“Lucy” by Jamaica Kincaid

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Jamaica Kincaid’s novel “Lucy” describes the young woman Lucy’s experience leaving her home in Antigua for the first time to be an au pair for a wealthy family in the US.

I didn’t like Jamaica Kincaid’s novel Lucy until I was about a third of the way through it, and I think that’s because I didn’t really like Lucy until that point. I judged her harshly for her harsh judgment of those around her. As the reader I was only able to gain knowledge about Lucy from her actions, marooned by the lack of the usual narrative self-reflection in a character- led first person novel. She had a certain armor of unknowability about her, a power derived from being a stranger, free from the confines of expected personality and behavior. This unwillingness to be fully known is an important aspect of Lucy’s character, but its manifestation in Kincaid’s narrative tone limited my ability to relate and connect to the character. Though written in first person, I didn’t gain access to an elucidating internal world, or what inner world I was shown was uncertain, vapid, and incomplete. Rather, Lucy is as foreign to the reader as she is to the other characters in the book, and ultimately to herself. A foreigner in a new land, she has become an alien within herself by rejecting her native identity in her bid for escape. Lucy’s lack of self-knowledge arrested the growth of connecting with her as a character. After all, I know no more about Lucy than she herself does. As a result of this introversion within both the character and the writing tone, the ego swoops in, and the reading of Lucy becomes a type of self-reflection, an exploration in introspection. Throughout the reading I found myself connecting Lucy’s observations and memories with my own, as if I was compensating for Lucy’s lack of described introspection with my own.

            But then, a little less than halfway through this book, in the section titles “The Tongue,” Kincaid began presenting Lucy’s memories from her childhood in Antigua. An event would occur, and presumably connect in Lucy’s mind with this memory from her past. The narrative structure was still devoid of memoir-type self-reflection; there was no explanation for Lucy’s train of thought. Just the description of memories that spanned for pages, winding on until I forgot where I had come from in the story, that this was indeed a memory at all, as I was buried in layers of narrative.  Reading “Lucy” is an experience in psychological analysis as well; you are privy to Lucy’s outward life plus her scattered memories, and these are shares with you and left unembellished for you to interpret. An understanding of Lucy will not build without a little work on the part of the reader. You must do what she is unable to: understand how her past experiences in Antigua have led to her present desire to flee herself and all that is familiar.

My independent study – exploration and liberation through the arts

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m a senior in high school for the next four months until i graduate to quickly relocate in Haiti, mission unknown. To satisfy my graduation requirement I created “Liberation and Exploration in Art and Literature,” an independent study focusing on intertexuality and the interaction between text and visual elements. through the reading of a variety of selected titles from writers around the world.  Thoughts and discussion will be greatly appreciated!

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