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The Book Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid Essay

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Updated: Nov 23rd, 2021

One of the main items in the world is the understanding of personal identity in this world and how person is related to it. The question is how the person feels in the stream of events and among other people, who make up the crowd, how person sees him/herself in this wide and infinite world. The personal realizing of his/her identity, relevance in the world is the main aim of the whole mankind. When somebody understands that he/she is on the right place, belongs to the appropriate culture and has already perceived the world through personal experience, this is the main point that he/she is in the right stream and has already found him/herself in life. The main character of the book Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid is the example of woman, who has come to the strange country, has experienced the change of cultures and has found herself in the world.

The main factor, which influenced Lucy’s choice and her personal experience in the world, understanding of her sexuality in particular, was the change of the place of her habitation and the new culture, new area of existence. Starting the discussion of the world perception through personal experience, new aims and desires, the factors, which were the main in understanding of personal place in the world, should be discussed. Analyzing the novel Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid, it becomes understandable that the influence on the main character was provided through outside factors, the new culture, she appeared in. Furthermore, the new culture had changed not just the style of life, but also the very features of character of Lucy, her inner features, attitude to the world and surrounding, which led to the understanding of her own identity and her significance on the Earth, as personality.

The beginning of the novel is not just the description of Lucy’s first day on her new job, but the description of the changes, which she had suffered as a newcomer in the new country and the attitude to the new culture. To the word, Lucy wanted those changes, she wanted to leave her native land and to become the part of the new life, which, she thought, will be in the United States of America. Elevators, refrigerators and other American things, which were common for others, were strange for her. She describes that “the ride in the elevator, being in an apartment, eating day-old food that had been stored in the refrigerator” (Kincaid, 2002, p.4) was new for her and strange. “In the place I had just come from, I always lived in a house, and my house did not have a refrigerator in it” (Kincaid, 2002, p.4) is Lucy’s description why that was new for her. Reading the novel, it becomes understandable that for person, who has just come from West Indies, the United States of America is a huge place with lots of new things, which she never understood before, but “would grow used to it and like it very much” (Kincaid, 2002, p.4).

The factor, which influenced Lucy’s understanding of herself, was new culture, as it has already been mentioned, as people are social beings, and when they appear in the new atmosphere, they become to behave differently, their opinion is changing and becomes other. The same happened with Lucy, having come to the United States of America, she has changed, as the surrounding has changed. People, she was communicating with, were different from those, she had used to communicate with in her own country, the relations were different and the attitude to these relations was also another. Having changed herself, Lucy’s attitude to people is changed. Working in American family as an au pair, she became to think that they are not so perfect as she thought before. Such shift of opinion is based on the fact that now she understands the priorities and customs of the culture, they live in and can compare and analyze, and furthermore, she also could see the difference in mannerisms and expression.

Reading the novel, the changes, which occurred in Lucy’s life, are so visible and fast, that it seems that it happens not with her. Having been simple, modest and shy person, but with great desire to change something in her life, Lucy becomes passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest. These changes are related to two people, who have come into her life, or, to be more specific and true, she has come in their lives and this transmission has changed her life. Whether this change is for better or not is rather contestable question and some factors should be considered. Comparing her life when she lived on her native land, she is able to analyze now that her new life is not so perfect as it may seem. Noticing the cracks in the beautiful facade of her new employees, Lucy understands, that all her dreams about the new life were wrong, but nevertheless, she continue to search for herself in the, having become native for her, American world.

Lucy’s desire to change her life, led to the change of her character and the author of the book made all possible to show the heroine of the epoch, possessed with adamantine clear-sightedness and ferocious integrity. The result was great, Lucy became the type of person she wanted, her attitude to herself was changed and the attitude to others also. The conclusion may be provided, that she reached her aim, she found herself in the world, with the qualities, she desired, but the question arises: whether Lucy is satisfied with her choice? Maybe yes, but reading the story, the idea appears that living the life Lucy wants, being the part of the society she desire, she is lonely. The aim was reached, the culture of America was conquest and she got used to it, but if take a deeper view on the story, the conclusion may be provided that the result is not which she desired for, or it is not expected one.

The other fact, which may help us to understand the double feelings of Lucy, is her own thinking about her personal position. Living for many kilometers from her native land, Lucy never dreamed to come back, she had never wanted to return, but her present position ids unfamiliar for her, as she expected to come to happy and great country, but in reality everything was different. Considering the reasons of her desire to live far from her native land, the episode from the book may be recollected, when at school Lucy had to learn the poem by heart about daffodils. Reading the poem, Lucy considered that she will never understand the poem as she had never seen it in reality, as the place, she lived in such place, the plant never grew. Exactly at that time Lucy understood that all she was learning was false, as she could never see it in reality, she could never experience it, and understanding of the world comes only through personal experience. That episode was one of the first, when the consideration of leaving her native land came to her. Lucy understood that only experiencing the things personally, not through reading or listening about them, she could find herself, to consider herself as the part of the world.

Going to America, Lucy was sure that she would find true real life, but she did not know how wrong she was. Having come to America, she experienced a lot of things, she had found herself in the world, but at the same time the understanding had come that even that world, being real, was so much false. The deeper realizing of the surrounding culture, of the customs and traditions of America, she kept in her mind that all she knew about that country was wrong, all that looked great, was ugly, all that seemed pleasant, appeared to be not so good and so on. Having realized all that, she had left the family, she lived in, as she could not sustain that false surrounding. The situation appeared that she had found herself in the world, her place there through the experiencing of the world personally, but at the same tome there was no complete satisfaction from that what she had experience. Having become the person, she dreamed about, strong and independent, she was not sure whether it was exactly she dreamed about.

Lucy’s relations with her mother are also notifying, as never dreaming about close communication with her in reality, Lucy usually thinks about her, and her arrival to America was the cause of Lucy’s sorrow, as she realized that she will never have relations with her mother and feelings to her the same, as they were before leaving. The other regret, which Lucy experienced in the new culture, was people’s relations. Having considered them, Lucy began to fear that she will never be able to love, so fully, as she thought she could before. The experiencing of the world, real one opened Lucy’s eyes on that real world, which was not so beautiful as she thought before.

So, the conclusion may be provided that place and time play significant roles in understanding and representation of the self. Living in West Indies, Lucy would never become such as she was and she would never understand that she was sexual. Culture is strong factor on personal way of oneself identity and Lucy is the great example of this. Wanting to become the part of the modern American culture, she has changed, and she liked those changes, she could, at last, identify herself in the world, to perceive the world through personal experience. The story is a great proof that people can find their places in the world only when they reach their aim, and Lucy managed to do this. But the story also teaches that the images people usually draw in their minds do not usually correspond to the reality.


Kincaid, J. (2002). Lucy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.

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