Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Genre

By Jamaica Kincaid

Genre

Family Drama; Coming of Age

Family Drama

It's usually not all that fun to live through family drama, but it can be enjoyable to read about others enduring such misery (hey, we're just being honest).

Something that makes Lucy a bit different from other stories or novels in this category is that it's not the main character's family drama or series of family conflicts we're watching unfold before our very eyes. Instead, the drama presented is mostly centered around the family Lucy works for, particularly the crumbling marriage of Mariah and Lewis.

We know from Lucy's recollections of her own family that she's no stranger to drama—her father had thirty kids with different women and one of those baby mamas tried to kill Lucy, for Pete's sake. This experience may help explain why the drama of the family she's staying with becomes such a huge focus of the book.

But this actually ends up working out really well in terms of presenting the conflicts in the story. In many ways, Lucy's perspective as an outsider (hop on over to our "Point of View" discussion for more on this feature of the novel) helps to intensify the drama since she notices details that other characters, who are too busy living through the wretchedness, may not.

Check out, for example, the scene at dinner when Lewis totally loses it. Lucy tells us,

Lewis said, "Jesus Christ! The goddam rabbits!" and he made his hands into two fists, lifted them up in the air, and brought them down on the table with such force that everything on the table—eating utensils, plates, cups in saucers, the empty pie dish—rattled and shook as if in an earthquake, and one glass actually tipped over, rolled off the table, and shattered. (3.29)

Lucy gives us details right down to the rattling of plates and cups. Now that's drama for you.

Coming of Age

Growing up: it's not always pretty.

We watch Lucy go through a lot of brand new and sometimes painful experiences, as we would in many typical coming-of-age stories: being far away from home for the first time and feeling homesick, struggling to adjust to a job and a weird new living situation, having a bunch of sexual experiences with a string of boy toys (okay, she doesn't seem to mind that last part so much).

If one of the features of your classic coming of age story is growth, change, and maturity in a central character (we hope you're taking notes here and not checking your text messages, ahem), the question is, does Lucy achieve these things? We vote yes (and you can head to Lucy's "Character Analysis" to see why). But what do you think?

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