Jamaica Kincaid’s novel Lucy is an autobiography which tells of the Kincaid as a teenage girl looking for a new life or a better life experience. Lucy, the name given to the author in the novel as well as the main character, is highly outspoken and very opinionated. Hoping to be ‘free’ and become the woman she longed to be, Lucy moved from her home in the Caribbean to a foreign place in the United States. To put it another way, Lucy wanted to find her true self. There was no reference in the novel where Lucy migrated from, but clues and suggestions were given that she was probably from the Caribbean and she was black. Though there were other black people in the United States, Lucy had experienced a sense of exclusion as a Caribbean born person in the United States.
Lucy is seen not only as a stranger or refugee but is identified as a black woman because of how she looked. Because Lucy was seen in this way, Lucy did not recognize that she was part of the black race once. She also gave signs, however, that encouraged readers to believe she was a woman of color. For example, while they were on the train heading to Mariah’s old home, Lucy noted physical differences between herself and the other persons on the train. ‘The other people who were sitting down for dinner all looked like the relatives of Mariah; the people waiting for them all looked like mine. On closer observation, they were not all my relatives, they only looked like me” (Kincaid 32). At this point, Lucy is observing her surroundings and she realizes that black people are serving the white people who looks like Mariah. However, although Lucy sees people who are the same color as herself, their involvements are different from hers. They may be the same color as her, but it does not mean they are from the Caribbean or they had to migrate to get where they were. They can simply be African Americans. However, Lucy is just a black woman who migrated from the Caribbean to escape her past and discover a better way of life.
Lucy struggled to find herself mentally. In other words, Lucy fought with her identity. The part in the novel that speaks about Lucy’s encounter with the maid also gave the idea that Lucy was faced with exclusion. For example, when Lucy arrived, the maid undoubtedly specified that “everything about me was pious it made her feel at once sick to the stomach and sick with pity just to look at me” (Kincaid 11). This shows that the maid was not fond of Lucy’s arrival although both ladies shared a common historical background. It is somewhat challenging for someone like Lucy to not experience exclusion in the United States especially being a black girl from Antigua. Lucy’s persona has been stained in a way beyond her control. People in the United States have described Lucy as being someone that she is not. Another scene in Lucy’s novel was Lucy’s encounter with Mariah’s best friend Dinah. Dinah seemed to be much like Mariah, a white upper-class woman. When Lucy first met Dinah, she did not like her very much, “I had met Dinah the night after I arrived here on our holiday, and I did not like her” (Kincaid 56). The first thing Dinah said to Lucy was
“So you are from the islands?” (Kincaid 56). This kind of introduction made Lucy feel disparaged, but she decided not to be the outspoken girl she is and held her response to herself. Dinah saw Lucy as the girl and not woman who took care of the children in Mariah’s family. However, Lucy is aware of being a young woman irrespective of her race but, being called a girl because she is black shows a lack of admiration Dinah showed Lucy.
During the time, which is the 1900’s, being the one to take care of children in a white family the woman is considered some sort of slavery but today it is called “nanny”. However, at this age Lucy may have been an immigrant from Antigua, but she may have slight knowledge of slavery. Nevertheless, the ethnicities of black women in American are executed on her when it comes to employment because of the race. She stayed in the maid’s room, where she is recognized as an indigenous worker and a white woman, Dinah, views her as a girl and not a woman. It all goes back to the fact that although Lucy may have known that in America there are people of the same color as she is, she realizes that not all of them are looked upon in the same way or handled in such a way. Lucy is not seen as a stranger or a visitor, she is seen as a black woman who migrated to America.
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