Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Even though it is set in an area rich in history, Rich in Love focuses on private life. Lucille may be a conservative, but her interest is not in political life or even in the community. Rather, she simply wants to keep her family unchanged. Of course, that is impossible; even if her parents had not broken up, age would have altered them, and with all their lives before them, both Rae and Lucille herself are bound to find themselves changing in ways they cannot now imagine.

The author does not attempt to minimize the fear of change, which indeed afflicts most human beings at one time or another. Instead, she presents a remedy. When Billy remarks that Lucille begins most of her sentences with “I love” and that she therefore must be filled with love, Lucille realizes that he has indeed defined her. Lucille knows that one does not have to be in love with a particular person in order to love life. Actually, what she sees that momentous summer and fall of the misery that can result from passionate love leads Lucille to doubt that it is really worth the pain. Lucille transcends the fear of change by realizing that she is truly “rich” in her ability to love. Salt air and moonlight, the old house she did not want to leave and the new house where she now lives, her family as it now is and the memories of what it used to be: By embracing them all, Lucille finds that she is truly “rich.”