Study Guide

Mariah in Lucy: A Novel


You've got to love Mariah. Or you could hate her. Lucy sure does a lot of both.

Let's start with the positive, shall we?

She's Sooo Nice

Mariah isn't a meanie. In fact, Lucy tells us "Mariah was the kindest person I had ever known" (3.27). That's quite an endorsement (unless there's something Lucy's not telling us, like she's spent her life up until this point hanging out with witches and trolls).

Lest we think that it's easy to be kind when you've got a swanky apartment and a stylin' wardrobe, Lucy further points out:

It could be said that [Mariah's] kindness was the result of her comfortable circumstances, but many people in her position were not as kind and considerate as she was. (3.27)

Lucy suggests that Mariah's kindness is a little bit of a shocker given that her pampered, privileged lifestyle might make her more inclined to look down on others, which is, of course, not so nice.

Speaking of nice, Mariah also tends to see the nice sides of others, even those who may not be so deserving of her generous outlook:

It only showed what a superior person Mariah was that she saw in Dinah not a woman who envied her but a friend full of goodness and love. (3.14)

Wow, Mariah must have one strong pair of glasses to see that in Dinah.

And there's even more to Mariah's good qualities than nice. While it's true that Mariah looks like she could fit right in on an episode of The Real Housewives, it would be a big mistake to write her off as a stereotypical ditzy blonde whose sole concern is when her next manicure appointment is (not that we don't appreciate a nice set of glitter nails).

For instance, Lucy informs us about Mariah's concern for saving the marshlands around the lake house from destruction caused by development. Unlike some people who just pay lip service to the idea of helping the environment, Mariah actually does something about it:

Mariah decided to write and illustrate a book on these vanishing things and give any money made to an organization devoted to saving them. (3.27)

Yes, the cynics among us (you know who you are) might rush to point out that Mariah is just interested in saving the marshlands because she's concerned with preserving her own precious vacation spot. It's a valid point. But we might also take a page from Mariah's book of seeing the good in others and give her the benefit of the doubt.

It's All About Mariah

Of course, Mariah is no saint.

We've said that Mariah is kind to human and nature alike. This is true. The weird thing, though, is that all of her kindness doesn't seem to make her very empathetic. In fact, Mariah has an awful lot of trouble seeing things from the perspectives of others (a.k.a. empathy). As Lucy observes:

Mariah wanted all of us, the children and me, to see things the way she did. (3.27)

This attitude leads to some difficult situations with Lucy, such as the whole daffodil incident.

To recap: You'll remember that Mariah, who is crazy about flowers and daffodils, wants nothing more than for Lucy to share in her joy that Spring has arrived. But Lucy puts a damper on things when she confides in Mariah about her traumatic experience with daffodils. This doesn't stop Mariah, though. She hatches a scheme to blindfold Lucy and bring her to a whole field of daffodils. What a brilliant idea!

Not. Lucy is taken aback by the stunt, and Mariah still doesn't seem to get that she's upset:

Mariah, mistaking what was happening to me for joy at seeing daffodils for the first time, reached out to hug me, but I moved away. (2.19)

This incident shows that Mariah really didn't seem to truly consider Lucy's feelings or her perspective.

The daffodil scene also suggests that a certain self-centeredness might be at the root of Mariah's lack of empathy. After all, she seems way more concerned with her own prospective joy at sharing her love of daffodils with Lucy than she is with how Lucy herself might feel.

Lucy notes a similar self-centered motivation in Mariah's announcement that she has Indian blood in her:

Mariah says, "I have Indian blood in me," and underneath everything I could swear she says it as if she were announcing her possession of a trophy. How do you get to be the sort of victor who can claim to be the vanquished also? (2.34)

Sure, Mariah may be well-intentioned in her claim to Indian heritage. She might be struggling to find a common bond with Lucy by suggesting that they're both victims of oppression. But, as other critics like Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Justin Edwards have also noted, she doesn't seem to consider how offensive it may be to Lucy to suggest that Mariah has experienced the same level of discrimination that Lucy, a woman of color, has likely faced just because she may have a few drops of Indian blood running through her veins.

Don't get us wrong. We're not saying that any of these incidents make Mariah a monster. But her failure to empathize nevertheless ends up causing others pain and distress. Ouch.