Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy is a story about a young woman who faces various struggles through the course of her life, owing to ethnic influences. Lucy grows up in a small community in the Caribbean and later leaves her homeland to settle in the United States.
However, the new society was not any better than her homeland as she still faced various challenges, and witnesses other women facing other difficulties of a similar nature. Lucy’s experience in America and his quest for personal identity reveals the theme of ethnicity.
Ethnicity brings forth gender roles. In this novel, it is clear that women were disadvantaged compared to men. For instance, gender roles dictated that women were to stay at home and be homemakers, while men could pursue their careers.
Lucy’s mother is a demonstration of this norm, whereby she gave up on her job to stay at home and build her family. Her husband, on the other hand, pursued his carpentry profession.
Additionally, despite being fond of reading and trying to instill the same values in Lucy, her mother still discouraged her from pursuing any career in the future, she encouraged her just to be a teacher or Librarian. Conversely, her mother encouraged her brothers to study hard and pursue their careers, which Lucy resented immensely and carried the hatred with her into her adult years (Kincaid 129).
After relocating to the United States, ethnic roles influenced her pursuit of careers taken by women. She became a caretaker at the home of a wealthy family. This is a role that is similar to that of her mother.
Culture dictated that men were to take care of their families since they were the ones allowed to work and earn a living. When Lucy’s father passes on, Lucy writes a letter to her mother, expressing her anger towards the fact that she agreed to get married to a man who could leave her in debt.
Lucy went ahead and sent all of her savings to her mother to clear the debts. In her opinion, her father should have left her with enough money to take care of the family for a while, as opposed to leaving debts. Men were to uplift the family financially as breadwinners and elevate them out of poverty.
Ethnicity dictated women’s and men’s behavior when it comes to relationships. In the novel, Lucy is seen to have various loveless affairs. This was one of the sources of conflict between her and her mother, who deemed Lucy as having no sexual constraint. Society expected faithfulness from women, whereas men could have many affairs as they pleased without being questioned.
This is seen in the case of Mariah, whose husband always stepped out on their marriage and faced no reprimands (Kincaid 119). Mariah eventually left the marriage, but she had experienced much pain and shed many tears before finally deciding to leave when she realized that her husband was never going to change his ways. Ethnic considerations dictated the relationship dynamics.
Societal culture varies from place to place, depending on the ethnicity of the area. In America, society was more liberal in some ways. For instance, Peggy, Lucy’s friend, introduced her to homosexual relationships. The two women engaged in sexual relationships from time to time. Mariah, Lucy’s boss, did not like Peggy.
She considered her a bad influence on Lucy. However, this situation was an indication of the kind of freedom that women in American society enjoy. It is also because of these restrictions that Lucy opted to leave her home in search of independence.
Notably, Lucy always locked horns with her mother and her teachers due to her rebellion against all their expectations. Therefore, ethnicity can only be restricted depending on the society of the individual.
A stronger ethnicity can influence the other. Lucy’s homeland was once a British colony. Consequently, most of the norms in Lucy’s society were influenced by those of the British people (Kincaid 120).
The influence spread across the daily lives and even in institutions such as schools. Lucy’s teachers and her mother were some of the people who expected Lucy to behave in a certain way as prescribed by the British norms.
Lucy spent most of her time reading books written by foreign authors, and probably, the content of this literature, coupled with the influences of their colonialists, contributed to her quest to be independent. Cultures can influence each other.
The theme of ethnicity is vital in the novel Lucy. It helps in shaping the story, particularly when it comes to the circumstances surrounding various women in the texts, which influenced the various actions or decisions that the women took.
Interactions between various cultures have also shown how an individual can struggle with finding his or her own identity as he or she tries to fit into a new setup.
Kincaid, Jamaica. Lucy. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1990
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