Professor Babcock and Levine
October 23, 2018
While we analyze the novel Lucy, written by Jamaica Kincaid, there is clearly a significant challenge that our main character, Lucy, faces throughout the novel. This double identity, which is comprised of both an Americanized and Caribbean point of view, can be seen throughout the whole novel disturbing Lucy to engage in a constant struggle with herself. This struggle between Lucy and herself is a surprise because she is always at war to try and adapt from her hometown in the Caribbean to her new home in the United States, instead of finding closure in one or the other. Kincaid is able to illustrate the constant challenges that struggling with a double identity for Lucy through societal emulation, and the use of daffodils throughout the story.
While Lucy continues to experience American culture, she realizes that life is drastically different than what she’s used to compared to life back in the West Indies. These differences of culture further strengthen her challenges that Lucy faces with double identity. “I had been a girl of whom certain things were expected… but in one year of being away from home, that girl had gone out of existence.” (Kincaid, 133). While dealing with such an extremely diverse place in the United States, it can be hard for someone coming from Lucy’s background to not experience any form of change in identity. Lucy isn’t just seen as a young black girl from Antigua, she’s also seen as a black girl of different statues in the eyes of the people from the United States. Mariah’s friend Dinah calls Lucy’s true home “the islands” (Kincaid, 56) Distraught by her word choice, Lucy retaliates in a way that mirrors her post-colonial experiences, while living as a native in the Caribbean. Dinah references the West Indies in a way that depicts the colonial perspective people of her background feel towards people who are from colonized nations. While having this discussion, Lucy’s true personality begins to reveal itself. She is completely overwhelmed and disappointed by the arrogance implied by referring her native homeland to only “the islands” (Kincaid, 56). Dinah’s negligence to the way she speaks to Lucy truly showcases the pretension of those who are equipped with wealth and privilege. This conversation doesn’t just display how people in America lacked empathy towards those of colonized countries, but it also displays the constant struggle that Lucy is facing in her minoritized identity.
Throughout the novel, Kincaid uses daffodils as a symbol for Lucy’s double identity. A good example of this happens when a conversation begins between Mariah and Lucy. Mariah, who is the wife of the household, begins to describe daffodils in a loving way that makes her “feel glad to be alive” (Kincaid, 17). In comparison, the idea of daffodils brings back distasteful memories for Lucy when she was living in the West Indies. Lucy later then goes on to explain, “I was then at the height of my two-facedness: that is outside I seemed one way, inside I was another; outside false, inside true” (Kincaid, 18). As much as Lucy truly hates the memories that go along with daffodils, her second identity genuinely gleams through when confronted with the opinion of someone from a different culture and higher statues. Lucy genuinely feels as though she has two separate identities in her own country. It forces her to accept all aspects of British culture, while not truly feeling like she belongs due to the fact she cannot comprehensively accept the traditions of British people. Now moving to a completely different country, it’s hard for Lucy to adapt fast. It’s even harder considering the fact that the country she’s in now treated her people of the West Indies horrifically. While conveying her emotions on how she felt false on the outside but true on the inside, Lucy meant that she may act neat towards the mentioning of daffodils. Adversely, on the inside her true opinions are exposed, which forces her to come to terms with her fabricated identity.
However, Lucy gradually begins to shape her new identity by battling with her past, and rebelling against expectations placed on her. Her mother has plans for her to attend nursing school, instead Lucy begins to study photography. Mariah then tries to help Lucy make friends, but Lucy becomes friends with Peggy instead, who smokes and also shares Lucy’s reckless and rebellious persona. Consequently, under Lucy’s rebellious attitude gives way to her true emotion of anger. Lucy is distraught and bitter with her mother due to the injustice she feels she’s born into being colonized over by the British. Due to this, Lucy searches for a counterculture, and one that specifically involves sex, drugs, and art. This cultural break entitles Lucy to work through the demoralizing problems of her past and try to actually start a new life.
Furthermore, through Lucy’s quest for a completely new and independent persona, she tries to remove any old relationships and attachments compared to making new ones. From the beginning, Lucy only had the intentions to shape her identity by herself. This is a dramatic disparity to the community she grew up in in the West Indies. She went to the extremes to separate herself from the notions, places, and people remind her of the past. Lucy’s self-discovering journey to the United States was an all-out effort to detach herself from the physical place of her home. Lucy had no freedom, she was constantly controlled by her mother and a country that was colonized. Even though Lucy felt like an outsider while in the states, she had all the freedom to herself. She wasn’t just dethatching herself from people, she was also losing connections to colonization. Lucy broke loose from people who were trying to mold her into something she wasn’t, and in the end, found closure and solved her identity by being her own person.
While building the idea of Lucy’s double identity, Kincaid is able to establish this idea through the use of daffodils and social belittlement. By taking on this double identity in a sense, Lucy is able to shed light onto situations and people differently. Due to this, she doesn’t recognize the person she is turning into through the opinions of daffodils and here hometown roots. The more time she spends in the United States and understating the culture and habits of the people around her, Lucy begins to understand that a double identity is only natural for a woman with a background like hers. Lucy is able to retain the values from her native culture, but she can recognize the fact that she’s acquiring a second identity in order to assimilate into the changing culture of her new home. Lucy is never really able to completely come to terms with one standing identity, but she does find closure in cutting ties with the aspects of both identities that force her to not be who she truly is. As long as Lucy is herself with both of her identities, then she can find happiness and freedom in both of them.