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Alanna Russell

October 20, 2015


English 305-02
Response Paper

Lucy

In Jamaica Kincaid’s novel Lucy, it is about a young girl becoming an au pair to a new family

in a new country, yet in truth, Lucy is not just about her experiences with this new family, but the

parallels between the family she wanted to escape from and the new one she works for. We see the

experiences of deception, infidelity, and sexual awakenings that Lucy encounters and how they

compare to the issues from her past. As we see Lucy come to love and hate Mariah and Lewis and

trying to understand their problems and facades, the story delves into her past and the issues she has

with her own mother and father and how they overlap with her “new” family. In fact, Lucy’s

character is shaped by her dilemmas with her home country, family and how much resentment she

holds for the people from her past. Through Lucy and her family, Lucy demonstrates the idea that

although families may be from different parts of the world and different class systems, they still

encounter similar setbacks.

As the novel begins it is obvious that Lucy’s relationship to her mother is strained. The

relationship between Lucy and her mother, Annie, can be compared in ways to the relationship that

Lucy and Mariah have, in that they both have their ups and downs. Lucy loves her mother but she

resents her in many ways because of the unrealistic expectations she has set for her. Annie wanted a

certain life for Lucy that did not include education and bettering herself in deeper ways than

marrying her off to a man. “But I already had a mother who loved me, and I had come to see her

love as a burden and had come to view with horror of self-satisfaction it gave my mother to hear

other people comment on her great love for me. I had come to feel that my mother’s love for me

was designed solely to make me into an echo of her” (Kincaid, 36). The resentment that Lucy holds

for her mother relates to the issues she has with Mariah, in that she sees Mariah wanting Lucy to be
a certain way and to be just as perfect as she is. “Mariah wanted all of us, the children and me, to see

things the way she did. She wanted us to enjoy the house, all its nooks and crannies, all its sweet

smells, all its charms, just the way she had done as a child” (36). Lucy emphasizes the bitterness she

holds towards being held to a certain standard by both her mother and Mariah but that still does not

take away from the fact that still loves them both. Kincaid emphasizes the importance of a mother-

daughter relationship and the effects high standards have on the mind of the daughter.

In Lucy, the link between father and daughter influences the tone that is set towards the men

in the story. The relationships or lack there of that Lucy has with men is strongly influenced by her

hatred towards her father and the example he set as someone who was never there for her. When

Lewis has an affair and cheats on Mariah, we learn that Lucy is probably not surprised in the least bit

because of her viewpoint towards men. “A woman like Dinah was not unfamiliar to me, nor was a

man like Lewis. Where I came from, it was well known that some women and all men in general

could not be trusted in certain areas. My father had perhaps thirty children; he did not know for

sure” (80). The way she sees her father and his infidelity sets the foundation for her resentment

towards Lewis and even towards most of the men in the story. Infidelity and lack of a father figure

greatly influence the story and the built up resentment Lucy holds towards men. Kincaid displays the

effects of a father figure who is not ideal and how that relationship can influence someone to behave

a certain way and to view people a certain way.

Kincaid reveals the importance of family and the past in Lucy to show the effects it can have

on someone and the choices they make in their future. The relationship between Lucy and her

mother, and Lucy and Mariah, teaches readers about the overlay that can happen between families

even if they are from completely different walks of life. The high expectations held for Lucy is

something she resents in both her mother and Mariah. The novel also shows readers the important

influence a father figure has on a young girl and how it will shape her in how she views relationships
for the rest of her life. Lucy’s father and Lewis are intertwined to show that the effects Lucy’s father

has on her relationships with men. Therefore, it does not matter where a family is from, every family

goes through some of the same experiences, shaping the future of the children and how they view

the people in it.