Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Friendship

By Jamaica Kincaid

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[. . .] the cousin was someone who thought a good outward appearance and proper behavior should carry the day. I had seen the cousin a few times with the children she took care of; immediately recognizing each other as foreigners, we tried to form a friendship. It was not a success (3.17).

Drat. Lucy learns that having a foreign status in common doesn't guarantee that friendship will blossom. Why might this be?

The funny thing was that Peggy and I were not alike, either, but that is just what we liked about each other; what we didn't have in common were things we approved of anyway (3.17).

Alright, so we know that this is the honeymoon phase of Peggy and Lucy's friendship and that Peggy's differences later start to drive Lucy bonkers. Why is she so accepting of these differences in the beginning of the friendship?

My friendship with Peggy was reaching a predictable stalemate; the small differences between us were beginning to loom, sometimes becoming the only thing that mattered—like a grain of sand in the eye (4.12).

Um, okay, maybe opposites don't attract after all. The phrase "like a grain of sand in the eye" does a great job of expressing how the differences between Lucy and Peggy have become a total irritant to Lucy.

When I said, "But I like [Paul]," an enormous silence fell between [me and Peggy], the kind of silence that is dangerous between friends, for in it they weigh their past together, and they try to see a future together; they hate their present [. . .] I immediately imagined our separately going over the life of our friendship, and all the affection and all the wonderful moments in it coming to a sharp end (4.19).

Why do you think the fact that Lucy likes Paul—in spite of Peggy's warning about him—has become such a huge deal for the future of their friendship?

Because Peggy and I were not getting along, we naturally started to talk about finding an apartment in which we would live together. It was an old story: two people are in love, and then just at the moment they fall out of love they decide to marry (4.27).

Uh, yeah, this makes a lot of sense. Lucy seems well aware that moving in with Peggy isn't the best idea ever. So why does she end up doing it?

It was a last resort for [Mariah]—insisting that I be the servant and she the master. She used to insist that we be friends; but that had apparently not worked out very well; now I was leaving (5.15).

The souring of Mariah and Lucy's relationship suggests the difficulties that can arise when employers and employees try to get chummy (so think twice before you go friending your boss on Facebook).

It was a cold goodbye on [Mariah's] part. Her voice and her face were stony. She did not hug me. I did not take any of this personally; someday we would be friends again (5.16).

Why do you think that Lucy's so confident that she and Mariah will be buds again someday?

It was Peggy who had found the apartment. We were then still best friends. We had nothing in common except that we felt at ease in each other's company. From the moment we met we recognized in each other the same restlessness, the same dissatisfaction with our surroundings, the same skin-doesn't-fit-ness. That was as far as it went (5.18).

Misery loves company. . .for awhile. Maybe a shared feeling of discontent just isn't enough to sustain a satisfying friendship.

Friendship is a simple thing, and yet complicated; friendship is on the surface, something natural, something taken for granted, and yet underneath one could find worlds (5.31).

Hmm, very cryptic. What does Lucy mean when she says of friendship that "underneath one could find worlds?"

I had seen Mariah. She had asked me to come and have dinner with her. We were friends again; we said how much we missed each other's company (5.35).

Okay, let's get real here. Given that after this meeting Lucy doubts whether she'll ever see Mariah again, we can't help but question the sincerity of these two. Why do they pretend to be so friendly?

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