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The Peculiarities of “The Tongue” from Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid Essay (Book Review)


Sometimes it is rather difficult for young people to overcome the period when they are not children, but not adults yet. It is the beginning of a new life, and it is very important to start it under the best circumstances.

However, what are the peculiarities of growing up when you are in a foreign country, live with the host family and hope for the better future trying to accept your past?

In her novel Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid created the character who in many details reflects her own personal experience. “The Tongue” is the most provocative because of its open frankness part of the novel.

The main ideas discussed in this chapter can be presented in the form of three key words which are ‘tongue’, ‘love’, and ‘remembering’. Nevertheless, to analyze the author’s opinion on these concepts, it is necessary to focus on Lucy’s interpretation of these notions.

The title of the chapter can be considered as rather controversial, but to understand its provocative character completely, it is significant to read the first pages of the part.

‘Tongue’ is the concept which can be perceived from many points of view, including social, cultural, and historical perspectives. However, in her inner monologue, Lucy as the narrator of the story presents only one understanding of ‘tongue’ concentrating on its physical meaning. Thus, ‘tongue’ is the reflection of Lucy’s perception of her own sexuality.

When she speaks about her kisses and close relations there are no descriptions of the romantic aspects of the situations, but only physical details.

She says, “I was sucking the tongue of a boy named Tanner”, and then, “I liked the way behind his ears smelled. Those three things had led to my standing in his sister’s room (she was my best friend), my back pressed against the closed door, sucking his tongue” (Kincaid 43).

She also compares it with a dish cooked of a cow’s tongue which was “served in a sauce of lemon juice, onions, cucumber, and pepper” (Kincaid 44).

These details give the readers no opportunity to think of Lucy as a romantic girl. If the author focuses her attention on the sensual character of Lucy’s feelings and emotions, she rejects the sensitive reactions of the main character.

Drawing the readers’ attention to such details, the author expresses the peculiarities of Lucy’s becoming a woman and her rather cynical perception of the fact typical for young people.

Lucy is extremely honest in her reactions to reality and considerations about many facts. A number of her phrases presented in the narration can be characterized as modal ones, with strict connotations because many of them include the words which express her emotions in the range of ‘love-hatred’.

Thus, the next key concept is the notions of ‘love’ and ‘likeness’ as it is given in the text. To describe her emotions, Lucy uses the word ‘love’.

However, does she really mean love? “I was not in love with him nor did I have a crush on him” (48) or “I loved Miriam from the moment I met her” (Kincaid 53).

In spite of the fact that a lot of Lucy’s thoughts can be considered as intimate, her personal vision of intimacy also lies only in the field of physical sensations. She is ready to speak about her emotions, but she is not ready to feel yet because she considers love as the possible threat for her independence.

Furthermore, she has the example of Mariah who loves her husband in front of her eyes. However, Mariah “could imagine the demise of the fowl of the air, fish in the sea, mankind itself, but not that the only man she had ever loved would no longer love her” (Kincaid 81).

The author accentuates the fact that love hurts with the help of rather symbolical similes and proves Lucy’s vision of this feeling because in her relations with Hugh and Peggy she is more interested in the physical aspect.

‘Remembering’ is that fact which unites Lucy with her past life. The author focuses on the idea that Lucy tries to break the chains which could join her to her mother and her native land.

But in fact, her memories do not allow breaking. Every time Lucy experiences something interesting she recollects her dreams and past emotions.

Lucy recollects her memories when she feeds the girls, when she observes the relations between Mariah and Lewis, when she thinks of Mariah as a mother.

That is why the narrative line is often broken by the description of Lucy’s memories which helps to create the full opinion on the girl’s character. The most expressive recollection is the situation with Lucy’s mother and the monkey which is presented in a quite ironical tone.

Thus, Jamaica Kincaid as her main character is extremely frank and rather subjective in her descriptions which make the story sound truthfully.

Kincaid’s sentences “turn and surprise even in the bare context she has created, in which there are few colors, sights or smells and the moments of intimacy and confrontation take place in the wings, or just after the door closes” (Davis 9). “The Tongue” is the most expressive and honest part of Jamaica Kincaid’s novel Lucy.

Works Cited

Davis, Thulani. “Girl-Child in a Foreign Land”. The New York Times 28 Oct. 1990: 9. Print.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Lucy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, April 2). The Peculiarities of “The Tongue” from Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-peculiarities-of-the-tongue-from-lucy-by-jamaica-kincaid/

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"The Peculiarities of “The Tongue” from Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid." IvyPanda, 2 Apr. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-peculiarities-of-the-tongue-from-lucy-by-jamaica-kincaid/.

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IvyPanda. "The Peculiarities of “The Tongue” from Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid." April 2, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-peculiarities-of-the-tongue-from-lucy-by-jamaica-kincaid/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Peculiarities of “The Tongue” from Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid." April 2, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-peculiarities-of-the-tongue-from-lucy-by-jamaica-kincaid/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Peculiarities of “The Tongue” from Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid'. 2 April.

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