"Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys : Antoinette Cosway's stay at the convent

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Antoinette first enters Mount Calvary Convent in tears, after being taunted on the way to this new home. She is recieved by the nuns there, whom she percieves as her provisional guardians during her eighteen month stay. These include Mother Justine and Sister Marie Augustine, whose reassurance, especially evident after they console her following two dreadfull nightmares; coupled with the Convent's large stone walls make the convent her 'plaace of refuge'.

Antoinette remarks that the nuns are 'very lax', according to the Bishop, because of the climate. She is enrolled in lessons at the Convent, where she learns to cross-stitch, and is also taught virtue, chastity, manners, and to be modest in speech and attire. She is given religious education and taught to pray.

Antoinette enjoys her stay in a dormitory with eight other young women. Her daily routine begins by rising at dawn to run to the stone bath with her eight companions, where they 'splash about' merrily.

She enjoys her breakfasts of buttered rolls.

Antoinette is also captivated by the ambiguous charm of the convent. She refers to it as 'a place of sunshine and a place of death'. She is secure and somewhat happy at the convent, particularly because she is protected from the antagonistic colonial society, where she is faced with discrimination from both the white and black ex-slave communities. Because she is of French blood, in a British society, and also because of her mother's widely-known insanity, and rumours that she may not be entirely Caucasian, she is haunted by a cloak of adversities outside of the Convent, which has become her fortress.

However, Antoinette's stay at the convent has also brought an end to her adventurous lifestyle in which she enjoyed wandering through the beautiful wilderness of Coulibri Estate, and the...