An Archive of One's Own

“I was never sad in the morning,’ she said, ‘and every day was a fresh day for me. I remember the taste of milk and bread and the sound of the grandfather clock ticking slowly and the first time I had my hair tied with string because there was no ribbon left and no money to buy any. All the flowers in the world were in our garden. . . If I could make you see it, because they destroyed it and it is only here now.’ She struck her forehead.” (84)

This passage in Wide Sargasso Sea, in which Antoinette recalls memories of her childhood home to Mr. Rochester, stands out in its function of memory as an archive. Her home and its contents are gone, much as the world in which she lived in is gone, too. As her family is left with only the memory of their former wealth and status, so, too, is Antoinette only left with the memory of her Coulibri youth. These scraps of memory function as archival materials, artifacts that act both individually in their own right – the ticking clock, the tied string, the sensation of milk and bread – and collectively as documents of Antoinette’s childhood. They can both exist on their own, and also be arranged specifically to communicate a memory, a message, a picture. Like an archive, this is only a partial documentation of a period, only a scrap of the story not a broad coverage of it. Like an archive, these artifacts are not intentionally selected, but have naturally found their way into the archive, collected merely as memories that have remained with Antoinette.

Antoinette’s childhood has long come and gone, its evidence destroyed by others, its memory tarnished by others. But as she states, she will always keep some of it with her, in her head. The archive will remain with her for as long as she remembers it. The archive of these memories will serve as an encapsulation of random scatterings from her childhood, tethered in physical objects and senses, one that she can carry with her and access whenever she wishes to return to it. This archive, however, is one only she will ever be able to access.