Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Lucy seems to take up where Annie John left off, and Lucy seems much like a slightly older, angrier Annie. The novel opens with Lucy’s arrival in New York, where she will care for the four little daughters of Lewis and Mariah.
From the first, Lucy’s affluent new surroundings feel foreign to her. Although she likes the family for whom she works, they call her “the Visitor” because she seems so distant from them. Lucy, though, has divorced herself from her past and has committed herself to her new land and the strange things (such as snow) in it. Mariah promises her that in the spring she will see daffodils, but to Lucy, daffodils are simply the subject of a poem by William Wordsworth that she was once made to memorize in school. The daffodils become an emblem of the British (and American) visions of the world that are irrelevant to a West Indian.
As time passes, the many differences of race, class, and geography between Lucy and Mariah take on added weight. They will never really understand each other. On the train ride to the family’s summer home on the Great Lakes, Lucy sees miles of freshly plowed fields and comments that at least she will not have to do plowing. The remark mystifies Mariah, but Lucy seems to be referring to her awareness of her ancestors in slavery and her consciousness that plowed lands cost someone some hard labor. In fact, although Lucy has come to love Mariah, seeing in her some of her mother, she is also constantly aware that Mariah knows little of the world that produced Lucy.
In her spare time, Lucy has made a friend,...
(The entire section is 657 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
A roughly autobiographical novel, Lucy deals with the experiences of a young Antiguan woman who, like Jamaica Kincaid herself, comes to New York City to work as a nanny in an effort to escape her repressive family and the narrow island life in which she has grown up. Her experiences in the city disillusion her, but while she copes with her disillusionment, she must come to terms with her family back in Antigua.
The episodic action of the five chapters of Lucy is narrated by Lucy herself, beginning with her first morning on her new job in New York. Even when the family was driving her home from the airport and pointing out famous sights to her, Lucy recalls, her feelings were a sort of sadness. What she discovers is the difference between her romantic expectations and the gritty reality of the city. The difference is made even more powerful by her memory of warm, sunny Antigua, a place she had never expected to miss, for when she was at home she felt in constant conflict with her family. Now, however, she identifies this surprising sadness as homesickness for foods of home such as green figs and pink mullet, for a cousin, even for a favorite nightgown from her childhood.
The family she works for is kind to her, and Lucy admires their blonde good looks and happy informality. They recognize Lucy’s unhappiness, however, and Lewis, the husband, begins to call her “Visitor.” One night, Lucy tells the family a dream full of sexual images she dreamed about Lewis. Mariah and Lewis are obviously uncomfortable, but to Lucy, the dream simply indicates that she has made Mariah and Lewis important people in her life.
In early March, Mariah, knowing how Lucy longs for warm weather, describes the beauty of daffodils to her. The description makes Lucy remember how in school she had had to recite a poem about daffodils (evidently William Wordsworth’s famous “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”). She recited it perfectly, but underneath she was angry about the task and the poem, which to her represented Great Britain’s colonization of Antigua. Her anger emphasizes the gulf between Lucy...
(The entire section is 869 words.)
Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Lucy tells about a year in the life of a nineteen-year-old girl from the Caribbean who has just arrived in the United States. When the novel opens, Lucy is experiencing the shock of adapting to a new culture. Even the weather is deceiving: Although the January sun is shining, Lucy shivers in her thin clothing. She likes her new employers, Mariah and Lewis, and their children, for whom she cares, but she is somewhat homesick. This emotion confuses her because she was so eager to leave her home and begin a new life.
Interspersed with the day-to-day happenings of her life are her memories of home, which revolve around her sexual awakening and her love-hate relationship with her mother. Mariah wants Lucy to see the world through her eyes and love the things that she loves. For example, Mariah loves daffodils and tells Lucy all about them. Mariah’s words trigger in Lucy the unhappy memory of being forced to memorize poetry about daffodils at the Queen Victoria School for Girls when she was ten years old. Her anger about daffodils is explained when she finally sees a daffodil and remarks that she had to wait nine years to see a flower that never grew on her island but that she was forced to revere under British rule.
Mariah, although well-meaning, often upsets Lucy by her attitude toward life. Lucy cannot understand how Mariah can be always cheerful and always kindhearted but also always blind to the injustices done to people of color. During a train ride planned by Mariah for the sole purpose of providing a new experience for Lucy, Lucy notices that the other passengers all look like Mariah’s relatives and the waiters all look like Lucy’s relatives.
Lucy eventually makes friends with Peggy, with whom she has little in common except their thirst for shared experiences. Peggy and Lucy spend their free time together and talk...
(The entire section is 763 words.)