Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Betrayal

By Jamaica Kincaid

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"How typical," [Mariah] said, giving the impression that she had just experienced a personal betrayal. I laughed at her, but I was really wondering, How do you get to be a person who is made miserable because the weather changed its mind, because the weather doesn't live up to your expectations? (2.5).

Yeah, taking the weather personally seems pretty extreme. Lucy's observation goes to show that having a self-centered view of the world might make you feel constantly betrayed when things don't go your way.

Mariah said, "These are daffodils. I'm sorry about the poem, but I'm hoping you'll find them lovely all the same." (2.17).

Now that wasn't very cool, Mariah. Lucy poured her heart out to you about her traumatic memory of daffodils. By dumping her in a field of them, Mariah shows that she doesn't take Lucy's feelings very seriously—talk about insult to injury.

I saw Lewis standing behind Dinah, his arms around her shoulders, and he was licking her neck over and over again, and how she liked it. This was not a show, this was something real [. . .] (3.32).

Since Lewis and Dinah have "real" affection for each other (as opposed to the false affection Lucy observes between Lewis and Mariah in an earlier moment in the novel), is his betrayal more understandable?

A woman like Dinah was not unfamiliar to me, nor was a man like Lewis. Where I came from, it was well known that some women and all men in general could not be trusted in certain areas (3.33).

Is Lucy being too hard on the guys here or is there any truth in what she thinks?

At the door I planted a kiss on Paul's mouth with an uncontrollable ardor that I actually did feel—a kiss of treachery, for I could still taste the other man in my mouth (4.34).

A passionately treacherous kiss: how romantic. Instead of causing her to feel all guilt-ridden, Lucy's betrayal seems to turn her on.

[. . .] whenever I saw [my mother's] eyes fill up with tears at the thought of how proud she would be at some deed her sons had accomplished, I felt a sword go through my heart [. . .] To myself I then began to call her Mrs. Judas, and I began to plan a separation from her that even then I suspected would never be complete (4.51).

Ooohh, Lucy invokes the ultimate symbol of betrayal (Judas, that dude who betrayed Jesus) to emphasize just how much her mother's favoritism has hurt her and damaged their relationship.

One day I was living in the large apartment of Lewis and Mariah (without Lewis, of course, for he had gone to live somewhere else all by himself, allowing a decent amount of time to pass before he gave Mariah the surprise of her life: he had fallen out of love with her because he had fallen in love with her best friend, Dinah), and the next day I was not (5.9).

As in other places in the novel, Lucy seems pretty dismissive of Lewis's betrayal of Mariah—here, she even sticks her commentary on it in a parentheses which really ends up downplaying it. Why do you think she refuses to see it as a big deal?

The reality of [Mariah's] situation was now clear to her: she was a woman whose husband had betrayed her. I wanted to say this to her: "Your situation is an everyday thing. Men behave in this way all the time. The ones who do not behave in this way are the exceptions to the rule (5.13).

Your husband cheated on you with your best friend? No biggie. Do you think Lucy's assessment of Mariah's situation as an "everyday thing" would be helpful for Mariah to hear? Or would it be a totally insensitive thing to say?

Not long after that I learned, through my usual habit of eavesdropping on conversations between my mother and her friends, that a woman with whom my father had had a child and who had tried to kill my mother and me through obeah was named Enid (5.22).

Whoa. The fact that an innocent kid like Lucy could've been killed as a consequence of her father's betrayal of this Enid lady suggests that betrayal can potentially have violent and unintended consequences.

Peggy was on an outing by herself. Paul was on an outing by himself. I had noticed that this happened more and more; the two of them were busy at something, and I suspected it was with each other. I only hoped they would not get angry and disrupt my life when they realized I did not care (5.36).

Lucy's boyfriend and her best friend are fooling around together behind her back? This could easily turn into an episode of Jerry Springer (especially if the two end up having a three-headed baby together). But Lucy doesn't even bat an eye. How come?

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