Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Tone

By Jamaica Kincaid

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Frank; Melancholic


Lucy isn't one bit shy in telling us exactly what she thinks. When it comes to offering her impressions of other characters, Lucy tends to believe honesty is the best policy.

She's equally truthful when it comes to laying bare her own thoughts and experiences without hesitation. Much of the novel, in fact, reads like a diary full of open, frank admissions.

Not only does Lucy readily offer up descriptions of her most intimate sexual encounters, she never spares a single awkward detail. Recounting a scene of her first kiss, for instance, she notes:

Someone should have told me that there were other things to seek out in a tongue than the flavor of it, for then I would not have been standing there sucking on poor Tanner's tongue as if it were an old Frozen Joy with all its flavor run out and nothing left but the ice. (3.1)

Luckily, tales like this aren't just candid and awkward; they're pretty funny, too.

Perhaps even more remarkable than her honest rendering of her experiences is her openness in expressing her feelings to us readers. Recall the moment in which she confesses how jealous she was of Myrna for being "chosen" to be sexually abused by Mr. Thomas:

I was almost overcome with jealousy. Why had such an extraordinary thing happened to her and not to me? Why had Mr. Thomas chosen Myrna as the girl he would meet in secret and place his middle finger up inside her and not me? (4.23)

We're willing to bet even the most jaded reader would be pretty dumbfounded upon reading this passage. Regardless of how we feel about the sensitive information Lucy discloses, the important thing to note is that she makes no apologies for her feelings. She simply lays it all out there and hands over to us readers the power to judge and draw our own conclusions (but don't let all that power go to your heads, okay?).


If this novel included emoticons, ":(" would probably appear pretty frequently. Lucy's attitude for almost the duration of the novel is, shall we say, less than cheery. And since we see all of the characters and events in the novel from her point of view, that makes for a pretty gloomy or melancholic tone overall. Good times.

Even Lucy herself seems well aware of her state of mind:

I had just lived through a bleak and cold time, and it is not to the weather outside that I refer. I had lived through this time, and as the weather changed from cold to warm, it did not bring me along with it. (2.10)

Once we get to know Lucy, it's not very difficult to figure out why her attitude isn't sunnier. After all, she's dealing with the letdown of realizing that life in the U.S. is far from the dream she'd imagined it would be back when she was still living in the Caribbean.

And because Lucy's quest for freedom and autonomy throughout the novel has left her deliberately avoiding any true attachments to others (see Lucy's "Character Analysis" for more on that), this bleak tone holds strong right up until the end, when Lucy remarks:

As I sat on that bed, the despair of a Sunday in full bloom, I thought: I am alone in the world, and I shall always be this way—all alone in the world. (4.10)

Hmm, we're not sure if a frowny emoticon can do justice to that.

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