Jamaica Kincaid creates a protagonist that represents all changes that an immigrant may face when living in the United States.
The novel Lucy gives an account of how not only a woman of color struggles by adapting to her environment but also her identity. This reconstruction is through experiencing multiple social, political, and social norm changes. People’s lives changed by class, race, and gender being an important role in society during this time. Lucy is a an Caribbean immigrant and woman of color that has newly come to the United States. Despite her challenges and adaptations into a new family and world by leaving her old one, she never looks back. Lucy faces many difficulties that the reader would expect her to lose hope but instead is the fuel that gives her dedication. These obstacles vary from the closeness and detachment of her relationships to the aspirations she develops slowly becoming out of reach.
Out of the whole novel, Lucy’s stamina with her character development and looking for new ways to change her situation are always present.
Lucy begins to realize how colonialism influences each person’s life in a way that changes their outlook on life and how one defines themselves. The standard hardships that each immigrant face is unique, but Lucy shows the reader how identity formation is a melting pot of her foreign ideals and new cultural influences that now surround her everyday. The reader can see how her struggles from postcolonial life don’t just affect the place where she is from but carries with her to a new place where anything is possible.
America is viewed as a place to leave the past of colonialism behind but instead just endures situations in her life that are a product of living in a colonistic life.
This novel highlights each experience that an immigrant has to endure in the United States. Lucy happens to be from the West Indies but flees to America in order to find a new life since the one she has known is being colonized. Her life has been formed by other people mentally and psychically defining her in order to fit their standards. Because of the postcolonial society that she was apart from, it affects her self definition and how she believes that her life is revolved around other people controlling and establishing her own life. Identity issues always play a role in colonial life. Lucy always shows determination in shaping herself into the person she has always longed to be. This is because she has always been influenced by the West Indian people and their own culture that she doesn’t want to abide by. The reader can understand by her wanting to create an identity outside from her traditional cultures that she has always known.
Even though Lucy is now apart of the American culture, she still has emotional ties to her homeland identity which is sometimes visible in how she views her new world and everyone, even strangers, in it. Lucy gives hints to the reader that she is a woman of color which also gives an outlook on how she sees others. For example, when she is on the train when going to Mariah’s childhood home, she compares herself psychically to the other passengers, “The other people sitting down to eat dinner all looked like Mariah’s relatives; the people waiting on them all looked like mine.
The people who looked like my relatives were all older men and very dignified, as if they were just emerging from a church after Sunday service. On closer observation, they were not at all like my relatives; they only looked like them. Mariah did not seem to notice what she had in common with the other diners, or what I had in common with the waiters” (Kincaid 32). Within analyzing race, she is also seeing how social class is a theme when identifying someone. She catches on to the social structure that is always present in America. When she is on the train she observes that the people who are serving and working the jobs aboard look like her relatives from back home. Even though Lucy comes to America to change her ways and self, colonialism has the power to control one’s life view even when trying to escape the hardships it brings.
She has multiple flashbacks throughout her time in America that the British rule would make her perform. Within these flashback is when she wonders about her family and how she had abandoned them. Even though her goal had always been to leave her community in pursue of a different life, she still expresses attachments to her community, “I wondered if ever in my whole life a day would go by when these people I had left behind, my own family, would not appear before me in one way or another” (Kincaid). Lucy still experiences homesickness that contradicts her feelings about leaving her homeland in the first place. The context of this quote comes from her feelings of uncertainty from leaving the community that she has always known. This quote comes from Lucy’s thoughts which shocks her since her tone is sorrowful even though she was the one that has always yearned to leave. Even though Lucy is determined in losing her sense of home, she still is emotionally attached and clearly misses it and everyone that is still there.
At the end of the novel, Lucy accepts the fact that her identity has changed from when she had first arrived to the United States. “I had been a girl of whom certain things were expected, none of them too bad: a career as a nurse, for example; a sense of duty to my parents; obedience to the law and worship of convention. But in one year of being away from home, that girl had gone out of existence” (133). Not only did her identity change from when she left her homeland, but she also acquired an awareness of maturity that lets her dominate how she wants to live her life. Because of the toll that colonialism had on each person’s life varying from education to how to act, Lucy realizes the toll it takes and did what she had to do in order to avoid the impacts of colonialism. Even when someone is trying to erase a moment of their life as a whole, it still comes into certain aspects in life.
Kincaid follows the life of an inspiring immigrant in the novel Lucy in order to show not only the reader but the world on the toll that colonialism has on the population as a whole. This novel mirrors the way how one can leave their physical home but never lose the emotional attachment no matter how far they venture. Even though Lucy goes to the extreme of trying to remove herself from the world she has known, certain people and places triggers her memory. Colonialism not only has power over a territory, but also the minds of the people it is affected by. Lucy has traveled to a foreign land and is still affected by the power of colonialism.