Lucy: A Novel | Study Guide

Jamaica Kincaid

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Lucy: A Novel | Motifs



Lucy receives many letters from her mother and writes only a few in return. Nearly all of those she receives go unopened, even the one marked "URGENT," yet Lucy still can't bear to part with them. The letters are a representation of the relationship Lucy has with her mother. For most of the narrative, she keeps her mother at a distance by leaving the letters sealed. It's telling that she never throws them away—she may not like her mother, but she also isn't ready to forget her completely. That changes after her father's death when she replies to her mother with a scathing letter and burns all the correspondence she hadn't yet read. Only then is Lucy ready to cut all ties with her past.


Lucy comes from a Caribbean island where the weather is always the same: hot and dry. Although at first unprepared for an American winter, Lucy soon comes to "love the idea of seasons." Temperatures fluctuate, the days shorten and lengthen again, and nature's offerings are always changing. "It [is] as if the earth were a character with many different personalities," Lucy writes. These different personalities coincide with Lucy's own growth and development. Winter is when Lucy makes her new beginnings. As she moves to the United States in January, she isn't sure if she's made the right decision. Spring brings the thaw—Lucy becomes more comfortable in her surroundings and begins to appreciate the choices she has made. Summer brings all-out joy. Lucy's feelings of melancholy return in the fall, which is when Mariah and Lewis separate and when Lucy's father dies. The cycle starts anew in January with Lucy's reinvention of herself as a self-sufficient woman. As the seasons change, so does Lucy.

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