Mother-Daughter Relationships in “Lucy”
Relationships are a prominent and frequent theme throughout many of Jamaica Kincaid's novels. One example of this can be seen in “Annie John,” which deals with relationships the protagonist has throughout her childhood, particularly, the relationship between mother and daughter. This paper however will explore the mother-daughter relationship that can be found in “Lucy” and how it affects the protagonist’s relationships with the people around her. “Lucy” tells the story of a young woman who escapes a West Indian island and reaches North America to work as an au pair for Mariah and Lewis, a married couple, and their four girls. As in her other books, Kincaid uses the mother-daughter relationship as a means to expose some of her underlying themes. And this is clear within the plot of “Lucy.” Lucy has an ambivalent relationship with her mother; one that has moved from a very intimate and loving one to one full of deception and contempt. Lucy does not like her mother, but she does love her. The reader can see evidence of her mixed feelings toward her mother when Lucy quickly walks away from her mother after criticizing her mother’s traditional Christmas Eve viewing of a Bing Crosby movie. She states that her “thirteen-year-old heart couldn’t bear to see her face . . ., but I just couldn’t help myself” (Kincaid, 1991). Lucy’s mother tries to impose her way of life on her daughter, being puzzled about how someone from inside her would want to be different from her (Barwick, 1990. ”I had come to feel that my mother’s love for me was designed solely to make me into an echo of her; and I didn’t know why but I felt that I would rather be dead than become just an echo of someone” (Kinkaid, 1991). Despite her physical absence, however, Lucy's mother continually occupies Lucy's thoughts, inspiring feelings of anger, contempt, longing, and regret. This is put side by side with the various aspects of British culture imposed on Lucy’s home island. As a child, Lucy attended “Queen Victoria Girls’ School” (Kinkaid, 1991), a school with a British educational system where she was taught British history and also British literature. Lucy remembers being forced to memorize British poems, specifically one about daffodils. She “had been made to memorize it, verse after verse, and then had recited the whole rhyme to an auditorium full of parents, teachers, and [her] fellow pupils” (Kinkaid, 1991), even though she would not actually see the flower until becoming almost twenty years old; Lucy sees the daffodils Mariah shows her as a reminder of her colonial education. The reader can notice a parallel between the interactions between Lucy and her mother, and Lucy’s colonized country and its colonizer or “mother country,” England. The presence of her mother haunts Lucy’s mind while she is in America; she cannot seem to escape the traits she has inherited. Although Lucy’s mother seems to allow some kind of separation by allowing Lucy to travel to America, she has no intention of making it forever and doesn’t want to completely let go of Lucy; she consistently writes her letters. Similarly the legacy of colonialism is almost impossible to escape from. It has integrated itself into the ways of the country and its native people and it takes great efforts to even try to slightly disconnect from it. Lucy struggles to settle what she has internalized from her mother with what she discovers about herself, “I was then at the height of my two-facedness: that is outside I seemed one way, inside I was another; outside false, inside true” (Kinkaid, 1991).
The mother-daughter dynamic of Lucy and her mother can also be seen as a vessel through which the system of patriarchy is imposed on Lucy. The relationship begins to decline upon the birth of Lucy’s three brothers, when Lucy realizes the greater hopes that her mother and father have for their “three male children” than those...
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