Letters from the Pandemic 17: Dear Antoinette

Letters from the Pandemic 17: Dear Antoinette
by Jennifer Martin


Rebecca Hall as Antoinette Cosway in the BBC adaptation of Wide Sargasso Sea (2006)

Dear Antoinette,

I saw a red dress today, made entirely of flowers, leaves, and branches. There is a wildness in this dress, with its hem of berries, grasses, and cedar, and I thought of how much it would become you.

While I cannot admit to knowing how you feel in your attic room, with only your jailer for company, I can tell you that I am learning how it feels to be confined and to long for the familiar pleasure of putting on a beautiful red dress.

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (first edition, André Deutsch, 1966)

A plague is keeping us indoors. Like you, we may make brief escapes to do our necessary errands, and while there is no jailer, the plague has done a fine job of keeping us away from the things we love. Like you, we grieve for what we have lost: the trip abroad, the postponed wedding, the final goodbye to loved one. We are in our own Sargasso Sea, bordered by currents of fear, isolation, uncertainty, and longing.

We stand in liminal space, with no hope of returning to the past, anticipating a future that is uncertain. We must take this moment, breathe in deeply, and find peace and beauty in our lives. We scan the skies for our lodestar, and wait for the wind that will guide us out of these doldrums.

It will come. Until then, wear your red dress. If you don’t have one, go out into the forest, whether in your mind or the apparent world, and make one. If red berries and cedar are not for you, there are ferns, heathers, and soon, snowdrops. When we reach the distant shores of terra incognita, we will be ready.


Jennifer Martin

The dress that inspired Jennifer Martin’s letter, from the Fleurs en Ville exhibit, Vancouver


Jennifer Martin

Jennifer Martin is a master’s student in the GLS (Graduate of Liberal Studies) program at SFU. Although Jennifer was born in Victoria, she spent most of her young life in Ontario, and moved back to BC after completing a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree at Ryerson University in Toronto. She is active in the storytelling and theatre communities, as a performer and writer. This short letter to Antoinette, from Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, was inspired by an image of a dress from the Fleurs en Ville exhibit in Vancouver’s West End in December 2020.


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One comment on “Letters from the Pandemic 17: Dear Antoinette

  1. Love this one, Jennifer. The image itself is incredible — and you have made an interesting connection between the isolation of “now” and the isolation felt by the Jean Rhys character, the unfortunate and mistreated Antoinette.

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