In Lucy, Cather has captured the best of what it means to be young, talented, and discovering the world. The impression of quickness that Lucy leaves on her observers’ minds—the idea that she is poised for flight—is a symbol of Lucy’s intellect. She is learning to appreciate many of the artistic and natural wonders of her world; her joy in music, in winter, and in the city is too great not to be conveyed to those around her. Caught in the throes of discovery, Lucy is also something of an egotist, impatient with those who are not as quick as she is, angry when she has to defend her impetuosity. Frequently, she responds impulsively, learning later that her haste is self-destructive.
A foil to Lucy’s youth is Pauline, Lucy’s older sister. Pauline has managed her father’s home since her mother’s death and has reared Lucy. Believing that she is the only responsible figure in an unappreciative family, Pauline resents Lucy’s beauty and spontaneity. Always looking for ways to supplement her father’s meager income, Pauline thinks that Lucy’s music lessons in Chicago are an extravagance, and though she does not try to stop them, she accuses Lucy of lacking appreciation for the people who do the most for her. Further, she thinks that Lucy is not doing enough to encourage Harry Gordon. In a rich husband, Pauline sees Lucy’s best hope of repaying what she owes to the family. Lucy, who gives piano lessons and earns a good salary accompanying Sebastian, resents Pauline’s interference and interprets Pauline’s attempts to understand her as efforts at martyrdom.
(The entire section is 655 words.)