even when the situation appears to be the reverse when a female/siren is portrayed as the active aggressor it must be remembered that she is still trapped within the confines of the frame, subject to the whims of the artist and the object of the eyes of the [implied to be male] audience. Sirens as Recognizable Other: Male Fantasy U nveiled It is, ultimately the artist that retai ns control of the siren's image. This last set of paintings in some ways, enact s a radical re inscription and re reading of the sirens' significance or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is a new translation of an old story. Klimt's Mermaids of 1899 (Fig. 7 ) is a study in contradictions, in those conflicting impulses of desire that the siren mirrors. This image is, arguably, the most threatening, sinister depiction in terms of the color mood and morphology of the mermaids ; they are bodiless heads with hair that serves as bodies, wombs, cloaks, and/ or !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 50 Dijkstra, Idols 266. 51 Ibid.


! 23 shrouds. Their grotesque, black and s erpentine or sperm like forms rise from the green deep of the unconscious and insist on reminding us of those bodily materials which we have abjected : these bodil y fluids, this defi lement, this shit are what life withstands..." 52 These sirens appear to be enveloped in purely carnal motives that cannot bode well for any [m an] who comes across their path or are they trapped in their own minds? Strangely, they obscure themselves more than they seem capable of suffocating anythi ng else. A s disembodied entities, they become abstracted figureheads of desire that do not reduce, but rather expand upon the siren's significance Here again we ent er the realm of ambiguity, t hat place where meaning collapses 53 but which points us in the direction of a deeper understanding of what the siren symbolizes The next two images, Ren Ž Magritte's Forbidden World (1949) Fig. 8, and Les Merveilles de la Nature (1953), F ig.9, clarify t he polemics that pervade the mermaid' s many portrayals Fig 8 settles on a compromise between the Renaissance imagery and the underlying message. Here is a typical mermaid with viol ently bright colors, lying on a divan as if in a salon, in a very iconic posture. Her sex is apparent; although she possesses a tail, somehow, she also has a vagina. The title is explicit: this wo rld of the mermaid is fo rbidden: her sexuality is illicit The rosy, flesh tinted hues and the luxurious diva n invoke the underwa ter boudoir and her exposed sex invites us in, while she closes her eyes in a lazy self indulgent moment of private fantasy In contrast with the previous depiction, Fig. 9 presents a perversely humorous inversion of the typical mermaid morphology It radically diverges from the iconic mermaid form that Magritte pres ented just four years before and may be the strangest we !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 52 Kristeva, Horror, 3. 53 Ibid., 1 2.


! 24 have seen yet: a couple of what would be more accurately called terre fish than mer people singing in repose up on (and as ) a rocky shore The image exposes a paradox of mermaid sexuality in relation with the male viewership; if a human did cross with a fish, which end would really be which? The impulse to obscure the female genitalia, to substitute the fish tail for the pudendum' i s undone; the aesthetics are displaced for the underlying libidinal impulses. This also points to the fact that the female face the voice, th e personality is not the signified object of desire in this genre for the artists and viewers The woman /siren is silenced through de humanization as a hybrid and through Magritte's reversal is fragmented further, left only with her legs, which have been substitu ted for a view of her genitalia to represent her by synec doc he. The last image to which I turn, Paul Del vaux's Village of the Mermaids ( 1942), Fig. 10 elucidates what may be the true social condition responsible for the foreboding atmosphere of the painting : the drab garb that creates what Dijkstra calls an "entrapment in virtue 54 i mprisonment through dome sticity, or perhaps a more accurate depiction of what he t erms "the cult of invalidism 55 This painting is sinister in the way that stories like "The Yellow Wallpaper" and, as we shall see, Wide Sargasso Sea are ter ri fying ; it is the mummification, the li ve burial of living beings a depiction of enforced passivity, of the woman killed into art, 56 trapped in an environment that forces her to sit and wait and waste away. The blond women, perfect copies of each other look ahead complacently seated neat ly on interior chairs outside of their domiciles, surrounded by a high wall that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 54 Dijkstra, Idols, 7. 55 See: Dijkstra Chapter 2, "The Cult of Invalidism" in Idols 25. 56 I borrow this phrase from Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic : The woman writer and the nineteenth century literary imagination 2 nd ed. ( New Haven and London: Yale University Press) 17.


! 25 separates them from their mermaid counterparts in the distance. The viewer can see each woman's form beneath her shroud like dress yet the women do not move; they are stifle d repressed and contained to a breaking point. A lone man walks by; presumably he cannot s ee the mermaids in the distance and is not threatened by these obscured women. Meanwhile, the sirens in the water app ear to be attempting an exodus; are they the p syches, or souls of the women seated? I would like to keep this image in mind when progressing from C hapter 2 to 3, as it will be a good representative metaphor to understand my reading of Wide Sargasso Sea Like the sirens of the original myths, the w omen in the image have become synonymous with the is land s where they perch ed or the cities wher e their bodies washed ashore ; the y are stone, pressed into the landscape. Also like those sirens, o nly the women's heads and hair remain uncovered; and it is n ot hard to im agine them with vampiric mouths, waiting to devour their captors ; something sinister has been born of this original oppression, and it threatens to escape. For C hapter 2 I r eturn to the early and mid 19 th cen tury in order to focus on two siren tales th at emerged in the midst of the tradition I have explored which mark a place where the siren's journey from the sky to the sea was diverted to the shore, and where an authorial desire for her domestication effected in her a quest for transcen dence which necessitated her silencing and transformation.


! 26 Chapter 2: The Wave and the Sea Maid It is to an iconic mermaid story and its relation with another tale that I now turn to further examine the siren's metamorphosis. Hans Christian Andersen originally published The Little Mermaid in 1837, twenty six years after Baron Friedrich de la Motte FouquŽ's novella, Undine, of 1811 The Little Mermaid responded to Undine entering into a polemic with it that would shape the way many people think of th e siren figure today. 57 Andersen's story presents an implicit rejection of the classic siren's attributes and actions through the little mermaid's explicit desire to become a human. Whereas Undine is sent as a representative of her race to gain a huma n soul, the little mermaid's desire for one is catalyzed by self sacrificing love and an innate desire to transcend her home. Undine possesses an intrinsic, magical affinity with water, but begins and ends her journey with a female form, while the little mermaid actively rejects her aquatic origins, and undergoes a series of painful transformations in order to resemble a human female. Although the two tales bear many similarities, it is Andersen's version that has emerged as the dominant narrative and be come ingrained in our culture through further retellings; and it is the resultant image, constructed in The Little Mermaid, of a sea maiden with a female torso and a fish tail which has come to dominate Western cultural imagination over other variations ex amined in the first chapter. What intrigues me are the issues that lie behind the imagery, which the tail obscures and the tale evinces but does not explicitly say, that point to a matter of contention in Undine : the heroine's failed attempt at transcende nce to the world of men and inevitable exile back to her own world. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 57 For a full synopsis of the stories, please see Appendix 2.


! 27 The Little Mermaid substantiates what appears to be a paradoxical impulse towards female domestication and liberation that shaped our modern image of sirens as mermaids. The little merm aid undergoes a series of transitions which echoes the traditional trajectory for a woman within a patriarchal society: she makes her first visit to the shore, falls in love with the prince, leaves her maternal home for the Prince's castle, loses her voice trades her tail for legs in a physical experience described very similarly to menarche and sacrifices herself for the one she loves. Andersen acknowledged the link to Undine, but claimed The Little Mermaid as his own creation and asserted its differen ce, his signature: 58 I have not, like de la Motte FouquŽ in Undine let the mermaid's gaining an immortal soul depend on a stranger, on the love of another person. It is definitely the wrong thing to do. It would make it a matter of chance and I'm not goi ng to accept that in this world. I have let my mermaid take the more natural, divine path. 59 Both Undine and the little mermaid desire human souls and fall in love with human men: neither of them succeeds in marriage. But while Undine ultimately remain s attached to her people, the little mermaid makes her own fateful decisions and takes the "more divine path," as defined by Andersen, which we will see is the pivotal difference between the two sirens.' Dijkstra's comparison of the late 19 th century a rtists' depictions of ondines and mermaids maintains this important distinction between passivity and action, which aligns in certain ways with my following analysis of these tales: Aggressive and predatory, driven by the ceaseless sexual hunger of the nym phomaniac, [sirens and mermaids] should not be confused with that other group of watery creatures, the ondines or "wave women,"[] as they were being washed up, helpless and broken !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 58 Wolfgang Lederer, The Kiss of the Snow Q ueen: Hans Christian Andersen and man's redemption by woman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 94. 59 Hans C. Andersen, The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen trans. Diana Crone Frank and Jeffrey Frank (Durham and London : Duke University P ress, 2005), 104.


! 28 backed [....] The ondines though unquestionably creatures of nature and s exually active, were the very personification of appropriate feminine passivity 60 As a child's fairytale, Andersen's story does not explore sex expressly, but his restitution of the mermaid figure pivots on her silencing, which implicates the suppression of her own desires. Undine, on the other hand, has a vibrant personality and is not as passive as Dijkstra's description, but ultimately her soul is not her own. 61 Undine also does not deal with problems of sex or the need for transformation, but th emati cally signifies Undine's O therness' by her magical abilities, the elemental affinities which keep her forever imprisoned within her own nature. Two images, Undine Lost in the Danube (Fig. 11) and The Little Mermaid (Fig. 12) by the renowned illustrators Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac grace the pages of the fairytales and provide definitive visual material to accompany the verbal descriptions of the water maidens in each story. We can see this active/passive dynamic exemplified by each heroine in the wa ter. Fig. 11 portrays Undine in the moment of (or right after) her lover's rejection, when she is forced to return to her tempestuous river home. Her grey green dress blending into the river, she stands distressed or sleepy in the swirling eddies amidst faces of her people, or perhaps her uncle KŸhleborn, shielding her face or stretching: neither action promotes a strong sense of activity in the wake of the oncoming engulfment. In contrast, Fig. 12 of the little mermaid, in Dulac's imagination, is almost amphibious in her water form; her hair and skin are of a greenish tinge. Her world is full of lush color and intricate detail deep, alluring, carnivalesque and she moves directly, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 60 Dijkstra, Idols 258. 61 The ondines to which Dijkstra refers are not necessarily the same as FouquŽ's Undine, as she is a specific literary chara cter and they represent an archetype popular in the art of the 19 th century, but the comp arison remains relevant I include Undine as a siren, however.


! 29 passionately towards the mysterious treasures of the deep and the tentacle d monster that protects them. 62 Undine and The Little Mermaid have been viewed as allegorical meditations on the nature of man' and the meaning of mortality, as well as the possibilities and limitations of class mobility and racial mixing. 63 My focus is o n the issue of woman's domestica tion within patriarchal society and how her fishtail as a sign for femaleness,' in the case of the littl e mermaid, is viewed as tainted and traded for a higher' existence: her quest for a soul, a metaphor for achieving sub jecthood in patriarchal society that often comes at the cost of self erasure. By tracing Undine and the little mermaid's narrative journeys and the concurrent themes flowing through both, I will examine exactly what determines the divinity' of the littl e mermaid's path in contrast with Undine, and demonstrate how this path both developed and then denied her attainment of subjectivity. 64 Additionally, my intent in addressing the continuities and ruptures between the two tales in this chapter is that I wil l be able to establish how the siren, as a figure of the Western male imagination, can become a vessel for the transmission of female centered stories, per my reading in the last chapter of Jean Rhy s Wide Sargasso Sea For this analysis, a brief discus sion of Andersen's life is crucial to any discussion of The Little Mermaid as it became his own tale because he shaped it in the mold of his individual struggles: issues that translate well into a universal story of love and loss. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 62 This could be the scene in her garden, or w hen she is rescuing the prince. 63 See: Barbara Fass, "The Little Mermaid and the Artist's Quest for a Soul" in Comparative Literature Studies Vol. 9 No. 3, ( Penn State University Press: Sept. 1972), 291 302. Accessed: 17/09/2012 Stable URL: 64 It should be noted that in neither of the collections of Andersen's tales that I refer to is the little mermaid's name ev er capitalized which can point to a way in which the mermaid fails to achieve human' status.


! 30 The Author Hans Christ ian Andersen (1805 1875) stated that: "Most of what I have written is a reflection of myself. Every character is taken from life. I know and have known them all." 65 It follows then, that contained in this tale of the chaste little transplant from the sea, are both of those conflicts so central to Andersen's life: forbidden love and a constant fear of perceived insurmountable social proscriptions. The story of the sea maiden who wanted to attain an immortal soul presented the perfect site for the negotiatio n of those issues. As a self identified "swamp plant" from humble origins, Andersen had paved his own way, with the help of his surrogate family, the Collinses, and various patrons. 66 Hans achieved great success in his lifetime and made many friends in h igh places, consorting with both royalty and prominent writers of the time thanks to his persistence and ambition. His talent would be recognized as well, but he had to work for his status; the anxiety of maintaining his popularity remained ever present. Diana and Jeffrey Frank, in their introduction to Tales and Stories, "The Real H. C. Andersen," claim that: His novels and plays, though intended for adults, rarely touched on desire in any form other than the standard literary tropes of the era sighs, te ars, and polite embraces. Andersen's writing more often reflected his anxiety about his origins and his persistent terror of not being recognized as an important artist. 67 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 65 Hans C. Andersen introduction to Tales and Stories of Hans Christian Andersen ed. Patricia L. Conroy and Sven H. Rossel ( Seattle : University of Washington Pr ess, 1980), xxvi. 66 Frank, "Introduction" in Stories, 6. Even the little mermaid's song can be connected to Andersen's life: he started as a singer but was not able to achieve much success when his voice changed. His own voice, literally, was silenced. A lso: Lederer, Kiss, 171. 67 Andersen, Stories 11. Also, it should be noted that because he dealt in the standard tropes' of the time does not mean that these did not have deeper meaning. In civilized' society, when these are the only gestures allowed to display emotion, it stands that they will be utilized to signify deeper conflict. We will see later how tears, in both Andersen and FouquŽ's stories, function on a profound level.


! 31 That said, this pressure in the public sphere was not alleviated in his private life; like many of his characters, Andersen did not find the romantic fulfillment he desired. 68 Since many characters and their situations reference Andersen's life, it is not a far leap to read The Little Mermaid as a love letter to Edvard Collins, Anders en's surrogate brother, as more than one critic has done. 69 Furthermore, we can see in The Little Mermaid that intertwined with Andersen's experience and beliefs are his religious ideas. He was a devout Christian and the specters of the resurrected Chris t and the self sacrificing Madonna both prominently haunt his version of the tale. 70 Thus, The Little Mermaid figures as both an intense elaboration of Andersen's own experience, an appealingly universal tragedy and a decidedly un pagan tale of moral enlig htenment and bodily transcendence. If, as some scholars have noted, the publication of The Little Mermaid marked a "steep ascent" in the quality and popularity of Andersen's stories before a steep decline about a decade later, then the tale can be seen as yet another allegorical record of the trials of Andersen's life, but one which ends on an optimistic albeit, not traditionally happy' ending. 71 It stands to reason that a man who made his own way in the world, whose texts are so transparently informed by his own experiences, would not allow his heroine's fate to be decided by chance. How did Andersen's authorial presence function at the thematic and intertextual level? And did the "natural, divine" path that the mermaid took reflect a victory of subjecti vity, or merely a scarce veiled attempt at the purification of something rejected by society: a denial of the siren's threatening ambiguity and the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 68 Lederer, Kiss 153 69 Ibid., 146 169. 70 Ibid., 165. 71 Ibid 94.


! 32 desire for both absolution and resolution? The Texts of Undine and The Little Mermaid My analysis of th ese tales pivots on the same three issues established in my first chapter, expanded through different metaphors and parallel discussions: speech/song (silencing and erasure) sexuality and power dynamics (patriarchal rituals and the economics of death and d esire), the significance of the water space in Little Mermaid (metamorphosis and transition) and in Undine (the magic and madness that constructs and ultimately condemns her as "Other"). Thematically, the main points of difference up for analysis between Undine and The Little Mermaid are all aspects of the quest for a soul that ultimately requires self erasure and points to the impossibility of female subjectivity in patriarchal society. Also, I will examine the repercussions of the appearance of the auth orial voice in the establishment of control over the narrative. These themes will carry over as the main connecting points of analysis of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, so that I can postulate The Little Mermaid and Undine's connection with contemporary fe male literature and the relevance of the siren tale today. Andersen worked with a developing form, the literary folk tale,' or short story, as we can think of it, in which his Romantic role models were interested. The se writers "drew inspiration [] fr om the folktale, and were interested in developing the psychological, symbolical, and even satiric aspects of a literary genre of folktale.'" 72 In contrast, the stories of Andersen's early contemporaries, the Grimm brothers, "were merely recorded, in anthr opological fashion, orally transmitted folktales." 73 Sven Rossel, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 72 Pa tricia L. Conroy, "The Art of Hans Christian Andersen's Tales and Stories" in Tales and Stories xxx. 73 Lederer Kiss 94


! 33 in the introduction to Tales and Stories, maintains that this format provided Andersen with a framework that enabled him to solidify his style: "Here he found what he had previously lacked, t he short form and firm structure." 74 Here Andersen found his niche as a writer, working with a form that he could improve upon and "master," a hybrid form, in which he saw infinite potential for creativity: The tale is the most extensive realm of poetry, r anging from the blood drenched graves of the past to the pious legends of a child's picture book, absorbing folk literature and art literature; to me it is the representation of all poetry, and the one who masters it must be able to put into it the tragic, the comic, the na•ve, irony and humor, having here the lyrical note as well as the childish narrative and the language of describing nature at his service. 75 While Andersen wrote for a young audience and tailored the diction and sentence structure to res emble the spoken word, he remembered the parents who would be listening as well; his tales fused all these elements of art, folk, and fable together, so that they could function on multiple levels within a single reading. 76 An irony of the fairy tale is tha t it has a reputation as fantastical and eccentric an old wives' tale' with a didactic function meant only for children, while in fact these stories often contain poignant social commentary and can serve as a mode of remembrance and/or resistance to oppre ssion experienced by the tellers and/or their communities. 77 The Little Mermaid goes beyond that to a revealing level of cultural unconscious, to the site of seemingly opposing impulses: the various psychological and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 74 Sven H. Rossel, "Introduction" to Tales and Stories, xxv 75 Ibid., xxviii. (Rossel quotes Andersen). 76 Frank, "The Real H. C. An dersen" in Stories 14: Frank also credits him with creating a written form of informal Danish, rather than using the king's Danish or the Germanic Danishfavored by the literary establishment." 77 Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde : on fairy tale s and their tellers (New York: Noonday Press, 1994), Chapters 2 3, p.12 50. See: the discussion of orality and wives' tales. It is interesting, when examining the gender politics at stake in this iteration of the mermaid figure to note that, while this is a male authored text, the vehicle used the fairy tale form was often a female mode of communication. I would like to keep this in mind in my later discussion of Wide Sargasso Sea


! 34 social battles recorded and then erased in a so called child's tale.' 78 As Marina Warner writes in From the Beast to the Blonde : The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth. Like pardon tales', written to the king to win a reprieve from sentence of death, fairy tales sue for mercy. 79 The Little Mermaid as a polemical response to Undine symbolically retains more parallels to real life trauma and transition than does its pre decessor I will contend that The Little Mermaid, in its compacted form, functions as a stylized, ideological alternative to Undine In this context, it is helpful to examine the underlying conflicts in the tales that arise and seem to disappear, noted a nd erased, but still marked at the site of the text. As a strategy for reading, this approach will allow me to examine those elements which may appear to be paradoxical, incongruous or unresolved within the story, in order to understand what issues from U ndine and elsewhere are at stake in Andersen's The Little Mermaid Silencing/Erasure Although Andersen's tale notably diverged from its predecessor, it retains many similarities as well. To see where it deviates and what surfaces in the wake of these di fferences, we can begin by comparing how the texts treat the issue of subjectivity as seen through characterization and the representation of speech/song. De la Motte FouquŽ's titular character "Undine" is extremely vocal and energetic. Undine's proper n ame is that of the water people; yet while she stands as a sign of her race, she differs !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 78 Rossel, introduction to Tales and Stories xxvii: "It is characteristic of Andersen's tales and stories that one idea evokes its counterpart, and this duality in his mental and spiritual make up is recognizable in all his works. The tales deal with optimism and (italic) pessimism." 79 Warner, Marina. Beast to the Blonde 225


! 35 from the little mermaid in that she elected to retain this name, which was given to her by her original parents. The old fisherman who found her wanted to name her "D orothea" for he "had once heard that it meant [ sic ], a gift of God. 80 Even though the priest at first would not hear of such "a heathenish name," the little girl eventually wins him over and is baptized "Undine." 81 Undine opts to preserves her true nature through her name and is baptized with it, thus sanctioning the name and the nonhuman race it represents by the law of the church. With the refusal of the name "Dorothea," the text also implies that Undine knows she is not a gift from God, but very resolu tely from the Fae, the fairy folk' or nature spirits. This baptism places her within the human Christian community, but it does not negate her elemental origins. The retention of her name indicates a resistance to the type of transformation necessary to be human, and it foreshadows her devastating return to the waters. Like most siren figures, Undine has a beautiful singing voice, which she retains throughout the tale. She uses it to expose the truth, as when she reveals Bertalda's real parentage in a s ong she performs for Bertalda's name day feast. 82 When she weds Huldbrand, she tells him of her origins, insisting that he know before they continue on to his home in the city: No, there, opposite to me! I will read my sentence in your eyes, before your li ps speak [.] You must know, my loved one, that there are beings in the elements whi ch almost appear like mortals [] a vast family of water spirits live in the lakes and streams and brooks. In resounding domes of crystal [ ... ] these latter spirits find t heir beautiful abode; [....] Those, however, who dwell there, are very fair and lovely to behold, and for the most part, are more beautiful than human beings. Many a fisherman has been so fortunate as to surprise some tender mermaid, as she rose above the waters and sang. He !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 80 Baron Friedrich de la Motte FouquŽ Undine and Other Tales (London: Leipzig, 1867), 17 81 Ibid. 82 Ibid. 62


! 36 would then tell afar of her beauty, and such wonderful beings have been given the name of Undines. You, however, are now actually beholding an Undine [.] Our condition would be far superior to that of other human beings, for human beings we call ourselves, being similar to them in form and culture but there is one evil peculiar to us. We and our like in the other elements, vanish into dust, and pass away, body and spirit, so that not a vestige of us remains behind; and when you m ortals hereafter awake to a purer life, we remain with the sand [ ] Hence we have also no souls; the element moves us, and is often obedient to us while we live, though it scatters us to dust when we die; and we are merry, without aught having to grieve u s merry as the nightingales and little gold fishes and other pretty children of nature. But all things a spire to be higher than they are. 83 Undine asserts herself as representative of her people; her manner and attitude toward life, pre soul, are like them, and her name is that of all those who fall into the category of "such wonderful beings." Undine suggests that although her people are otherwise "superior," they lack souls, which are something to be desired and aspired to a necessary rung on the ladd er between heaven and earth. Undine tells Huldbrand everything he ever needs to know about her world and her uncle's powers, about the danger the knight would be in should he be unfaithful to her, and how to avoid it. She issues warnings to him and the priest, Father Heilmann, through dreams, and even speaks to Huldbrand when she goes to take his life. Throughout the entire story she speaks, in an attempt to communicate to commune with both humans and elementals. Unfortunately, this does not guarantee or lead to success or salvation; Undine is fated to fail. The titular character of The Little Mermaid, on the other hand, remains known to the reader that way: forever locked into a prepubescent, anonymous and half torso, half tailed existence. She has n o other name than the diminutive title, even though in the realm of the sea, she is distinguished by her beautiful singing voice. This lack lends to a !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 83 FouquŽ Undine 4 8 9.


! 37 sense of universality, but also of an archetype, which, as Marina Warner astutely warns, has repercussio ns: When history falls away from a subject, we are left with Otherness, and all its power to compact enmity, recharge it and recirculate it. An archetype is a hollow thing, but a dangerous one, a figure or image which through usage has been uncoupled from the circumstances which brought it into being, and goes on spreading false consciousness. 84 Andersen's tale at points seems to waver between exposing this tendency and perpetuating it. Many of Andersen's characters retain generic names or titles, such as "The Little Match Girl," which points most strongly to that trend in fairy tales that prefers to code characters through their function, specific traits, or familial relationships. But that said, this refusal to give the heroine a proper Christian nam e excludes her from true subjectivity, for in naming lies power. 85 The little mermaid traded her tongue and tail for a human form in her initial bargain with the sea witch. The witch will not accept less than the little mermaid's best attribute her power of speech, her ability to assert her subjectivity: But you must also pay me, said the witch, and it is no small thing that I demand! You have the most beautiful voice of all down here at the bottom of the sea, and you probably think that you'll be able to enchant him with it. But that voice you must give to me! I want the best thing you possess in return for my precious potion. 86 After the sea witch cuts out her tongue, the little mermaid swims to shore and takes the potion. From then on, she is able to communicate with her eyes and other physical attributes. Yet while it may be that "her eyes spoke more deeply to the heart than the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 84 Warner, Beast to the Blonde 239. 85 Aside from the necessary brevity, it is perhaps the religious and eternal impl ications that dissuaded Andersen from naming his heroine, or including any ritual of naming. Baptism, as a Christian rite, often includes the bestowing of a name that symbolically recognizes a person's soul, new life and renewed purity, linking them to th e Church community. The reader only knows as much about the rules of Undine's universe as she tells us, but the thematic intersection with Christian dogma makes it hard to ignore what would appear to radically alter the ending of the story as we know it; U ndine's baptism should very well have separated her from her soul less kindred permanently, yet it does not. 86 Andersen, Tales and Stories 48


! 38 slave girl's song," 87 she never attempts any other form of communication beyond staring dolefully at the prince. This leav es the reader wondering: Is she mute and dumb? What silent proscription is there against any other form of communication for the little mermaid? 88 Warner hypothesizes that the heroine's silence in many fairy tales conforms to an underlying notion that "i n wordlessness lies sincerity." 89 She posits the importance of the silence, the words not spoken, in revealing the dutiful heroine's true character, continuing in this vein to ask: Do history and morals and values and prejudices interrupt the silence int errupt' hardly being the mot juste do they rather make up the silence? Is there something scrawled even on the page beyond metaphors, something ringing in the blankness of the heroine's true speech? [....] The muteness of fairytale protagonists exists in relation to the circumstances in which they are told; there is always a meaning, a lesson. 90 The explicit silencing of the little mermaid makes sense realistically, by the logic of her necessary conformation to the rules of the social order, but the narrator's silence surrounding the (would be) resulting internal emotional repercussions of her transformation and mutilation is disturbing. The tale does not address the mermaid's grief beyond the moment of her departure from her family or other than i n connection with her love for the prince. As a child's tale, it is understandable that there were simplifications, but as we know, Andersen meant for the story to be read on several levels. By creating a character with a dog like loyalty to her loved one, Andersen omitted some of her humanity.' Even as a mermaid, we still read her as mostly human enough to experience trauma from pain and self erasure. Instead, the little mermaid accepts her pain and bears it as her cross, wanting nothing more than to show the prince how much she loves him. We see !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 87 Andersen, Tales and Stories 51 88 Warner, Beast to the Blonde 398. 89 Ibid., 390 90 Ibid., 391 405


! 39 her as stalwart, pure hearted, and beautiful, yet she seems to lack a certain sentience, normally evidenced by vocalizing one's pain or grief by breaking the silence ; she exists in a paralysis of pain, a rep ressive space of static singularity of purpose. Earlier in the text, the little mermaid's sisters also sing, and their song has that mythological destructive power, although they do not intend harm. 91 In this story, the sisters do not realize what they a re doing, while the little mermaid does and makes things right. She saves the prince from drowning rather than endangering him with her song, and then willingly silences herself. The tale indicates that the seductive siren song is a misused or taboo powe r, and that the little mermaid's choice to give it up and maintain a purity of intentions is what allows her to attain a soul. Marina Warner reconnects this idea with the maternal aspect of the song and the threat to the subject, pointing to another way t hat, as I discussed in the first chapter, cultural fears are projected and then pacified: [T]he coupled image of voice and water also connects with another face of bliss, which may also have its being outside history, in the memory of the haven of the womb and in the first sounds of the mother's voice [.... Fairy tales] also often record that voice's obliteration, and never more so than in the tales of silenced mermaids. The anxiety about word music and its lure the fear of erasure by the sirens' spell ch anges character and temper down the centuries, but the stories, in the midst of celebrating their heroines and mourning their tragic fates, also often mete out punishment to them for their enchantments. The situation of engulfment and loss is reversed, an d the sirens, who threaten entanglement and erasure, are themselves done away with. 92 The mermaid enacts a decisive revision of the siren archetype through her self silencing that aligns with the ideology of the Christian patriarchal realm she wants to joi n. She cedes her power in order to submit to the prince's gaze; she does not object to becoming an object. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 91 Ande rsen, Tales and Stories, 39 92 Warner, Beast to Blonde 407


! 40 Transformation/Transition The little mermaid agrees to her silencing, just as she agrees to the pain of walking. After the loss of her tongue, s he is left with only her body to woo the prince: "But if you take my voice," said the mermaid, "what will I have left?" "Your lovely figure," said the witch, "your flowing movements, and your eloquent eyes. With them you can easily enchant a human heart" 93 Essentially, the girl is only as good as her parts; yet her song, which we can understand to signify her subjectivity and sexuality, has been taken. The mermaid's physical pain from losing her tongue is never mentioned; she only ever regrets that the pri nce cannot hear her sing, because she knows she sang the most beautifully of all her sisters: "Oh if only he knew that I have given away my voice for all eternity to be with him!" 94 The text appears to unconsciously erase this aspect of her trials. She con tinues on in pain, dancing more gracefully than anyone else while bearing this eternal injury; what's more, she is forced to do so mutely, a martyred mermaid. She willingly undergoes mutilation and silencing in a classic motif of self sacrifice that is pr evalent with female characters. 95 In contrast, Undine retains all her physical faculties and marries her beloved early on in the text. The two heroines are both stereotypically attractive females, except that the little mermaid has a tail and Undine doe s not. Undine is blonde, lithe, and beautiful, and her beauty is never at risk; she already has a human form. 96 The little mermaid has beautiful skin "as clear and delicate as a rose petal," eyes "as blue as the deepest sea," 97 and "long, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 93 Andersen, Tales and Stories 48 94 Ibid., 51. 95 Nadya Aisenberg, Ordinary Heroines: Transforming the Male Myth (New York: Continuum Publishing, 1994), 33. 96 See: Beast to the Blonde, 36. 97 Andersen, Tales and Stories 35


! 41 flowing hair." 98 B ut she also has a tail, and this, her grandmother tells her, is the main hindrance to assimilation with humans: The very thing that is so lovely here in the sea, your fishtail, they consider repulsive up there on the earth. They don't know any better! Up there one has to have two clumsy props, which they call legs, to be beautiful! 99 Whereas, in Undine this difference does not exist and any potential problem with physical integration has been erased, Andersen brings it to the forefront of his heroine's j ourney. Undine never struggles with the need for physical transformation i.e., transition to womanhood while Andersen's tale hints at the taboo aspects of female experience. 100 In this case, what may be marked is the awkwardness of puberty, the start of m enstruation, and the need to obscure one's difference the grotesque fish tail, which we can read as the mermaid's symbol for woman's Otherness.' The little mermaid's movement from the water to the land is painful, like menstrual cramps [or the fantasy of first intercourse]. This passage, and especially the grandmother's comment, recalls that repugnance that is a part of Kristeva's formulation of the abject which I identified briefly in Klimt's "Mermaids" (Fig 7): Loathing a n item of food, a piec e of fil th, waste, or dung [.] The repugnance, the retching that thrusts me to the side and turns m e away from defilement, sewage, and muck [ ] These bodily fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part o f death. T here, I am at the border of my condition as a living being. 101 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 98 Andersen, Tales and Stories 47. 99 Ibid., 45. 100 Nadya Aisenberg discusses how many of the aspects of female life have been excluded from literature, like details about their bodies and bodily processes, because they wer e taboo, and which have now become material for literary recuperation' by female writers 130 : "Representation of women by women is entering women's consciousness, and, much more s lowly, the literary canon." Andersen's text at least, hints at these proces ses, whereas Undine obscures them completely. 101 Kristeva, Horror 2 3


! 42 The female body specifically the maternal body and womb is connected with blood and death in patriarchal ideology, and thus is seen as that which we must push away, deny, in our atte mpt to keep on living. 102 In this case, the mermaid's very existence challenges that order and restricts her from joining it. She must deny her mermaid ness, her tail and her voice that would speak of her origins. She must, essentially, kill herself into art : submit her body to the subjection of sight, to the male gaze, to gain entrance to the prince's world. 103 Andersen represents the emotional and physical pain of this passage through the device of tail splitting. It grieves the little mermaid immensely to leave her family, although this emotion is still superseded by her desire for the prince : She could see her father's castle [ her family was] probably all asleep, but she dared not go to them now that she was mute and was going to leave them forever. I t was if her heart would break with grief. She stole into the garden, picked a flower from each of her sisters' flower beds, blew a thousand kisses toward the castle, and rose up through the dark blue sea. [....] The little mermaid drank the burning, sh arp potion, and it was as if a two edged sword were cutting through her delicate body. She fainted from the pain and lay as if dead. When the sun was shining on the sea, she awoke, and felt a stinging pain, but right in front of her stood the handsome yo ung prince. He fixed his coal black eyes upon her so that she had to lower her own, and then she saw that her fishtail was gone and she had the prettiest little white legs that any little girl could have. 104 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 102 Kristeva, Horror 3 4, 13, 54 55, 71 72. 103 I concur with Nadya Aisenberg's position that: "Women's gazes are socialized by the male gaze to be obedient to a particular line of visi on [....] The gaze can function as a weapon upholding inequality; to correct it means to change woman from the object viewed to woman the subject viewer" (63 4). How we should go about correcting it' remains to be seen; in the case of the mermaid tale, w e see how the song the mermaid's sexuality and power of argumentation, is repressed mermaids, like children (although for other reasons) are to be seen, but not heard. This, then is the most dangerous, most powerful, aspect for a siren, rather than her im age. Of course, this quandary is contained within her very biological nature, as a female who does not have any visual genitals, yet is supposed to represent beautiful femininity. Perhaps the corrections to be made' in regards to the gaze, must also incl ude a shift in focus (for lack of a metaphor that does not imply sight) to other senses, in narrative and by extension, life. Aisenberg continues her discussion of the "Woman/Sight" dynamic with the observation that: "Literary or visual representations wo rk both backward and forward; they arise from values and represent them, but they also solidify them by making them societal structures" (64). 104 Andersen, Tales and Stories, 49 50.


! 43 He finds the little mermaid by his castle, nak ed and shy, after she has swum to the shore and drunk the potion that splits her tail in two She faints from the pain then awakens face to face with him. 105 As for Undine, "pain" is largely emotional. She knows that it comes with being human, and starts crying after she receives her soul: an oft repeated action. 106 Tears function as a motif for human existence, for life on land with all its joys and sorrows. 107 These tears are both signs of her newfound humanity and yet, as water, they also eternally evidenc e her elemental origins. Tears, in The Little Mermaid are the province of humans, but suffering is for anyone: "But a mermaid has no tears, so she suffers all the more." 108 Even with a human body, the mermaid cannot cry until she dies, at which point she feels tears for the first time. 109 In Undine pain is implicit in personhood, whereas for the little mermaid, pain is a part of becoming a person although we do not know if she would have continued on in physical torment if she had succeeded in marriage. P erhaps the text's silence on this issue, too, marks the place of the unknown future the uncertainty of what is on the other side of transition. In these tales, this transition typically happens by means of joining oneself with a man in marriage. It depen ds, at least initially, upon a reciprocated dialogue, on !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 105 Erica Hateley, "Of Tails and Tempests: Feminine Sexuality and Shakespear ean Children's Texts in Borrowers and Lenders, the Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. A ccessed: 11/8/2012. Stable URL: This article discusses this moment specifically as menarche, although there have bee n other interpretations. 106 Fass, "Artist's Quest for a Soul," 294: "there is no great difference between wedding and weeping, and he who does not wilfully blind himself, has to recognize that." 107 Ibid. The article discusses at length the difference between the fairy realm as a place of superficial, empty eternal pleasure versus the human realm as more precious because of how all joy is still tinged with suffering. 108 Andersen, Tales and Stories, 39. 109 Ibid., 52, 57.


! 4 4 Huldbrand and the prince's recognition of the girls. As we have seen, both tales evidence an ideology about the power of the gaze; Undine wants to read her sentence in Huldbrand's eyes believing tha t response to be the truest, the most instinctively authentic and the little mermaid tries to show the prince her love through her eyes. While the prince reads this gaze as adoring love, it is not enough to deter his false beliefs about an unknown savior that he awaits. The Little Mermaid implicitly privileges sight over sound as the dominant sense. Although this quality of looking' to know someone's soul may be a literary trope, there is an irony in the prince's inability to see the mermaid's (romant ic) love, which could point to a failure of sight or an unconscious refusal to love the mermaid back as a person: an interesting parallel to Circe's warning to Odysseus that his crew should ignore the sirens' song. Perhaps, then, it is that old fear of go ing too far as Barbara Fass observes that: "In both stories a reality principle embodied in mortal beings proves to be more compelling than the pleasures of a seemingly more joyous existence." 110 The little mermaid's prince is almost willfully blind; even t hough he can read' the little mermaid's gaze, he somehow does not intuitively recognize her as his savior, because he is steadfastly in love with an image of the girl that he thinks saved him, and thus rendered less at fault when he marries the wrong girl The reader sees that Huldbrand, on the other hand, is well aware of his own guilt when he goes to his death willingly. 111 Ironically, Undine can speak all she wants, but !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 110 Barbara Fa ss, "Artist's Quest for a Sou l," 293. 111 FouquŽ, Undine 103. This passage will be discussed more later.


! 45 her protests are in vain and the ending remains the same. The little mermaid cannot speak at all, but she too is fated to lose her loved one. 112 The desire for a man and soul equates to the desire to ascend from the sea to the land, from the natural world to the human order. To do so, each girl must separate herself from the world of w ater, her home. The gendered separation of the two worlds is more obvious in The Little Mermaid than in Undine : the feminine sea realm versus the patriarchal land of the prince. 113 The little mermaid's grandmother makes it clear to her that she must marry a man in order to obtain a soul: Only if a human being held you so dear that you were more to him than father and mother; only if he was attached to you with all his mind and heart and let the priest place his right hand in yours with a promise of fait hfulness now and for all eternity, then his soul would pass over into your body, and you would also share in the happiness of mankind. He would give you a soul and still keep his own. 114 The little mermaid hopes to become the Eve to the prince's Adam, h er soul grafted from his heart. Through these motives, Andersen rewrites the siren that pulled the man under the water so that she now desires to walk above it. The little mermaid makes the move from her maternal home to the prince's castle, and achiev es such closeness with him that "the prince said she was to stay forever, and she was allowed to sleep outside his door on a velvet cushion." 115 Yet their relationship somehow lacks a romantic intimacy. Once she cuts her tail into legs, she cannot go back. Whereas Undine is still connected to the water because it is everywhere, once the mermaid leaves the sea she can never return. The functions of the opposing spaces !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 112 This issue will arise again in Wide Sargasso Sea but we will see how Rochester's refusal to read or for that matter, to listen do not render him blameless. 113 While the little mer maid does have a father, the only relative she speaks directly to in the story is her grandmother. We get the sense that the grandmother is more present and/or effective in the little mermaid's daily life. The mother, typically, is absent. In general, th e sea is characterized as a feminine space it is the mermaid's motherland. 114 Andersen, Tales and Stories, 45. 115 Ibid., 51.


! 46 remain the same, however. Although Undine's wedding takes place in a spirit filled forest away from the city and kingdom, we see that the her relationship with Huldbrand does not sustain well once beyond the woods, the sanctioned realm of Undine's uncle and the water spirits. Ritual/Magic Undine must marry, but it is only a marker of what s he must, and does, achieve: "the deepest bond with one of the mortal race" as she had told Huldbrand. Undine attains the requisite bond with Huldbrand and thus, magically, receives her soul shortly after they marry. Father Heilmann, the priest who offici ates the ceremony only serves to make their marriage official. After the ceremony is completed, Undine returns to her childish tricks and behavior, until the priest attempts to silence her: My fair young maiden, no one indeed can look at you without deli ght; but remember so to attune your soul betimes, that it may ever harmonize wit h that of your wedded husband. Soul! said Undine, laughing; that sounds pretty enough, and may be a very edifying and useful caution for most people. But when one hasn't a soul at all, I beg you, what is there to attune then? And that is my case. 116 The one person that the spirited, pre soul Undine treats with the most reverence and respect is Father Heilmann; 117 although she does this to get her way, the representatives o f God pointedly remain the only ones who inspire any decorum in her behavior. Undine was expressly sent to the mortal realm to marry a human; her parents even sewed wedding rings in her dress to prepare her for the special day. 118 The prospects of each hero ine depend upon someone (or some God like entity) who sanctions her passage through a (church) ritual. The little mermaid never makes it this far because the prince, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 116 FouquŽ Undine 42 117 Ibid., 36 118 Ibid. 40


! 47 who has that power, rejects her. In tandem with the church/state figure, both girls have a magical advisor or guardian that initially helps them to achieve their desire to ascend. After the ceremony, the readers (and the characters present) find that Undine's uncle KŸhleborn had been watching through the window the whole time. 119 He is the wi tness for the fairy realm: his presence gives the wedding the Undine seal of approval. The reader does not know if this is an explicit part of the way that the soul attainment process works, but there is a sense that KŸhleborn must notarize the wedding so that it is valid in both the mortal and fae realms. This connection with KŸhleborn ultimately proves to be problematic for Undine's desired transition. KŸhleborn's presence serves as a constant reminder of Undine's O therness,' her fae nature. KŸhlebor n acts as an intermediary between Undine and her parents, her people. He first helps to bring her and the knight together, but when Bertalda enters the picture, he becomes an antagonistic force, playing tricks and causing mischief in arbitrary fashion typ ical of the fae in literature. KŸhleborn is the specter of Undine's true identity, her inner essence that she cannot completely reject; he performs magic that often forces her to counteract it with her own powers. With her marriage, she attempts to divo rce herself from her origins: I have nothing more to do with you." "Ho, ho," laughed the stranger, "what is this immensely grand marriage you have made, that you don't know your own relations any longer? Have you forgotten your uncle KŸhleborn, who so fa ithfully bore you on his back through this region?" "I beg you, nevertheless," replied Undine, "not to appear in my presence again. I am now afraid of you; and suppose my husband should learn to avoid me when he sees me in such strange company and with suc h relations!" "My little niece," said KŸhleborn, "you must not forget that I am with you here as a guide; the spirits of earth that haunt this place might otherwise play some o f their stupid pranks with you 120 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 119 Ibid., 41 120 FouquŽ Undine 54


! 48 Undine, having gained a soul, is now afraid o f her otherworldly uncle, out of mortal fear, but also out of self preservation for her newly found position. KŸhleborn receives this plea angrily and will continue to sabotage Undine and Huldbrand's life together until it is sundered. Undine's world is stigmatized; it is not a higher, holier realm in the text, as beautiful as it may be. Undine does not face the same painful transition as the little mermaid; yet the truth of her nature remains to prove that she can never truly transition. When Huldbr and eventually does reject her, angered at the extent of KŸhleborn's tricks, he asks Undine: Have you then still a connection with them? In the name of all the witches, remain among them with your presents, and leave us m ortals in peace, you sorceres s! Poor Undine gazed at him with fixed but tearful eyes, her hand still stretched ou t, as when she had offered her beautiful present so lovingly to Bertalda. She then began to weep more and more violently, like a dear innocent child, bitterly afflict ed. 121 The elementals can change shape; Undine does this in order to rescue Bertalda at one point, and later KŸhleborn does it to scare the crew on board the ship. Because of this display of power, Huldbrand fears and resents Undine's "mad kindred 122 As M ichel Foucault points out, "Water and madness have long been [reciprocally] linked in the dreams of European man." 123 Water is fluid, uncontrollable, and tempestuous: the creatures whose very essence is water (and by extension, the natural world) are typical ly characterized as fickle, unreasonable mad One of the main binaries that both texts support (and thus, illuminates) is that of the magic of the natural realm (pagan religions) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 121 Fouque, Und ine 90 91 122 Ibid., 89 123 Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization, 12. continues: "Finally, neglecting an immense literature that stretches from Ophelia to the Lorelei, let us note [an interpretation of] madness as the manifestation in man of an obscure and aquatic element, a dark disorder, a moving chaos, the seed and death of all things, which opposes the mind' s luminous and adult stability "(13).


! 49 and madness, in contrast with civilization (Christianity) and reason. Simil arly, the sea witch to whom the little mermaid goes for aid can be seen as KŸhleborn's double. She is a figure of the castrating woman: single, with "black blood," and multiple snake like animal familiars, overtly sexual and grotesque. 124 By being described thus, the transgressive sea witch is set up as the antithesis to the little mermaid. The little mermaid's first view of her is in her home, a space far removed from the princess's kingdom: In the center of the clearing was a house built of the white bo nes of shipwrecked humans. There sat the sea witch letting a toad eat from her mouth, just the way human beings let a little canary eat sugar. She called the hideous, fat water snakes her little chickens and let them wri the on her big spongy breasts. 125 The witch i s a perversion of the maternal g oddess figure. 126 She serves the same purpose as KŸhleborn, but is demonized less ambiguously than he: as the powerful pagan sorceress, her methods cannot be given credence ethically or spiritually. She exists as an inversion of the little mermaid's angelic figure, a cautionary reminder of excessive sexuality and female power the figure of an animalistic inner essence, which may lie within the little mermaid herself. Our heroines, however, willingly domesticates herself, which clearly sets her apart from the witch. As the sea witch says: "I want the best thing you possess in return for my precious potion. Why, I must put some of my own blood into it so that the potion will be as sharp !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 124 Bendix, Regina. "Seashell Bra and Happy End: Disney's Transformations of "The Little Mermaid"." Fabula 3 4 (1993): 281 290. Nadya Aisenberg, Ordinary Heroines : "For either sex, the grotesque is whatever exceeds conventional laws and limits or departs from the ideal form in which beauty is cast. The aesthetic view is exclusionary, since we use it to distingu ish the beautiful from the ugly, innocent from experienced, and so on" (80). 125 Andersen, Tales and Stories 47. 126 Aisenberg, Ordinary Heroines 92 7. This is a general discussion of the significance of witches in fairy tales.


! 50 as a two edged sword." 127 Th e potion predicates a blood ritual: dark magic. Her magic is not a beautiful thing; nor is it given out of love and kindness. Never mind the fact that she speaks the truth when she cautions: "I know what you want, all right [ ] It's very foolish of you, but all the same you shall have your way, for it will bring you misery, my pretty princess!" 128 The little mermaid will have her way, at the set price. Undine cannot help her nature and continually has to return to it in some way, whereas the little mermai d eventually denies the sea witch's magic, and for this reason, she is able to ascend. Undine herself is branded a witch, because of the magic she must perform and because she is tainted by dint of association; her discourse with her uncle is seen as int ercourse: "She is an enchantress!" cried Bertalda, a witch, who has intercourse with evil spirits She acknowledges it herself." "I do not," said Undine, with a whole heaven of innocence and con fidence beaming in her eyes. "I am no witch; only loo k at me!" 129 Although the other guests at the name day feast do not think this way, this and other moments plant the seed of discontent between Undine, Bertalda, and Huldbrand. For Undine, a soul means goodness, love, and humility; these qualities are inh erited. She comes to realize, however, that the qualities that she associated with all humans are not, in fact, inherent. Undine herself exhibits, arguably, the best of human nature. Even Huldbrand thought so: "If I have given her a soul," he could not help saying to himself, "I have indeed given her a better one than my own." 130 It is only later, with another visit from !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 127 Andersen, Tales and Stories 48 128 Ibid., 47 129 FouquŽ Undine 64. 130 Ibid., 66


! 51 KŸhleborn and time spent together that Huldbrand and Bertalda begin to distance themselves from Undine: [Bertalda] gazed upon Undine w ith reverence, but she could resist a sense of dread that seemed to come between her and her friend, and at their evening repast she could not but wonder, how the knight could behave so lovingly and kindly towards a being who appeared to her, since the discovery she had just made, more of a phantom than a human being. 131 The twelfth chapter ends with these thoughts and essentially articulates the mortal attitude towards Undine. These words foreshadow what Undine is to eventually become when the marriag e fails and she must kill Huldbrand: a shade, a weeping fountain phantom. 132 She gains a soul, but she is never able to ascend beyond the world where she was born and the way in which mortals view her. She gains access to eternal suffering, and in some se nse remains more human than the other mortals. Death/ Desire Undine's desire is initially fulfilled; she and Huldbrand fall in love, get married, and live happily until Bertalda comes between them and Huldbrand rejects his wife. Even then, Undine's desi re becomes sublimated as concern for his safety. It is really Bertalda's vanity and the mortals' desire for each other that results in Huldbrand's death, but it is Undine's physical desire that textually effects the knight's demise. The last time she kis ses him is the last time he breathes: Undine had warned Huldbrand that he must stay faithful to her, or that he would be in danger from the elementals. 133 When !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 131 Ibid., 70 132 See: Carole Silver, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon': Victorians and Fairy Brides," in Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Vol. 6, No. 2, Woman and Nation (University of Tulsa, Au tumn, 1987). Accessed: 25/11/2012. Stable URL: See the discussion of the broken proscription trend in fairy tales, p. 290. 133 FouquŽ Undine 76


! 52 Huldbrand breaks the proscription, however, he goes to his death almost happily, freed of his gui lt: "They have opened the spring," said she softly, and now I am here, and you must die." He felt in his paralyzed heart that it could not be otherwise, but covering i s eyes with his hands he said: Do not make me mad with terror in my hour of death. If you wear a hideous face behind that veil, do not raise it, but take m y life, and let me see you not." "Alas!" : replied the figure, "will you then not look upon me once more? I am as fair as when you wooed me on the promontory." "Oh, if it were so!" sigh ed Huldbrand, and if I m ight die in your fond embrace!" Most gl adly, my loved one," said she; and throwing her veil back, her lovely face smiled forth divinely beautiful. Trembling with love and the approach of death, she kissed him with a holy kiss; bu t not relaxing her hold she pressed him fervently to her, and wept as if she would weep away her soul. Tears rushed into the knight's eyes, and seemed to surge through his heaving breast, till at length his breathing ceased, and he fell back softly back f rom the beautiful arms of Undine, upon the pillows of his couch a corpse. "I have wept him to death" said she [.] 134 This last sentence had been foreshadowed with a similar phrase. She has kissed him and killed him, much in the style of the traditional siren lore. Huldbrand drowns in Undine's tears; his engulfment and dissolution is the death of the subject and the triumph of the elemen tal world, the triumph of the O ther.' In the case of the little mermaid, desire remains unsatisfied because it is n ever articulated and then it is sublimated. As for Undine, it is subsumed beneath duty and expressed as subservience. Female desire is explicitly equated with death. "Seduction" is not a word we see in The Little Mermaid because this is exactly what the little mermaid never accomplishes. To give in to desire is to give in to death: "this is what I want!" said the little mermaid, and turned pale as death" 135 when the witch warned her that she would die and turn into foam should the prince marry another. M arina Warner perceptively notes that "The Homeric fantasy that the siren brings death finds echoes in Andersen's morbid reversal at the end [of the tale] when the heroine dies; to defeat death by sexual !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 134 FouquŽ, Undine, 1 03 135 Andersen, Tales and Stories, 48


! 53 surrender, [Andersen] himself deals death to the prin ciple of desire." 136 The little mermaid initially kisses the prince while he is unconscious before she leaves him on the shore. He does not know of this, however, and whenever they later kiss when together, it is he that kisses her "red lips" affectionatel y. She has red flowers in her garden and long flowing hair, both symbols of sexuality, 137 yet her desire goes unacknowledged and unfulfilled; the text represses these impulses in favor of only explicitly violent moments of would be pleasure. The prince ne ver knows that it was the little mermaid who rescued him; he sleeps soundly, believing his rescuer to be the girl from the temple who found him on the beach. The little mermaid cannot kill him; it is this ignorance on his part that contributes to her deci sion. 138 She throws the knife her sisters gave her out to sea, and jumps in after it, her body dissolving into foam at the moment of dawn, while her spirit enters an intermediary realm. Once she ascends to the realm of the daughters of the air, she gains a heavenly, purer form. 139 On her way out into the currents of the air with the rest of the d aughters,' she invisibl [ y ] kissed the bride's forehead [and] smiled at the prince," 140 signaling to the reader that all is beatifically forgiven. Her desire for the prince is expressed as forgiveness and self sacrifice. The attainment of a soul depends, in Undine, on the validation of a man, and initially the universe of The Little Mermaid requires this too. The "love" both men give the girls is a measure of her self worth. Ironically, those with the most power (and thus, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 136 Warner Beast to Blond e 402 137 Lederer, Kiss, 35. 138 Andersen, Tales and Stories 56 139 It should be noted that Andersen originally titled this story, "Daughter s of the Air." Keeping this in mind, the surprise ending comes as less of a surprise, and the action drives m ore effectively to this point. The fact that Andersen opted to change the name of the tale, however, complicates this; we read the story with its title in mind, which does not allow for much possibility of transformation. 140 Andersen, Tales and St ories, 5 7


! 54 responsibility) in the story worlds are the knight, Huldbrand, and the prince. Unlike the prince, Huldbrand already knows what Undine is, but fools himself into excuses and rationalizations wh en his feelings towards her change and he grows closer to Bertalda: This comes from like not being linked with like, from a man uniting himself with a mermaid!" Excusing himself as we all like to do, he would often think indeed as he said this: "I did not really know that she was sea maiden, mine is the misfortune, that every step I take is disturbed and haunted by the wild caprices of her r ace, but mine is not the fault." By thought such as these, he feltalmost an animosity towards Undine. 141 It becomes a matter of fighting against one's own nature a more implicit fight for the knight than for the prince. These rejections, more or less caused by ignorance or self deception, evidence the futility of inter marriage between the two races. Doubl es/Domestication The little mermaid eventually fails in her quest to marry the prince because of an interceding figure: the girl who found the prince on the shore after the little mermaid saved him and left him there. This girl is the little mermaid's fo il and mortal double: she is a chaste princess who, up until she marries the prince, lived all her days in a "holy temple, where she learned all the royal virtues." 142 When the little mermaid first sets eyes on this girl, "she had to admit that she had never seen a more exquisite creature. Her skin was fine and delicate, and behind her long dark eyelashes smiled a pair of dark blue, loyal eyes 143 She is the only one the prince really ever hoped to marry because he thought she saved him; she is the only one who could ever ruin the little mermaid's prospects, and curiously, she appears to be her doppelganger, complete with the same, luminous loyalty of a dog emitting from her pupils. The girls in The Little Mermaid are, in a sense, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 141 FouquŽ Undine 87 142 Andersen, Tales and Stories, 54 143 Ibid.


! 55 interchangeable: women that fit into the economy that exchanges them as objects or pets. The text points to this, perhaps not unconsciously; this could be another reason for the little mermaid's lack of a personality. Similarly, Undine is Bertalda's changeling, and Bertalda is in some ways Undine's mortal half. She is the real human daughter of the fisherman and his wife and Huldbrand's first love. It is she who sent Huldbrand off on the initial quest that left him stranded in the forest where Undine and her foster parents reside d. Initially, Bertalda and Undine bond, but eventually Bertalda comes between Undine and Huldbrand and manipulatively sways the knight's affections. It is she who eventually orders the fatal stone to be removed from the fountain that unleashes Huldbrand' s fate his death at Undine's hands. Bertalda becomes Huldbrand's widow when he dies, although she understands that Undine and he are together in death and accepts this, just as Undine, ever the humble wife, acquiesced to Huldbrand's obvious favoritism of Bertalda. 144 Although Bertalda is posed as Undine's rival and there are moments of strife, there is still an erasure, in both Undine and The Little Mermaid, of visible rivalry between the heroines and their doubles. It is subsumed beneath an altruistic not ion of patience and peace that invokes the values of feminine acceptance and submission imposed within patriarchal families, where female rivalries often existed because of the threat of replacement that women posed to each other within the familial hierar chy. 145 Undine is haunted, in a way, by Bertalda, and eventually Undine herself becomes a phantom. Likewise, there is a sense that the little mermaid is attempting to usurp a space and position that do not belong to her. The girl from the temple, her doub le, is substituted for !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 144 FouquŽ Undine, 106 76. 145 See: Warner's From the Beast to the Blonde discussion of female rivalry, 238.


! 56 her so that the patriarchal order is restored. There can only be one wife for the prince, and she must be human: the elemental world cannot win. Both heroines are haunted by other versions visions of themselves who are more perfect or imperfect, by virtue of their so called humanity.' In both cases, some notion of Fate' steps in to determine the endings, articulated by narrators who address the audience directly. Before the narrator announces his existence in Undine, he express es a curious sentiment: But wonder not, oh man, if events always turn out different to what we have intended. That malicious power, lurking for our destruction, gladly lulls its chosen victim to sleep with sweet songs and golden delusions; wh ile on the other hand the rescuing messenger from Heaven often knocks sharply and alarmingly at our door. 146 Although the narrator later empathizes with Undine, we understand the "malicious power" to refer to Undine and her kind, the danger to Huldbrand 's realm. Heaven, it seems, is not in favor of the marriage, even though the good priest Heilmann had already officiated over their union. This mention of sweet songs and golden delusions also invokes the sense of a spell, of the magical possession of a victim.' In Andersen's ending, the narrator turns his attention to the children who are presumably reading/listening, in order to instruct them as to how they can help the little mermaid attain her soul: You have suffered and endured and have risen t o the world of the spirits of the air. Now by good deeds you can create an immortal soul for yours elf after three hundred years" [.] W e might even come there sooner," whispered one [spirit]. We float unseen into the houses of human beings where ther e are children, and for each day that we find a good child who makes his parents happy and deserves their love, our period of trial is shortened by God [.] But if we see a naughty and nasty child, we must weep tears of sorrow, and each tear adds a day to our period of trial! 147 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 146 FouquŽ Undine 87 147 Andersen, Tales and Stories 58.


! 57 The invocation of the deus ex machina "God from the machine" device violates the reader's sense of tragedy, of the order set up by the rules of the little mermaid's universe. It is here that we see what Andersen meant in his resp onse to Undine : his desire that the mermaid follow her own divine path' disrupts her expected disintegration in a watery grave and return to obscure origins. While Undine's father prescribed that she fall in love with a human, as a means to obtaining an immortal soul, the little mermaid fell in love with the prince by chance, and chose to die rather than to use the witch's blade and kill him. In this sense, Andersen's mermaid followed a more divine' path than Undine. Her journey mimics a woman's withi n society, in its stages of movement: from the maternal womb/water to a first sight of another space and person, to the land and from there to the sky, the male' realms of intellect and transcendence. Her decisions are what distinguish her from Undine, w ho remains a pawn of the fae, her fate pre ordained. The mermaid's moral and loving sacrifice allows her to win another chance at attaining a soul. In her article, "Of Tails and Tempests," Erica Hateley posits that: "Indeed, [FouquŽ's] story thematizes t he attempt to domesticate a water spirit; that the attempt fails may have influenced Andersen's construction of a self domesticating mermaid." 148 Undine could not be domesticated' by human laws, whereas the little mermaid chooses to submit herself to a mor e human sense of morality than that of her siren sisters, who wanted her to kill the prince. Because of this decision, she accepts her death and gives herself up to the sea, only to be spirited away into the air. Although she does not achieve integration into the patriarchal human world, the mermaid's rejection of her world, and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 148 Erica Hateley, "Of Tai ls and Tempests: Feminine Sexuality and Shakespearean Children's Texts


! 58 her subsequent domestication, allow for the spiritualization of her path her resurrection in a liminal spirit realm. In advancing to the level of the d aughters', the little mer maid may gain a chance at heaven, but in our minds, she still remains "the little mermaid": stuck on the threshold of true subjectivity because she never becomes a human woman. She ascends to the air, but will never know the secrets of womanhood, and thus remains chaste and innocent free, yet ignorant. Andersen saw this as a way to retell the siren tale, to Christianize the siren, to remove her flaws and baptize her through sacrificial death in her origins.


! 59 Chapter 3: Wide Subjective Spac e Now that we have explored versions and revisions of the siren and her tale in the 19th century, it is time to turn to the 20th, to a text that we can read as a new embodiment of this tradition. Jean Rhys initially conceived of the novel Wide Sargasso Sea as a response to Charlotte Bront‘'s classic, Jane Eyre because she felt that one of its pivotal characters was silent when she should have had a voice. Mad Bertha,' has come to symbolize the 19 th century trend of thematic madness in female authored literature. 149 In Jane Eyre she is the unknown presence: Edward Rochester's dark, hidden secret whose very existence initially prevents him from marrying Jane, indirectly causes his blindness, and almost results in his death. Yet we do not know who Berth a' really is. She is infamous but remains unfamiliar. Whereas in Jane Eyre we only understand Bertha as a phantom, in Rhys' tale, we meet her in her youth as Antoinette Cosway, the Creole daughter of once wealthy plantation owners on the island of Jama ica in the 1830's. There are parts of Jane Eyre that directly inform Wide Sargasso Sea and make it a plausible rereading of a character who was too one sided for recog nition as a real human being: a lay figure repulsive which does not matter, and not onc e alive which does" as Rhys emphasized. 150 So, even though Rhys published Wide Sargasso Sea more than a century after Bront‘'s novel, we still can understand it as a suggested prequel to Jane Eyre 151 Because of this, the text !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 149 Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's influential book, The Madwoman in the Attic, directly refers to Bertha' and explores this literary trend. 150 Jean Rhys "Selected Letters" in Wid e Sargasso Sea ed. Judith L. Raiskin (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), 136. This is a Critical Edition of the novel, which I will use mainly for the footnotes or essay sections; when I do, I will identify it as "Rhys Sea Norton," while my citations from the text will be from the Penguin edition. The quote is verbatim. 151 Judith L. Raiskin, "Preface," in Rhys, Sea, Norton, xi.


! 60 and its heroine are bound to pr e determined fates haunted by known outcomes and doubles. Bertha haunts Jane Eyre and echoes of Jane's tale reverberate throughout Wide Sargasso Sea What we find when Bertha/Antoinette is enabled to speak for herself if at least partially is that she wa s not a mad marionette, and that no single perspective tells a complete tale. Antoinette figures as a reference to the Bertha of Jane Eyre but she mainly became Rhys' own heroine, and a sometime authorial double in her feelings of displacement and aliena tion, in her quest for meaning and identity in a world that did not recognize her as one thing or another. 152 By conceding Antoinette her subjectivity, her siren song, we ca n arrive at a more empathetic understanding of her; consequently, we must also recog nize the multifold aspects of other characters and recognize the Other' in dialogue as a subject. Up until now, I have mainly examined male authored images and variations of the siren. In this chapter, I will be reading Wide Sargasso Sea as a historic ally contextualized and female realized siren tale (which is responding to another female authored text) by analyzing the same issues as in the previous chapter, in order to demonstrate how these aspects have been invested with new life in a novel that exp oses the historical significance that they carry. My discussion of the author's background and structural analysis will serve to inform my subsequent reading of the tale, and some of the themes of the previous chapters will be subsumed into the other topi cs I identify in this chapter as relevant to my understanding of the novel as a siren tale. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 152 Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea ed. Judith L. Raiskin (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999) 4.


! 61 The Author Jean Rhys, the daughter of a white Creole mother and a Welsh doctor, was born in 1890 in Dominica and died in 1979 in Exeter, England. She lived most of her life in England and Europe, but forever identified more positively with her West Indian roots. 153 V arious circumstances, including two world wars and several marriage s, saw that she never returned to the Caribbean after the age of seven teen and thi s found expression in many of her books which deal with women who are liminal figures in an unfamiliar landscape. 154 By situating Bertha's story in 1834, several years after Jane Eyre takes place, Rhys could write the story concurrently with the economic f allout from emancipation and the subsequent transitions through which the islanders and plantation owners went. Rhys herself experienced social, racial and class tensions as a descendant of a slave owning family and an island woman of mixed race in the Br itish Isles and mainland Europe, and she found a venue for exploration and expression of this in Wide Sargasso Sea. 155 Like we saw with Hans Christian Andersen's relationship to The Little Mermaid Jean Rhys' experiences similarly inform Wide Sargasso Sea, another story of a hybrid heroine. Where Andersen saw a need to resolve the heroine's inevitable plight in Undine Rhys saw Bertha's redemption and personal right in allowing her to speak, and, like the little m ermaid, to make her own decisions ; she even viewed Antoinette's death as !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 153 Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea ed. Angel a Smith ( London : Penguin Classics, 2000 ) iii. 154 Raiskin, "Preface" in Sea, Norton edition ix xi She did go back for a trip apparently, but nothing more long term. Also see: "Modernist Crosscurrents" by Mary Lou Emery, in the same edition, which in exami nes different perspectives on Rhys as a West Indian author, European modernist, "Third World" writer, and woman writer (161). 155 Ibid., xi. She also struggled with poverty, illness, alcoholism, and displacement.


! 62 triumphant. 156 While, like Undine, Antoinette may not have succeeded in her marriage and her life in England, we at least see her make her own decisions that influence her fate and the situations that prompt them Nadya Ais enberg views Rhys' characters as largely passive, victims of their circumstances; but considering that we already know Bertha's end, it is notable that Rhys gave Antoinette a chance at a new beginning. 157 Whether she was a passive heroine or not, Rhys allow s us to understand her context better, to see her as a human being of mixed motivations, driven by reason and emotion and a perspective of the world that informs her actions much as any person rather than as the primitive and grotesque Other of Jane Eyre The paralysis that Antoinette experiences at the end of part 2, and her retreat into herself mentally evinces and expands on Delvaux's painting "Village of the Mermaids" (Fig. 10 ) as described in Chapter 1 ; it is this image that should be remembered as I delve into Wide Sargasso Sea The Text Critics have looked at Wide Sargasso Sea through a variety of perspectives that identify the novel as a representative of European modernism, a part of the West Indies cultural canon, and a feminist text, all of w hich have been contested and critiqued in various ways. 158 My contention is that, whether viewed as modern or postmodern, obscuring or inclusive, Wide Sargasso Sea is a text that, through its incompleteness and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 156 Rhys, Selected Letters" in Sea, Norton 1 45: "My Antoinette marries very young, and when she is brought to England and shut up isn' t much over twenty. H er confinement doesn't last long. She burns the house and kills herself (bravo!) very soon." 157 Aisenberg, Ordinary Heroines 52 3 158 See: Carin e Melkom Mardorossian. "Double [De]colonization and the Feminist Criticisim of Wide Sargasso Sea." Published in College Literature V ol. 26, No. 2 (Spring, 1999), 79 95. Accessed: 12/1/2012. Stable URL:


! 63 fragmentation on textual and thematic levels, demonstrates the inadequacies of language: to speak madness, to articulate female experience, and to define existence. The novel's polyphonic narration and incomplete chron ology open it up to interpretation making it what Roland Barthes would term a writ erly text. I t resists definition and in doing so, allows for a greater depth of human experience to surface than any unified' neat and clean (exc lusive and sanitized) narrative. It subverts traditional patriarchal narrative strategies and ch allenges a unitary idea of truth' both textually and structurally addressing questions o f reality and history, and the oft silenced perspective of the ubiquitous Other': woman. Wide Sargasso Sea maintains a dialectical relationship with Jane Eyre : Rhys began wr iting it specifically as Bertha's backstory. She read Bront‘'s classic when she was very young and enjoyed it but she realized that reading it later, and often, [she] was vexed at [ Bront‘'s ] portrait of the paper tiger' lunatic, the all wrong creole sc enes, and above all by the real cruelty of Mr. Rochester." 159 Rhys's realization that That's only one side the English side" would later echo in Wide Sargasso Sea as Antoinette's reminder to Rochester that, "there is always the other side, always." 160 In a l etter in 1958, she wrote to a friend that: It might be impossible to unhitch the whole thing from Charlotte Bronte's novel, but I don't want to do that. It is that particular mad Creole I want to write about, not any of the other mad Creoles. There we re quite a number it seems, and large dowries did not help the m 161 Rhys set out to write Antoinette's story, but came to believe resolutely that the character actually served to signify many real women. Eventually, she conceptually separated her !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 159 Rhys, "Sele cted Letters" in Sea, Norton 139. 160 The first quote is from Rhys, "Selected Letters" in the Norton edition 144. The latter i s from the Penguin edition, 82. 161 Ibid., 136.


! 64 heroine from Bronte's madwoman. Antoinette thus became a symbol of many silenced and marginalized women Creole heiresses who were married for money and left by the wayside. Rhys' appropriation of the character mirrors Andersen's revision of Undine in that b oth authors made the heroines their own, one writer by forging a different path to salvation for his heroine and the other by showing the path to madness for hers: I think there were several Antoinettes and Mr Rochesters. Indeed I am sure. Mine is not Miss Bronte's, though much suggested by "Jane Eyre ." [ ] The West Indies was [sic] (were?) rich in those days for those days and there was no "married women's property Act". The girls (very tiresome no doubt) would soon once in kind England be Address Unknown. So gossip. So a legend. If Charlotte Bronte took her horrible Bertha from this legend then I have th e right to take lost Antoinette 162 In another letter of 1966, she wrote about her process, stating that "by Part II I'd quite abandoned the idea of "Jane Eyre" [.] So I only borrowed the name Antoinette (I carefully haven't named the man at all) and the idea of her seeming a bit mad to an Englishman." 163 Rhys even attempted, in her earlier drafts, to write the entire novel from Antoinette's perspect ive as Bertha but realized that audiences would not be receptive to attempting to read a text so atypical, so mad.' 164 What was eventually published then, is a three part text whose narrators are never omniscient nor objective, and whose Parts' are not alw ays precise chronologically and weave in with Jane Eyre at moments, but also move around to the blanks the predecessor left open. 165 The first Part (pages 5 to 35) takes place before the wedding, while Antoinette is growing up at Coulibri Estate in Jamaica. However, because the narrator (Antoinette) speaks in the past tense, the reader must understand that everything is filtered through her !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 162 Rhys, Selected Letters" in Rhys, Sea, Norton 14 0 3. 163 Ibid., 145. 164 Ibid., 136 138. 165 Refer to Appendix 2 for a full synopsis.


! 65 memory. The voice of the character whom we presume to be Edward Rochester dominates the majority of Part 2 ( pages 39 112), which presents the newlyweds' honeymoon period on the estate of Granbois in Dominica The last, Part 3, (pages 115 124) introduces the voice of Grace Poole from Jane Eyre the madwoman's keeper, along with Antoinette as Bertha in England. The tex t provides riddles to the reader: beginning with the necessity of having to consciously track the changes in narrative voice, the use of quotations can be inconsistent and internal thoughts are sometimes placed without italics or any other visual indicatio n that they are silent, which leads to a n intermingling of both interior perspective and externalized actions and reactions as during a pivotal conversation between Rochester and Christophine, Antoinette's black nurse, which Rochester narrates in Part 2: And then,' she went on in her judge's voice, you make love to her till she drunk with it, no rum could make her drunk like that, till she can't do without it. It's she can't see the sun any more. Only you she see. But all you want is to break her up.' (Not the way you mean, I thought) But she hold out eh? She hold out.' (Yes, she held out. A pity) So you pretend to believe all the lies that damn bastard tell you.' (That damn bastard tell you) Now every word she said was echoed, echoed loud ly in my head. So that you can leave her alone.' (Leave her alone) Not telling her why.' (Why?) No more love, eh?' (No more love) 'And that,' I said coldly, 'is where you took charge, isn't it? You tried to poison m e.' Poison you? But look me trouble, the man crazy! She come to me and ask me for something to make you love her again and I tell her no I don't meddle in that for bŽkŽ. I tell her it's foolishness.' (Foolishness foolishness) And even if it's no foolishness, it's too strong for bŽkŽ.' (Too strong for bŽkŽ. Too strong) But she cry and she beg me:


! 66 (She cry and she beg me) 166 The assertion/accusation and response style of the passage creates a rhythm, an almost begrudging, melodic hypnosis tha t pulls in the reader. 167 The text does whatever it can at all turns to mark the fluidity of ora lity and individual perspective both textually and thematically. Antoinette grows up with a desire to be a part of a world, just like the l ittle mermaid, alt hough for her this could be either that of the islanders or the English. Her stepbrother marries her off to a man in order to distance her from the rumors about her mother's madness and presumably to distance himself from her ; similarly, Undine is sent by her people to attain a soul, although that is presented as a positive thing. In this tale, the siren' is not the one who must make the movement from the water to the land; instead, Antoinette's husband comes to the island to m arry her. But this is stil l a hardship, for Antoinette is already othered within her own environment. Antoinette experiences an internal transformation that evidences itself in her physical demeanor, but fails' in her marriage, as does Undine. Christophine in this tale is b oth KŸhleborn and the sea witch; Antoinette goes to her childhood nursemaid for help when she tries to save the marriage, but unlike the little mermaid, she does not make the morally correct decision not to use the potion. Antoinette attempts to speak but is silenced and erased; her transformation is revealed to be not a natural' process, but a painful result of oppression, an impossible attempt to fit into a position in a society that does not accept her. The text points to how the ways in which she is oth ered are very much a product of Rochester' s perception as the representative of that society, as well as !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 166 Rhys, Sea, 98 9 "#$ As we come to understand later, the repetition also suggests dark magic and zombification: the loss of identity and subjugation to another's will.


! 67 the moments in which both Antoinette and he make flawed decisions. What in Undine is fate,' in Wide Sargasso Sea is the result of an impossibility of translation Silencing/Erasure In Andersen's Little Mermaid, the heroine 's silencing is evidence of a partially hidden code of moral ity and social hierarchy: both the fictional world's rules for integration and soul attai nment, and the author's ideas ab out what merits salvation In contrast, Wide Sargasso Sea shows how the couple's power dynamics play out as Antoinette's voice beco mes subordinated to Rochester's when it disappea rs for large portions of Part 2 so as to thematize her silencing. The contr ast between the Parts 1 and 2, and the alternating narrative voices in Part 2 creates paradoxically, more silence and more awareness of that sile nce the reader gains an understanding of where the truth of an event becomes subjective, how a story is constru cted, and how the cha racters simultaneously live in their heads and in their environment. Rochester's presence commandeers the narrative for large sections of Part 2 interrupting and intersecting with Antoinette's own testimony; any conversation they h ave is always narrated retrospectively through one of them rather than a neutral third party (an external, framing narrator), yet they reflect and refract each other in their respective monologues, which creates an incomplete dialogue. This is juxtaposed with the fact that Rochester remains an unnamed entity; we read him as a faceless presence, an undifferentiated, opposing force that speaks itself into and out of being. In Jane Eyre Antoinette's full name is Bertha Antoinetta Mason; Jean Rhys


! 68 referre d back to this middle name as the original, rather than the now iconic Bertha. 168 The full name sounds incongruous. Perhaps Rhys interpreted this as a place that marked some division or juncture. Antoinette is named after her mother, Annette; upon learn ing this, Rochester begins to call her Bertha instead, even though she continually opposes him. 169 After this renaming, Rochester begins to recreate Antoinette as a non human. He is the one that ultimately exerts psychological control. When he argues with Christophine in the passage we have already seen, she accuses him of conscious manipulation, a charge he does not refute, but echoes in his head. So I give her something for l ove [Christophine said.] (For love) But you don't love. All you wan t is to break her up. And it help you break her up.' (Break her up) She tell me in the middle of all this you start calling her names. Marionette. Some word so.' Yes, I remember, I did.' (Marionette, Antoinette, Marionetta, Antoinetta) That word mean doll, eh? Because she don't speak. You want to force her to cry and to speak. (Force her to cry and to speak) 170 The slippage between Antoinette's name, which in Jane Eyre is noted as "Antoinetta," and "marionette" creates an etymological link that enacts an incantatory power and reinforces her domestication. The doll, as Nadya Aisenberg posits, is that silent double which women are trained to want to emulate. 171 Rochester may initially call Antoinette a "marionette" to coerce an emotional react ion from her, but within the text's internal !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 168 Interestingly, the name Bertha,' wh ich actually means bright' or famous' We could take this many different ways but it seems worth noting that the connotations of the name are almost exactly the opposite of the significance the Bertha character has in Jane Eyre. 169 Rhys, Sea, 71. "[My husband] never calls me Antoinette now. He has found out it was my mother's name." Doubling" as a motif is discussed in the Penguin "introduction" by Angela Smith, xiii The repetition signifies a dominant motif of doubling, which will be discussed in detail later. 170 Rhys, Sea, 99 I interpreted this moment as Christophine referencing that night specifically, but it is possible she may have meant in the middle of all this' strife between the couple in general. Either way, that does not negate the poi nt of the word. 171 Aisenberg, Ordinary Heroines 66 7.


! 69 logic, the word becomes its own spell. In Wide Sargasso Sea Antoinette's emotional and economic dependence 172 on Rochester and the so cial pressure to be docile and English' render her a ghost like double of her self. While we understand that the "generic" names of the little mermaid and Undine represent their functions as representatives of their people even, for Undine, chosen altruistically we see here how Rochester's renaming of Antoinette takes away her per sonal power and strips her of her identity. Rochester attempts to both possess Antoinette and dissociate her from Annette. In a way, he is trying to help her avoid her demise, yet it is this act of identity theft and disrespect, this imposed erasure whi ch proves most harmful to their relationship and seals Antoinette's fate. The irony of this renami ng is that it enacts a self fulfilling prophecy; it catalyzes her eventual and irremediable transformation into the Mad Bertha' we know from Jane Eyre One of the major themes of the novel is the prevalence and power of orality the i sland itself has a siren song;' this permeates the representation of the characters through their names and the choice words others use about them: the good or bad words fas ten[ed]' to them, to quote Christophine. 173 Wordplay becomes warfare in the insular colonial island community where English, French, and patois duel for recognition and mix meaning, while gossip and obeah influence the opinions and beliefs of all those who l ive there; communion and communication directly correlate with each other, for better and worse. Antoinette knows, when Rochester persists in calling her Bertha, that he is performing magic in his own way: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 172 See Rhys, Sea Norton, p.66, footnote 9: By English law, all of Antoinette's inheritance went to Rochester when they married. 173 Rhys, Sea, 71.


! 70 When I turned from the window she was drinki ng again. 'Bertha,' I said. 'Bertha is not my name. You are trying to make me into someone else, calling me by another name. I know, that's obeah too.' 174 Rochester's insistence on this renaming is a verbal type of oppression an act of silencing and identity erasure Antoinette calls him out on his hypocrisy: although Rochester distrusts the islanders and Christophine's magical practices, he cannot truthfully claim to be above his own form of magic: manipulation and emotiona l control. The text continuously exposes the instability of social constructions of civilized' behavior. It blurs the boundaries between colonizer' and colonized' and breaks down the binaries of reason (righteousness) versus madness (denied perspectiv e) to expose it all, ultimately, as different facets of power of who has dominance over discourse. 175 Thus, one can see this text as enlightening those of the siren tradition by exposing the true rationale behind the silencing of the siren's song. Rocheste r is erased too in a way because he is never a named entity. In his namelessness he becomes a signifier for every colonial tyrant, for every man who has exerted his dominance over a female, stolen her sealskin to make her his thrall, or spoken falsely in the name of love.' He too represents a part of the economy of people exchanged by his father for the money Bertha' brings him, the pawn that is the younger son' and at first a reluctant patriarch, uncomfortable with his power until he takes his father 's place and lets his heart grow hard. 176 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 174 Rhys, Sea, 94. 175 Michel Foucault's Madness and Civili zation: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason explores the evolution of the concept of madness as a manifestation of social power dynamics. This is a good lens through which to see Rochester's vision of Antoinette as mad' so that we understand the p olitics involved in his view and why she "seems so mad to the Englishman" as Rhys had said in her letters. 176 Rhys, Sea 44.


! 71 If the Antoinette at the end of the novel is not the same we knew at the beginning, neither is Rochester, who loses a part of his humanity as well. In his possessiveness of Antoinette and jealous vengeance, Roches ter destroys his own innocence. Antoinette and Rochester go through extreme psychic transformations ove r the course of the story: whereas hers is markedly physical, his is more internalized. Yet Rochester will go on to live and love another, to more or l ess retain his place as a patriarchal subject, and in this way he prevails over Antoinette. While Undine and the little mermaid never had individual names from the start Wide Sargasso Sea points to the process of erasure explicitly through Rochester's de cisive revision of Antoinette as Bertha.' The refusal (e xplicit or implicit) to read or to write, to speak or to listen, play s a large part in this text as in Undine The Little Mermaid ( and The Odyssey ) : in this way the necessity for interpretation and translation is brought to the forefront to expose the fallacy of a notion of objective truth.' If the siren and her song are reminders of what lurks beneath the subject's attempts at stability, we see why Antoinette and Rochester are at odds when we appl y this metaphor to their situation Antoi nette unknowingly confronts Rochester with ambiguity, which can manifest as a confused ambivalence about reality at some moment s, yet an obstinate certainty at others. She presents Rochester with a riddle that ref uses penetration; h er external hybridity and int ernal perspective is his enigma, which he attempts to resolve by infantilizing her and discounting her perspective. 177 R ochester has a rigid perspective and distrusts everything he sees that does not fit in a category, like Antoinette. He describes her as [] undecided, uncertain about facts any fact. When I asked her if the snakes we sometimes saw were poisonous, she said, 'Not tho se. The fer de lance of course, but !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 177 Rhys, Sea 58


! 72 there are none here,' and added, 'bu t how can they be sure? Do you think they know?' Then, 'Our snakes are not poisonous. Of course not.' 178 Filtered through Rochester 's narration, Antoinette appears ignorant and strange. Rochester devalues her viewpoint because he cannot u nderstand that he r knowledge i s based on a different value system and method of perception. He often reads her questioning as ambivalence and her ambivalence as a refusal to speak plainly, because he is unable to comprehend a reality that cannot be articulated, to be comf ortable with knowing that he does not know. The juxtaposition of the two voices could result in the privileging of Rochester's truth over Antoinette's, but instead her testimony disrupts his own sense of reality A ntoinette was initially reluctant to tel l Rochester the entire story of her past as it was shameful to her, and she feared he would reject her as a result. 179 A lthough she does not give him the answers he wants, Antoinette does try to tell Rochester her truth at different moments like Undine with Huldbrand Rochester learned a reflexive self erasure when he was very young, and he in tur n projects this on anything that he wants to ignore or discount. He, like Antoinette, uses silence as a survival tactic, a method of resistance. 180 But, many times, he often chooses not to listen, or to value another's testimony over hers. Antoinette knows that the many other voices on the island are working (conspiring?) against her and influencing Rochester, and so she goes to ask Christophine for her aid and adv ice: Christophine was saying, 'Your aunty too old and sick, and that Mason boy worthless. Have spunks and do battle for yourself. Speak to your husband calm and cool, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 178 Rhys, Sea, 54. 179 Rhys, "Selected Letters" in Sea Norton, 140. 180 Rhys, Sea 64.


! 73 tell him about your mother and all what happened at Coulibri and why she get sick and what they do to her. Don't bawl at the man and don't make crazy faces. Don't cry either. Crying no good with him. Speak nice and make him understand. 'I have tried,' I said, 'but he does not believe me. It is too late for that now' (it is always too late for the truth, I thought). 'I will try again if you will do what I ask. Oh Christophine, I am so afraid,' I said, 'I do not know why but so afraid. All the time. Help me.' 181 Although Antoinette begs Christophine for the potion to make R ochester love her, Christophine tries first to advise Antoinette to open up a dialogue with her husband; even Christophine, the novel's "sea witch" is not bad or evil. Antoinette's response at the moment seems obstinate; one could ask why she does not try harder, yet it is this inevitability that ultimately drives the narrative. It is a strange stasis, a suffocating erasure; her words at this moment seem to indicate that she knows she will be overwritten by that other text, by the future in which she is already inscribed marked but erased by what is to come. Antoinette tries once more to tell Rochester her story, but by that point they have each already made irrevocable decisions: she to drug him, he to discredit and ignore her. She knows, after s he tells him her story as she has experienced it that other narratives have taken precedence Rochester recounts that : After a long time I heard her say as if she were talking to herself, I have said all I want to say. I have tried to make you understan d. But nothing has changed.' She laughed." 182 This laughter is, obviously, not happy but hollow, an empty sound which indicates the futility of speech at this point. The laughter of the mad girl is a laugh of futility and despair: it can only articulate th e loss of an emotion. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 181 Rhys, Sea 73. 182 Ibid., 86.


! 74 Transformation / Transition At the beginning of the novel, we see A ntoinette through the lens of O therness'; she physically contrasts with her mother, but like her mother, is very different from the other inhabitants of the island, her world of origin, as well. As she says from the first page, her mother Annette was an outcast: "The Jamaican ladi es never approved of my mother, because she pretty like pretty self' Christophine said. She was my father's second wife, far too young f or him they thought, and worse, still, a Martinique girl." 183 Antoinette's father was an Englishman: she is mixed and further marginalized from either social sphere. Her body is a physical record of the fluid interactions between Europeans and islanders, and her identity is inextricably linked to how she is perceived. We do not know too much about how Antoinette sees herself except that when she saw herself in a mirror when she was young, she tried to kiss the girl in the glass but was stopped by the ba rrier. 184 The majority of her interactions with others, aside from Christophine, reflect this pattern. Her mother rebuffed her in favor of Pierre, and Rochester eventually does too, in favor of his own hatred and fear, and for another girl who is less racia lly ambiguous than she: AmŽlie, the black servant girl. At every turn, Antoinette is rejected and reminded of what she cannot be: So I looked away from [the servant, Myra] at my favourite picture. 'The Miller's Daughter,' a lovely English girl with bro wn curls and blue eyes and a dress slipping off her shoulders. Then I looked across the white tablecloth and the vase of yellow roses at Mr Mason, so sure of himself, so without a doubt English. And at my mother, so without a doubt not English, but no white nigger either. Not my mother. Never had been. Never could be. 185 To the society around her, Antoinette is impure: neither black nor white, Jamaican or !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 183 Rhys, Sea 5. The footnote in Norton (p.9 ) for this expression renders it as "She is pretty like prettiness itself", with the use of the word "Self" a way in Caribbean English of adding emphasis. 184 Ibid., 117. This will come up again in my discussion of doubles. 185 Ibid., 18.


! 75 English She has the inbred racist and classist prejudices of the old land owning Creole gentry but no wealth to back it up or show of power to enforce respect her family 's troublesome history does not help, either. 186 This prejudice is also consistently reinforced by the black islanders' enmit y for her family. The islanders treat them with repu gnance, and Antoinette learns to keep to herself: These were all the people in my life my mother and Pierre, Christophine, Godfrey, and Sass who left us. I never looked at any strange negro. They hated us. They called us white cockroaches. Let sleeping dogs lie. One day a little girl followed me singing, 'Go away white cockroach, go away, go away.' I walked fast, but she walked faster. 'White cockroach, go away, go away. Nobody want you. Go away.' 187 Antoinette grows up with this mantra fo llowing her on the islands. This threatening undercurrent of hate becomes physical when her one childhood friend, Tia, caught up in an angry mob that comes and burns Coulibri down throws a rock at her This is a pivotal moment of transition, like the l ittle mermaid's tail splitting: afterwards, Antoinette goes to a convent, Pierre dies and Annette, descending into madness, is taken away. Antoinette was in bed for several weeks recovering after the incident and when she awoke one of her first thoughts was of the scar she might have: My head is bandaged up. It's so hot,' I said, 'Will I have a mark on my forehead? 'No, no.' [Aunt Cora] smiled for the first time. 'That is healing very nicely. It won't spoil you on your wedding day,' she said." 188 The tr agic irony is that the superficial wound is not what 'spoils' her but rather what is inside her head, her madness,' and Rochester's own suspicions. The first time we get a solid description of Antoinette, it is from Rochester as the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 186 Rhys, Sea 13. 187 Ibid., 9. 188 Ibid., 25.


! 76 new groom, as a retr ospective observation since he barely remembers the wedding after being sick with fever. He assesses her beauty admiringly, but critically notices her features that mark her as mixed, i.e., tainted and exotic[ised]: I watched her criti cally. She wore a tricorne hat which became her. At least it shadowed her eyes which are too large and can be disconcerting. She never blinks at all it seems to me. Long, sad, dark alien eyes. Creole of pure English descent she may be, but they are not English or Euro pean either. And when did I begin to notice all this about my wife Antoinette? After we left Spanish Town I suppose. Or did I notice it before and refuse to admit what I saw? Not that I had much time to notice anything. I was married a month after I arrived in Jamaica and for nearly three weeks of that time I was in bed with fever. The two women stood in the doorway of the hut gesticulating, talking not English but the debased French patois they use in this island. 189 Rochester sees her differ ence and returns to this point continuously throughout his narration; his reappraisal of her beauty is also very similar to the one that Huldbrand makes of Undine, as quoted in my second chapter, when he starts to see only her fae otherness. The male gaz e sears us in this passage and in the absence of any other description of Antoinette that is not filtered through the economical lens of her value as an object: even when it is Antoinette looking at herself, we see how she evaluates her own looks according to the other's rubric of desirability, recurrently captured in a spotlight that will not allow her any other angles. After this assessment, during their honeymoon stage in Dominica (their stay at the honeymoon house' which lasts longer than the honeymo on) Rochester sincerely tries to enjoy Antoinette's company and their happiness together, but there is a tension always evident in the way he perceives her: We came to a little river. 'This is the boundary of Granbois.' She smiled at me. It was the fir st time I had seen her smile simply and naturally. Or perhaps it was the first time I had f elt simple and natural with her. [....] Looking up smiling, she might have been any pretty English girl and to please her I drank. It was cold, pure and sweet, a be autiful !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 189 Rhys, Sea, 40.


! 77 color against the thick green leaf. 190 Natural' to Rochester, means English, familiar and uncomplicated, un mixed. This is the caveat to a successful marriage : it is nothing so grotesque' as the tail that humans do not like (as in the little me rmaid) but Rocheste r's perception of Antoinette's O therness, over which she has no control. Antoinette cannot effect the decisive transformation that the little mermaid did. She, like Undine, is always pulled back to her origins, not just through her con nection to her nurse, Christophine, a practitioner of obeah magic, the island culture and the patois she can speak, but because she looks so much like her mother and so unlike a typical English girl. She can never be "The Miller's Daughter" in looks or in narrative fate. 191 Constantly measured against images to which she is unable to conform, it is this dissonance and disparity, this estrangement from herself which brings about her madness She is bound, inscribed, within a cultural milieu and moment whic h she cannot escape and within her own body, which progressively appears more like her mother as madness encroaches upon her mind and she becomes divorced from reality. 192 To Rochester, the patriarchal representative, Antoinette is an abject figure, "the in between, the ambiguous, the composite" whose premeditated crime is an attempt to make him love her again. 193 The night she drugs Rochester, he feels sexual attraction for her. His attraction may be valid even without the potion's (magical) suggestion, b ut his attentions to her are a false equivocation of lust with love. When he awakens afterwards, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 190 Ibid., 4 2 3. 191 Rhys, Sea Norton, 22. The footnote asserts that this picture is a reference to Tennyson's poem of the same title. The poem, unsurprisingly, li nks nature and rustic life with the descriptions of a miller' s lovely daughter (female body/earth) and a young heir's love for a lower class maiden ; but the tale ends in happy wedded bliss, unlike Antoinette and Rochester's very economical, class conscious union. 192 Rhys, Sea, 94 5 193 Kristeva, Horror 4.


! 78 the effects have worn off: The cold light was on her and I looked at the sad droop of her lips, the frown between her thick eyebrows, deep as if it had bee n cut with a knife. As I looked she moved and flung her arm out. I thought coldly, yes, very beautiful, the thin wrist, the sweet swell of the upper forearm, the rounded elbow, the curve of her shoulder into her upper arm. All present, all correct. A s I watched, hating, her face grew smooth and very young again, she even seemed to smile. A trick of the light, perhaps. What else? She may wake at any moment, I told myself. I must be quick. Her torn shift was on the floor, I drew the sheet o ver her gently as if I covered a dead girl. 194 Rochester insinuates that he does objectively find her beautiful,' and correct,' yet it is a begrudging acknowledgment that comes with the knowledge that he still feels nothing for her as a person. Roche ster describes the last part of the scene as if Antoinette were a corpse, as if her fleeting smile were the momentary illusion of a dead wo man breathing in her casket. The insistence of the narrative in rendering Antoinette as a shadow of herself is almos t heavy handed at times and consistent throughout the novel. After Antoinette comes to Christophine to plead for her magical aid in winning back Rochester's love, the old woman gives her a shot of rum and tells her: "Your face like dead woman and your eye s red like soucriant [a wailing ghost] 195 After she decided to give him the drugs, Antoinette appeared ghostlike; we can recall the moment in the Little Mermaid when the maiden tells the sea witch, "this is what I wa nt!' [ ] and turned pale as death ." The t ext continually returns to this image, until finally it is all that remains of the Antoinette we knew. This is the main transformation Antoinette makes, her irrevocable sea change one more akin to Undine than to the little mermaid; she becomes a phanto m, a zombi a marionette. Neither the image of an English porcelain doll nor the Caribbean zombi is !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 194 Rhys, Sea 88. 195 Ibid., 73.


! 79 comforting; the reader understands through these references that every culture has an equivalent figure of domestication, a reverse Pygmalion ,' a site mar ked by control and subjugation : the woman unmade as body, the body reanimated as puppet. This in itself is an uncanny notion a living female sculpted in the (impossible) likeness of another's desire, her individuality usurped and her will subdued and it i ndicates psychological and/or physical violence. We see the true implications of the rules of soul attainment from the two other stories: subjecthood, for these women, means the loss of ones elf, the subjugation of personal power to the demands of the husb and and society. At the end of Part 2 one of Rochester's last observations of Antoinette before they leave the island is that she has become catatonic. She speaks lifelessly, all spirit extinguished. Rochester knows that he is responsible, in large pa rt, for this: I saw the hate go out of her eyes. I forced it out. And with the hate her beauty. She was only a ghost. A ghost in the grey daylight. Nothing left but hopelessness. Say die and I will die. Say die and watch me die. She lifted her eye s. Blank lovely eyes. Mad eyes. A mad girl [.] I scarcely recognized her voice. No warmth, no sweetness. The doll had a doll's voice, a breathless but curiously indifferent voice. 196 When Antoinette loses her fighting spirit, Rochester implies that s he loses her beauty because of it; his attraction to her was then partially based on that which actively resisted his control Her humanity her individuality is what makes her beautiful. He feels an empty vindication; perhaps Rochester (and the reader) i s left with the feeling that the spoils of victory have been won at too great a loss. And what are they even? The fruitlessness of their marriage spells a looming disaster that plays out in Jane Eyre In the vein of traditional siren tales rather than The Little Mermaid or Undine it is Rochester who must come to Antoinette's world. He is markedly uncomfortable there, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 196 Rhys, Sea 110


! 80 but like a sailor or mercenary, hungry for the treasure he senses: "the island's secret" as he calls it. He must travel to a distant is land to court a woman he knows nothing about yet is already meant to marry, and to stifle his own feelings and pretend that he is happy. His passage is not easy; he sickens with fever for the first few weeks of his marriage a nd experiences things in a haz e, as if under a spell. It is this sickness which renders him dependent on and thus ill disposed towards the people he is supposed to dominate. 197 He cannot maintain order in a place where a different order exists beneath the colonial one a reality to wh ich he is a stranger, a "Master" in nothing but name and power derived from his marriage and money both of which do not guarantee him true authority. The servants know things he does not, and he does not trust them. Rochester does not relate to the peopl e or to the landscape, and is simultaneously in love with and repulsed by the mystery around him, as well as afraid of it. We might even liken his fever to the dizziness which Kristeva presents as part of the subject's response to confrontation with the a bject: Discomfort, unease, dizziness stemming from an ambiguity.. ." 198 It is this fever which makes his transition to island life further confusing and unfavorable to him, which colors his perspective of the island as unreal.' The men of these tales must r eturn to their own worlds eventually; Rochester, like the prince the mermaid saves from drowning and Huldbrand when he returns to his castle, will not regain his power in society until he returns to England. To Roche ster, Antoinette embodies that O thernes s of the place, that strange !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 197 Rose Kamel, "Before I was Set Free": The Creole Wife in "Jane Eyre" and "Wide Sargasso Sea "' in The Journal of Narrative Technique Vol. 25, No. 1 ( Eastern Michigan University 1995), 8. 198 Kristeva, Horror 10.


! 81 landscape. Likewise, Antoinette thinks of spaces as women too. 199 Even her later residence, the at tic of Thornfield, will be an O ther' space; she will always be marginalized and contained, both within herself and on the edges of society. This need for containment links too with that of prejudiced conceptions of the Creole women as sexual and excessive mad harlots who must be restrained. 200 All these issues intertwine and enfold Antoinette in, to use a word from Patricia Hill Co llins, a matrix' of Otherness in Rochester's mind from which she cannot escape. 201 Antoinette becomes alie nated from others then alienated from herself trapped with in her own interiority in the attic of Thornfield manor. Yet it is Rochester who must at first undergo the trauma of transition so vividly embodied in the little mermaid's story, and which he himself cannot even articulate. What unsettles and annoys Rochester so much is that Antoinette, to him, is a sign that does not remain fixed, just like th e island. The significance of place in Wide Sargasso Sea is intrinsically linked with identity because it invokes its opposite/negation: in this text, the concept of place' stands in for displacement.' Antoinette questions what has always been his tru th at the same time that he feels captive[ated] by the landscape; her na•vetŽ about the rest of the world and her queries makes his own home seem irrelevant and unreal: 'Is it true, she said, that England is like a dream? Because one of my friends who married an Englishman wrote and told me so. She said this place London is like a cold dark dream sometimes. I want to wake up.' !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 199 Rhys, Sea 31: Then there was another saint, said Mother St. Justine, she lived later on but still in Italy, or was i t in Spain. Italy is white pillars and green water. Spain is hot sun on stones, France is a lady with black hair wearing a white dress because Louise was born in France fifteen years ago, and my mother, whom I must forget and pray for as though she were dead, though she is l iving, liked to dress in white. 200 Rhys, Sea Norton edition p. 33: See footnote 1. 201 Mardorossian quotes Patricia Hill Collins' words "Matrix of domination" to signify the interlocking systems of oppression formed on the bases of race ethnicity, class, nationality, and gender, in her discussion regarding feminist criticism of Wide Sargasso Sea that shifted the focus away from a monolithic category of Woman' to represent all woman and all experiences of oppression (page 81). I here wa nt to borrow the word matrix which was inspired by this passage.


! 82 'Well,' I answered annoyed, 'that is precisely how your beautiful island seems to me, quite unreal and like a dream.' 'But how can rivers and mountains and the sea be unreal?' 'And how can millions of people, their houses and their streets be unreal?' 'More easily,' she said, 'much more easily. Yes a big city must be like a dream.' 'No, this is unreal and like a dream,' I thought. 202 She upsets his sense of order and place so that England becomes a legend on a map that he cannot read ; he can no longer anchor him self and is cast adrift on the "Wide Sargasso S ea ." The very spaces which Antoinette feels to b e familiar and safe the rivers, the sea, and the woods can be linked with madness because of their connotations of fluidity, ephemerality, and mystery, both inside of and beyond the text. 203 As in Undine the woods can be considered a female space and where the magic of the fae (here translated to the island folk) still holds strong: literally, the name of Antoinette's property, "Granbois" means "High Woods 204 Rochester's betrayal spoils this place for her, and after that she has nothing left. Antoinette d escribes the garden of the Coulibri of her childhood as if it were the Biblical garden of Eden. 205 There she was young and innocent, na•ve and sheltered: 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. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest tree ferns, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach or for some reason not to be touche d. One was snaky looking, another like an octopus with long thin brown tentacles bare of leaves hanging from a twisted root. Twice a year the octopus orchid flowered then not an inch of tentacle showed. It was a bell shaped mass of white, mauve, deep purples, wonderful to see. The scent was very sweet and strong. I never went near it. All Coulibri Estate had gone wild like the garden, gone to bush. No more slavery why should anybody work? This never saddened me. I did not remember the place w hen it was prosperous. 206 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 202 Rhys, Sea, 49. 203 Rhys, Sea Norton edition, 49. See: Footnote 2. Foucault also makes these links to the water as a mad space with his discussion of the Ship of Fools in Madness and Civiliz ation. 204 Rhys, Sea 46. 205 Smith, "Introduction" in Sea xxi. 206 Rhys, Sea 6.


! 83 If Antoinette is Eve, her sin is written in the story of the Fall and the flight from Eden. 207 Yet, as Carine Mardarossian points out, this Eden is already overgrown and wild: spoiled. 208 Antoinette's nostalgia for the place is nostalg ia for a place that was already lost, a lack; she misses her innocence as located there, but she never knew Coulibri in its ostensibly former glory.' Antoinette was always betwixt and between, and had a haunted sense of not existing or wanting to exist where she was. 209 She would immerse herself in nature as a form of escapism : "Watching the red and yellow flowers in the sun thinking of nothing, it was as if a door had opened and I was somewhere else, something else. Not myself any longer 210 As an adole scent in the convent, she found solace "refuge" in that "place of sunshine and of death where very early in the morning the clap of a wooden signal wokeus who slept in the long dormitory." 211 This is one of the few places/times when she finds anything resem bling happiness, which is ironic because the convent, as an extension of the church, represents the patriarchal society into which she will never become integrated. Yet the islands are the site of the convergence of Christianity and folk religions, such a s Obeah ; the islanders' beliefs are a mixture of these influences, and so the practices of magic is not diametrically opposed with Christianity at least from the islanders' perspectives. 212 Antoinette is both the Undine sanctioned by the church and the littl e mermaid who can never be fully integrated in Rochester's society. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 207 Alternately, we could read her as Lilith, which brings us back to the notion of the femme fatale from my first chapter. Lilith, made of the same material as Adam, was his equal, who refused to submit to him and left Eden. This leads us to a new understanding of Rochester's view of Antoinette as inferior to and her domestication. 208 Carine Melkom Mardarossian, "Double [De]colonization ," 81. 209 Rhys, Sea, 64. 210 Ibid., 12 211 Ibid., 3 1. 212 See: Rhys, Sea Norton, footnotes on pages 18, 21, 66 regarding religion.


! 84 These islands are Antoinette's spaces, the world of the other, and Rochester experiences a heightened sense of threat from them: ' seemed to me that everything round me was hostile [.] That green menace. I had felt it ever since I saw this place. There was nothing I knew, nothing to comfort me. 213 They are landscapes that, while colonized, still resist mapping: still withhold something that Rochester wants the answer to a mystery h e senses, submission to his desires. The menace he feels may very well be the tension between the island's inhabitants, the residue of memories of past events, or a projected reaction elicited by his own desire to dominate the land. Th ere have been tim es when he has felt comfortable as well and that is perhaps more unsettling to him more stifling : I sat on the veranda with my back to the sea and it was as if I had done it all my life. I could not imagine different weather or a different sky. I kne w the shape of the mountains as well as I knew the shape of the tw o brown jugs filled with white sweet scented flowers on the wooden table [ ] There wo uld be the flowers and the sky and girl and the feeling that all this was a nightmare, t he faint con soling hope that I might wake up. 214 If England is a dream to Antoinette, the Caribbean is a dream to Rochester: both places possess nightmarish qualities for the outsider. Neither person can exist in the other's space long term without feeling their sen se of self to be threatened. Only when Rochester thinks he can grasp the secret' of the place does he enjoy his time there, while only when Antoinette thinks of England conceptually, from bits and pieces she knows, with the impetus of remaking herself on ce there: I have been too unhappy I thought, it cannot last, being so unhappy, it would kill you. I will be a different person when I live in England and different things will happen to me [... ] England, rosy pink in the geography book map, but on the page opposite the words are closely crowded, heavy loo king. Exports, coal, iron, wool [ ...] After summer the trees are bare, then winter and snow. White feathers falling? Torn pieces of paper falling? They say frost makes flower patterns on the window panes. I must know more !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 213 Rhys, Sea 96. Also see: 108 214 Ibid., 75 76.


! 85 than I know already. For I know that house where I will be cold and not belonging, the bed I shall lie in has red curtains and I have slept there many times before, long ago. How long ago? In that bed I will dream the end of my d ream. But my dream had nothing to do with England and I must not think like this, I must remember about chandeliers and dancing, about swans and roses and snow. And snow. 215 She attempts to make sense of all this information and imagery by comparing it wi th the islands, yet she fails. By the time she is physically in England, Anto inette refuses to acknowledge her arrival believing herself to have been lost on the sea. 216 Rochester and Antoinette do, for a time, have a shared space in the swimming hole th at they go to. It is at this bathing pool where Rochester articulates the thought that It was a beautiful place wild, untouched, above all untouched, with an alien, disturbing, secret loveliness. And it kept its secret. I'd find myself thinking, What I see is nothing I want what it hides that is not nothing." 217 It is in these moments where he lets his guard down enough to approach the mystery, to listen to the silences the song. Yet even the couple's communion here is short lived 218 Antoinette c onveys feelings of alienation to Rochester at different points and tells him about her memories and dreams, yet he always keeps his distance from her, just as he will not allow himself to love the island fully. He will not listen to the siren song: his pr ejudices become suspicions which are fueled and vindicated by the gossip of islanders like Daniel Cosway and AmŽlie (who have their own agendas) and eventually render Rochester unwilling to believe Antoinette's testimony. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 215 Rhys, Sea 70 216 Ibid., 118. 217 Ibid., 54. 218 Ibid. It is here that Rochester first learns about another man in Antoinette's li fe, her cousin Sandi, and becomes suspicious of their relationship.


! 86 Drowning as a M etaphor for De ath/ Desire The rhetoric of desire in this text contains some parallels to that of Undine as embodied by the notions of thirst' and drowning' appetite and death. Huldbrand dies by literally drowning in Undine's tears, his figurative thirst' fatally fulfilled. Rochester tells the reader that even in their most intimate moments, he never felt love for Antoinette and dismisses his desire as a thirst' instead: 'You are safe, I'd say. She liked that to be told 'you are safe.' Or I'd touch her face g ently and touch tears. Tears nothing! Words l ess than nothing. As for the happiness I gave her, that was worse than nothing. I did not love her. I was thirsty for her, but that is not love. I felt very little tenderness for her, she was a stranger to me a stranger who did not think or feel as I did. One afternoon the sight of a dress which she'd left lying on her bedroom floor made me br e less an savage with desire. When I was exhausted I turned away from her and slept, still without a word o r a caress. I woke and she was kissing me s oft light kisses. 219 The sight of Ant oinette brings out Rochester's "savage[ry]," similarly to the sailor's reactions to the sirens from the discussion in my first chapter, where their inner animality proved to be the real threat to their stability. These interludes of love making slide dangerously towards real violence. Ironically, Rochester awakens Antoinette to happiness for a brief time by killing' her with sex, through the pleasure of la petite mort At night, she reveals her insecurities to him and makes herself vulnerable. Through Rochester's narration of these scenes, however, we see the psychological and social forces that prohibit these moments of the desire for communion with the Other: But at night [...] Always this talk of death. (Is she trying to tell me that is the secret of this place? That there is no other way? S he knows. She knows.) 'Why did you make me want to live? Why did you do that to me?' 'Because I wished it. Is n't that enough?' 'Yes, it is enough. But if one day you didn't wish it. What should I do then? Suppose you took this happiness away when I wasn't look ing .' !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 219 Rhys, Sea, 58.


! 87 [.] one night [she] whispered, 'If I could die. Now, when I am happy. Would y ou do that? You wouldn't have to kill me. Say die and I will die. You don't believe me? Then try, try, say die and watch me die.' 'Die then! Die!' I watched her die many times. In my way, not in hers. In sunlight, in shadow, by moonlight, by candl elight. In the long afternoons when the house was empty. [....] Very soon she was as eager for what's called loving as I was more lost and drowned afterwards. 220 Rochester is blind to the fact that this capacity for violence, which he sees as heig htened by the environment, is an inner manifestation again, another projection, or at least his innate potential for violence responding to the island's social atmosphere. When he contrasts the two types of death (the little' one and the real) as his an d hers, Rochester indicates that what he really yearns for is the sleep of death his own self erasure: an oblivion, an obliteration, a yielding of self control which he will never attain: D ie then. Sleep. It is all that I can give you.... wonder if she e ver guessed at how near she came to dying. In her way, not in mine. It was not a safe game to play in that place. Desire, Hatred, Life, Death came very close in the darkness. Better not know how close. Better not think, never for a moment. Not close. The same...'You are safe,' I'd say to her and to myself. 'Shut your eyes. Rest.' Then I'd listen to the rain, a sleepy tune that seemed as if it would go on for ever. Rain, for ever raining. Drown me in sleep. And soon. 221 We do not know if R ochester is telling the truth or denying it to himself, but either way, his prejudic es keep him from fully loving his wife and once she betrays him with the love potion, he angrily exacts revenge by having sex with her servant next door to her room. 222 Her e is the rejection Antoinette feared, the moment when Huldbrand spurns Undine on the boat because of her connection to her elemental kin. After that fateful night o f sex and betrayal, Antoinette becomes increasingly incapable of tears as she buries her em otions. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 220 Rhys, Sea 57. 221 Ibid., 58 9. 222 Ibid., 89.


! 88 The sleep of death' is very similar to the image of a sleepwalker or zombi : of the living dead.' What Rochester desires is a way out of his situation. As they prepare to leave Granbois for the town, he says to himself (and the reader): She s aid she loved this place. This is the last she'll see of it. I'll watch for one tear, one human tear. Not that blank hating moonstruck face. I'll listen If she says good bye perhaps adieu. Adieu like those old time songs she sang. Always adieu (and all songs say it). If she too says it, or weeps, I'll take her in my arms, my lunatic. She's mad but mine, mine What will I care for god s or devils or for Fate itself. If she smiles or weeps or both. For me 223 Huldbrand readily submitted to U ndine's kiss of death at the end of the novella; perhaps Rochester's perverse desire for Antoinette's tears is not just out of possessiveness but also a desire for purification. Recalling Dijkstra's formulation of "that yearning for freedom from the burde n of responsibility" it becomes evident that beneath his struggle to retain power over Antoinette is marked, in fact, the (submerged) desire to relinquish it. 224 Antoinette is, as Christophine says, thirsty' for Rochester's love, readily receiving any dro p of attention he gives her and thinking it is love. 225 W hen he rejects her, she turns to drink. 226 Her mother was an alcoholic, and this tendency is presented as genetically predetermined and as a readily available, temporary escape from a harsh reality. Antoinette drown ed' in Rochester's love, as he wants to drown in sleep': it can not be the real fulfillment of desire. Sex stands in the place of the love she does not receive from him, just as the drink replaces the affections he ceased to give her. I n this respect, her experience is the opposite of Undine's; Antoinette loses the ability to cry as !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 223 Rhys, Sea 107. 224 See Dijkstra, Idols, 110 112. 225 Rhys, Sea, "letters" in Norton, 139 : "I realized that he must have fallen for her and violently too. The black people have or had a good word for it she magic with him' or he magic with her'. Because you see, that is what it is magic, intoxica tion. Not Love' at all." 226 Rhys, Sea 102.


! 89 she loses both herself and her sight of reality. Where The Little Mermaid had presented that trope of female nobility through self sacrifice, the innocent "Ophelia Complex" as Gaston Bachelard calls it, Wide Sargasso Sea exposes this to be a result of oppression and trauma, rather than an intrinsic desire for self negation or martyrdom. 227 Antoinette possesses knowledge of a different pair of deaths than Ro chester does: the spiritual death and the corporeal one In one of their first conversations, Antoinette tells Rochester that her mother died when she was young; later, he asks her why she said this when she tries to tell him her story in full during thei r last attempt at conversation (before she drugs him), but her rationale is still too cryptic for him to understand: Then why did you tell me that she died when you were a child? Because they told me to say so and because it is true. She did die w hen I was a child. There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about. Two at least,' I said, for the fortunate.' 228 Rochester may dismiss this idea, but it proves to be a central tenet in the universe of Wide Sargasso Sea. We u nderstand that this time for her is the death of her soul, while Jane Eyre witnesses her bodily death. Rochester dies in a way too by the end. Before his conversation with Christophine after he betrayed Antoinette, he awakens in the house and hears that Someone was singing [ .] but whatever they were singing or saying was dangerous. I must protect myself.' 229 The song that he so wanted to hear that he almost does hear threatens him. He has hardened his heart and lost his own passion: "[...] I hate poets now and poetry. As I hate music which I loved once." 230 Just as he and Antoinette leave Granbois forever, he has a moment of misgiving: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 227 Bachelard Water and Dreams 82 83. 228 Rhys, Sea 81. 229 Ibid., 96. 230 Ibid. 106.


! 90 So I shall never understand why, suddenly, bewilderingly, I was certain that everything I had imagined to be truth was false. False. Only the magic and the dream are true all the rest's a lie. Let it go. Here is the secret. Here. ( But it is lost, that secret, and those who know it cannot tell it .) Not lost. I had found it in a hidden place and I'd keep it, hold it fast. As I'd hold her. I looked at her. She was staring out to the distant sea. She was silence itself. Sing, Antoinetta. I can hear you now. 231 In this moment, Rochester fluctuates between wanting desperately to ask Antoinette for forgiven ess and wanting to destroy her completely. He ignores this fleeting sense of loss and leaves Granbois for good taking Antoinette with him, a jealous, possessive husband who loses himself in the attempt to exact his revenge: "We'll see who hates best", he says (silently) to Antoinette. 232 His anger flares up then smolders: I was exhausted. All the mad conflicting emotions had gone and left me wearied and empty. Sane [....] I hated the place. I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the r ain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. She had left me thirsty and all my lif e would be thirst and longing for what I had lost be fore I found it [ ... ] Very soon she'll join all the others who know the secret and will not tell it. Or cannot. Or try and fail because they do not k now enough [....] She's one of them. I too can wait for the day when she is only a memory to be avoided, locked away, and like all memories a legend. Or a lie 233 Rochester's own words have become almost unintelligible, cryptic. He has experien ced a sundering of self as well he will always feel this loss, even if minutely. He heard the song, but chose to ignore it. He lost the treasure he knew the land and Antoinette held. 234 Instead, he kee ps his hate, which burns him. Antoinette will not give him her tears, his salvation, his chance to feel e mpathy for her again. But when they leave for England, it is she who will be engulfed and lost to the world. If Undine and the little m ermaid's quests were to attain souls through marriage !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 231 Rhys Sea 108 9. 232 Ibid., 110. 233 Ibid., 111 2. 234 Rochester uses thi s metaphor later in his speech, p. 109.


! 91 and love, then Antoinette's struggle is to keep hers: her sanity, her sense of self, her personhood. Antoinette has fully suc cumbed to her fate by Part 3 ; she is no longer able to engage in the realm of the living, and has become to all the others that girl who lives in her own darkness. 235 We the readers have some las t privileged knowledge of her thoughts by this point, but we also know well that she is no longer aware of shared reality. What remains is her testimony, her phantom laughter and the echoes of her siren song. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 235 Rhys Sea 116.


! 92 Conclusion: To Hear the Mermaid s Singing The siren, like many femmes fatales is a paradoxical sign of desire and repulsion, the attractive and the abject. It is in her domain, in the realm of the water, however, where this figure specifically helps translate timel ess issues into man ageable metaphors. If we listen to her, she provides us with ways to speak about things that are taboo or difficult to identify These notions of water and the womb, song and seduction, death and jouissance submersion and surfacing, fluidity and metamor phosis, depth and desire, of revelation and the uncan ny, dissolution and engulfment, tempest and fate allow us to speak about the parad oxes that we encounter everyda y and about what lies beneath the dominant narrative of reality. I understand paradoxes t o exist because our society adheres to a rigid binary perspective; thus, when something cannot be categorized, it becomes problematic and must be purified or excluded or otherwise tamed. The metaphor of the siren's song and the need to silence it, the im pulse to mold her and reshape her in the image of impossible desire indicates a struggle for power over discourse and thus, perception. The fable of impossible integration in to society tells us more about the mechanisms at work that generate such a societ y, rather than about the individual who cannot be integrated. The siren tale, as written by Andersen and evoked by Rhys problematizes difficult aspects of life that we may take for granted, and points to moments or marks the site of their erasure, that are products of friction with the powers that be rather than natural occurrences or inevitable fate The existence of paradoxes and ambiguities threatens the established order, because they point to the places where things are not ordered, cannot be cate gorized or defined accordingly Fairy tales hint at


! 93 these moments and texts like Wide Sargasso Sea provide ruptures, fissures through which we can reach a new understanding of narrative and how it is structured Reading Wide Sargasso Sea as a siren tale allow s me to perform a double rev ision : to look back at fairytales like The Little Mermaid to understand what issues they indicate, and in turn, by framing it this way, to understand Wide Sargasso Sea in a more universal context, rather than striving to ca tegorize it as a representative of any one strain of literature. This need not be a mode of essentializing but rather of making connections, of relating the personal to the politic al, the social to the sexual. By understanding the way that these relation ships between spheres are reciprocal rat her than unequal and engaging in dialogue with them I think that this is what it means to recognize the Other, not as other, but as a Subject. Literature allows us a space for exploring and understanding our realit y; by reconstructing it in novels and texts, we also deconstruct it. The siren marks a place of repressed desire and silenced dialogue. Through my survey in the first chapter and the readings of the tales in the second and third, I have tried to understa nd the siren's continuing significance in our culture The siren's paradox provides us with a paradigm through which to understand human relations: nothing is strictly good or bad, black or white, mad or sane, subject or other. Those things which are jet t isoned" and "radically excluded" are precisely so because their inclusion would call for a revision of society and reality as we know it. If literature is a signifier of abjection as Kristeva says, a cathartic mode of purification, then the fluid litera ry tradition that encompass es the siren archetype figures as an excellent and "archaic" space for the interrogation of these social systems and the amplification of the things that have been silenced.


! 94 This then, is the context from which I came to unde rstand the siren and which I attempt ed to articulate through the analytical work in this thesis even if only a little bit ; l earning and talking about about the siren and her song made me realize my own limitations with language. If at times I got lost in the murky waters of tedious, point by point comparison or meandering contrasts I enjoyed the opportunity to demonstrate an engagement with the texts, and a rea diness to listen to them.

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! 95 Appendix 1: Images Fig ure 1. Caccioli. Giovanni Battista. A mermaid or a siren, seen from behind, lying on a rock by the sea with the prow of a ship on the horizon 1638 1675 Drawing, red chalk on buff paper. 20 x 35.4 cm. British Museum, London. !

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! 96 Fig ure 2. Lor d Leighton, Frederic. The Fisherman and the Syren 1856 1858. Oil on canvas. 66.3 48.7 cm (26.1 19.2 in). Private Collection.

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! 97 Figure 3. Ekvall, Knut (1843 1912) The Fisherman and the Siren oil on canvas.

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! 98 Figure 4. Burne Jones, Edward C oley. The Depths of the Sea 1887. Drawing, watercolor and gouache on paper. 197 x 76 cm (77 9/16 x 29 15/16 in). Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University

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! 99 Figure 5. Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. A Sea Spell 1877. oil on canvas. 88.9 x 106.7 cm Fogg Ar t Museum, Harvard University.

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! 100 Figure 6. Draper, Herbert James. The Captured Mermaid or The Sea Maiden, 1894. oil on canvas. ! !

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! 101 ! ! ! Figure 7. Klimt, Gustav. Mermaids 1899. 82 x52 cm. Vienna.

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! 102 Figure 8. Magritte, RenŽ. The Forbidden World, 1949. oil on canvas. Private Collection. ! !

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! 103 F igure 9. Magritte, RenŽ. Les Merveilles de la N ature. 1953 oil on canvas. 30 1/2 x 38 5/8 in. (77.5 x 98.1 cm). Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

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! 104 Figure 10. Delvaux, Paul. The Village of the Mermaids, 1942 Oil on panel, approximately 41 inches x 49 inches. The Art Institute of Chicago.

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! 10 5 Figure 11. Rackham, Arthur. Undine Lost in the Danube 1909. I llustration for Undine.

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! 106 Figure 12. Dulac, Edmund. The Little Mermaid, 1911. I llustration for The Little Mermaid in Stories from Hans Andersen L ondon, Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd.

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! 107 Appendix 2 Synopses : The Little Mermaid and Undine Baron Friedrich de la Motte FouquŽ, a German writer of t he Romantic tradition, published Undine in 1811, after reading Paracelsus' treaty on the four elements. The story centers, although sometimes indirectly, on the figure of Undine, the sprightly, elemental foster daughter of an old fisherman and his wife, wh o live simply in a small cottage on a green promontory of land that reaches into a lake, situated on the edge of "a very wild forest." 236 One day, a lost knight comes to the house, and the old couple takes him in as their guest. The knight, Sir Huldbrand of Ringstetten, meets Undine, whose beauty and startling candidness intrigues him. Undine is introduced into the tale by way of a burst of water that hits the window and startles the adults. The fisherman angrily beseeches the girl (unseen until a little l ater) to "leave off these childish tricks" 237 because they have a guest. From the beginning, Undine is characterized by her wildness and mystery. She and the knight fall in love, and over the period of time that Huldbrand remains with the family, they becom e an inseparable couple, "regarded [by the old couple] as betrothed, or even as already united in marriage." 238 One day, a priest named Father Heilmann also ends up at the house, mysteriously lost. Huldbrand persuades Heilmann to perform an official marri age ceremony, and the two lovers are married. In the moment that this occurs, Undine receives a soul and experiences a sea change; her demeanor becomes more serious and emotional. She and Huldbrand leave the fisherman's house soon after and make their wa y to Huldbrand's !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 236 FouquŽ, Undine 5 237 Ibid. 9 238 Ibid. 31

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! 108 home in the imperial city; their journey is marred only by strange interactions with a white robed man named KŸhleborn, whom Undine identifies as her uncle, an elemental water spirit. It is he who magically orchestrated the couple's initi al meeting, the priest's arrival, and, as the reader and Huldbrand later find out, essentially functions as Undine's acting guardian for her true father, a prince of the sea who desired that she should have an immortal soul and so devised that she would re place a young human child as a changeling of sorts. When Undine and Huldbrand go to the city, Undine meets Bertalda, Huldbrand's first love, and without enmity the two women become fast friends. Huldbrand and Undine live happily until complications aris e and Bertalda runs away and endangers herself. Undine eventually saves her, but she is forced to use her elemental magic, and the event plants the seeds of doubt and fear in Huldbrand. The knight's heart turns away from Undine towards Bertalda, and even tually, he rejects Undine in favor of Bertalda. According to the laws of Undine's world, she is condemned to exact revenge if Huldbrand should take another wife. Undine does what she can to prevent this, but eventually, human folly wins out along with fa e manipulation 239 and Undine, as a weeping, immortal phantom, takes Huldbrand's life. The tale ends tragically, albeit on a note of hope, with Undine incarnated as a stream that flows around Huldbrand's grave as if in an eternal embrace. Andersen's version of this tale, The Little Mermaid places the desire for an immortal soul within his enterprising heroine, the youngest of six sea princesses. She is more curious than outwardly enthusiastic as Undine was, although similarly lovely: "the most beautiful of all [her sisters]." 240 Her desire to know the world beyond the sea the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 239 fae' is the overarching term f or the peoples of the fairy realm. 240 Andersen, Tales and Stories, 35

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! 109 "shore" which she is allowed to visit for the first time on her fifteenth birthday becomes a desire for an immortal soul which only humans can possess. She learns from her esteemed gran dmother, the noble mother of the sea king, that she can only attain one should she fall in love with and marry a human. She does fall in love, with a prince that she saves from drowning, and so she goes to the Sea Witch to find out how to become human in order to woo and marry him. The Sea Witch's price for human legs is the mermaid's voice: she must cut out her tongue in exchange for the pain and pleasure of walking in the prince's world. The bargain is a dangerous gamble, however, because if the little mermaid cannot win the prince's heart, she will die. Once on shore, the prince finds her, and the little mermaid goes with him to live in his castle. Although they become the closest of friends, the prince does not romantically love his little foundlin g," 241 because he does not know it is she who saved him. He eventually marries another princess, the girl he believes saved him, and the Little Mermaid goes knowingly to her death. Her sisters, in an attempt to save her, bargained with the Sea Witch for a knife: her salvation, should she kill the prince with it. But the little mermaid cannot and instead throws herself into the ocean. Because of her choice, however, she joins the "Daughters of the Air," and is given another chance at attaining an immortal soul: three hundred years of doing good deeds in the hopes that the little children of the world will behave themselves so she can gain entrance into God's kingdom. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 241 Andersen, Tales and Stories, 51

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! 110 Synopsis: Wide Sargasso Sea Before she was Bertha, the madwoman was named Antoinette. Ant oinette Cosway grew up in Jamaica, the daughter of a beautiful Creole mother named Annette, a descendant of an old slave owning family, and a now deceased father, a rich English landowner. Antoinette is an outsider among the island folk because of her mi xed heritage and social status, the memory of which is all that remains of the wealth her family possessed. Her world is narrow, bounded by the wide Sargasso Sea and the insular mentality of the island folk, who hate what her family represents. She, her mother, and her younger brother live in the ruins of Coulibri Estate; it is the faded paradise of her youth, wherein exists the tree of life' in an overgrown garden and a view to the sea. Antoinette grew up with few friends, was nursed and t aken care of by Christophine, her mother's servant and a practitioner of Obeah magic, while her mother, who retained her maternal affections for Antoinette's mentally handicapped brother Pierre, largely ignored her. When Annette remarries the rich English man, Mr. Mason, they experience peace and prosperity for a time until Pierre dies in a fire set by the villagers. Antoinette is sent to a convent, and her mother goes mad, while Mr. Mason turns to travelling and loving his wife from afar. Annette dies wh ile Antoinette is away, and eventually Mr. Mason's son, Richard, purports to marry Antoinette off to another Englishman. This man, who remains unnamed throughout the text, plays the part of the dutiful, enamored suitor to Antoinette's recalcitrant and na• ve beauty; both know that theirs is a marriage of economics and convenience, arranged by a father who wants to

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! 111 profit by his lowly younger son's marriage, and a step brother who wants to silence the rumors about his sister's hereditary madness. Antoinette's husband ( the young Rochester of Jane Eyre ), a stranger in Jamaica, is disturbed by the presence of unknown things: the history, tensions, and secrets of the place. As he sees it, Antoinette belongs to the island and knows its secrets. Alt hough their union is initially happy on their honeymoon in the mountain house that is so precious to Antoinette Rochester's prejudices abo ut her origins her O therness and his suspicions about her family and history haunt their relationship, until Antoine tte, in an attempt to make him love her again, asks for Christophine's magical aid. Rochester, feeling betrayed, in turn revenges himself by sleeping with Antoinette's maid and destroying the sanctity of the Honeymoon House, Antoinette's sanctuary. Event s culminate in the breakdown of the couple's relationship and Antoinette's ruptured sanity. Although she tells Rochester her own truth, her testimony is overwhelmed by the onslaught of the island voices. The text leaves us where we knew we would end up, in the attic of the house in England, where Antoinette is fated to perish.

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