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, Peggy. Mariah does not like Peggy, who smokes, uses slang, and wears cheap, provocative clothes. Peggy and Lucy roam the streets at night, smoking marijuana and considering the sexual possibilities of the men they see in the park, although they never actually approach those men. During the summer at the Great Lakes, Lucy misses her friend; perhaps that is how she enters a love affair with Hugh, the brother of Mariah’s friend Dinah. Unlike most of Mariah’s associates, Hugh at least knows where the West Indies are; that sensibility earns him Lucy’s approval. Lucy recognizes, however, that she wants no lasting attachments, and the affair ends when the family’s vacation is over.
Back in New York, Lucy watches her employers’ marriage break up. At the same time, Lucy’s longstanding conflict with her mother comes to a head. For months, Lucy has not opened her mother’s letters; now a family friend tells her that her father has died and that her mother badly needs money. Lucy writes her mother an angry letter, blaming her for marrying a man who would not leave even enough money to cover his funeral. She says that she will never come home, but she also sends her some money. When the mother writes back, she says what Annie’s mother said: that she would always be Lucy’s mother and that the island would always be her home.
Lucy writes again, a more conciliatory letter this time, but she includes a false address. Then she quits her job and moves into an apartment with Peggy. She knows that she will not like living with Peggy, and she suspects that her new lover, Paul, is unfaithful. Her meditations as her life changes link her conflicts with her mother and her awareness that she is the product of British colonial rule. As the British had assumed that their black subjects (who had once been their slaves) could produce nothing worthwhile, so had her mother assumed the same about Lucy, whose anger boils at the recognition. At the novel’s end, she takes out a blank journal that Mariah has given her and begins to write her name. Clearly, her future lies in the written word.
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...
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