Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy
Coming of age is a popular topic for many fiction novels. Jamaica Kincaid is an author that excels at her craft. She envelops you in the plot, making you feel as if you yourself are a part of the tale. Lucy portrays the life of a young woman beginning her quest for freedom. Kincaid usually focuses on the West Indian culture and Lucy is no different. As Lucy finds her way in new surroundings, she meets friends and copes with personal issues in her life. Her determination to succeed inspires us all with the “sellable ‘underdog’ fight”. Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy focuses on relationships with family, friends, and self.
Jamaica Kincaid writes with a recurring theme of West Indian female development. (Hawthorne) Lucy is no different in that aspect but unprecedented in other ways. The main character is Lucy Josephine Potter, a spirited soul with a hunger for independence. (Hawthorne) Lucy is a young naïve young lady of 19 years old. (Hawthorne) Her mantra is freedom and independence in her “new” life in a big city. She works as an au pair. An au pair is a young foreigner who lives with a family in return for doing light housework. (Hawthorne) Lucy works for a wealthy white couple and their four young daughters. (Hawthorne) While being employed with the family, she develops feelings for the mother, Mariah, while comparing Mariah to her mother. An emigrant from Antigua, Lucy is accosted with the new surrounding of the United States, with its bright lights, boisterous crowds, and jaw-dropping sights. (Mahlis)
Compared to earlier works, Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy is involved in deeper, more emotional conflicts. (Hawthorne) Kincaid’s previous works ended as the characters would leave their home islands. Lucy begins the story where Kincaid’s other books left off. The story begins with Lucy arriving in the destination, in this case, New York. This gives the book an air of maturity and cynicism. (Oczkowicz) Lucy, being 19 in the story, engages in more mature activities and communicates on a different level with people, unforeseen in Kincaid’s other novels. (Hawthorne) She discovers desires and emotions about herself and others that Kincaid’s other characters would be deemed too young to understand. Lucy becomes aware of her body in a sexual way to the point of having intimate relations with a few men in New York. (Mahlis)
Many themes are prevalent in the content of this novel. Lucy attempts to make an entirely new life for herself, a process she names “Reconstruction”. (Mahlis) She does this in two ways. Her self-imposed separation eats at her conscience because deep down, she truly misses her mother. (Oczkowicz) To cope with her homesickness, Lucy turns to finding friends in the “Big Apple”, for companionship and affection. (Hawthorne) This momentarily takes her mind away from her deep-set issues. Lucy escapes her past, trying to forget what happened in Antigua and move on with her life and her future. (Mahlis) Before her departure, Lucy’s father died in Antigua. She had known him to be a dishonorable man because he had cheated on her mother. Lucy felt guilty for the resentment that lived within her heart for her father and not having forgiven him before he died. To cope with this problem, Lucy tries to protect Mariah from knowing that her husband, Lucy’s boss, is cheating on her. (Hawthorne) Another theme found in this work is coming of age. (Hawthorne) Lucy is a young woman on the brink of womanhood. As she anticipates this new stage in her life, she finds herself hoping that her future does not parallel that of her mother. New found independence empowers Lucy to be outspoken and outgoing, both of which were frowned upon in the Antiguan society she fled. (Hawthorne) The search for identity is a quest that consumes Lucy as she tries to distance herself from her past, culture, and family. (Oczkowicz) Lucy’s main goal is to separate herself fully from her oppressed background.
A balance is the best way to...
Cited: Hawthorne, Evelyn J. “Review of Lucy.” Contemporary Literary Criticism Select. Gale Group, Jan.-Feb. 2001. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1100034645&v=2.1&u=will19450&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w>.
Mahlis, Kristen. “Gender and Exile: Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy.” Literature Resource Center. Gale Group, Jan.-Feb. 2001. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1100034660&v=2.1&u=will19450&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w>.
Oczkowicz, Edyta. “Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy: Cultural Translation as a Case of Creative Exploration of the Past.” Contemporary Literary Criticism Select. Gale Group, Jan.-Feb. 2001. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1100034655&v=2.1&u=will19450&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w>.
Richardson, Elaine Potter. “Jamaica Kincaid.” Critical Survey of Long Fiction. Ed. Carl Rollyson. Vol. 4. Hackensack: Salem, 2000. 1780-1784. Print.
Simmons, Diane. “The Rhythm of Reality in the Works of Jamaica Kincaid.” Literature Resource Center. Gale Group, Jan.-Feb. 2000. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1420031239&v=2.1&u=will19450&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w>.
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