Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Lust

By Jamaica Kincaid

Lust

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. As I was sucking away, I was thinking, Taste is not the thing to seek out in a tongue; how it makes you feel—that is the thing (3.1).

Ha! As Lucy's introduction to French kissing suggests, physical intimacy doesn't always go as smoothly as the soap operas would have us believe and can instead require some awkward experimentation.

[. . .] I had to be careful when I thought of [Tanner's] lips on my breasts, for just that, a thought, would make me forget what I was doing. I would sit at my desk in school, I would lie in my bed at night, I would walk down the street, and all the time I would go over and over, very slowly the times Tanner's mouth would crawl back and forth across my chest (3.7).

And they say men are the ones with sex always on the brain. This is just one example among many in the novel of how Lucy totally defies conventional thinking about how women are less concerned than men with sexual pleasure.

I liked [Hugh's] mouth and imagined it kissing me everywhere; it was just an ordinary mouth. I liked his hands and imagined them caressing me everywhere; they were not unusual in any way (3.21).

Hugh's just a plain old dude. . .who happens to drive Lucy crazy with desire. What is the effect created by Lucy's pointing out that Hugh's features are "ordinary" and "not unusual"?

I was feeling that I was made up only of good things when suddenly I remembered that I had forgotten to protect myself, something Mariah had told me over and over that I must remember to do (3.22).

Not to get all preachy or anything, but it's probably a good thing for all the kids watching out there that Lucy's failure to take precautions isn't totally without consequences. That would turn this novel from plain old fiction to pure fantasy.

[Peggy and I] were so disappointed that we went back to my room and smoked marijuana and kissed each other until we were exhausted and fell asleep. Her tongue was narrow and pointed and soft (3.36).

Lucy doesn't spend any time or energy dwelling on whether hooking up with her pal Peggy means that she's gay or bisexual. But that's not too surprising considering Lucy seems much more concerned with pleasure than with labels.

I said, "How are you?" in a small, proper voice, the voice of the girl my mother had hoped I would be: clean, virginal, beyond reproach. But I felt the opposite of that, for when [Paul] held my hand and kissed me on the cheek, I felt instantly deliciously strange; I wanted to be naked in a bed with him (4.15).

Hmm, could a desire to rebel against her strict mother have a little something to do with Lucy's lively libido?

[. . .] the question of being in love was not one I wanted to settle then; what I wanted was to be alone in a room with [Paul] and naked (4.18).

Love, shmove. Lucy defies yet another myth about sexuality by showing that women don't necessarily have to be in love in order to enjoy sex.

[. . .] 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? [. . .] This would have become the experience of my life, the one all others would have to live up to (4.23).

Whoa, this is one of those moments in the novel that's sure to stop us dead in our tracks. What did you think of Lucy's reaction of feeling jealous that Mr. Thomas chose to molest Myrna instead of her?

[. . .] except for eating, all the time [Paul and I] spent together was devoted to sex. I told [Mariah] what everything felt like, how surprised I was to be thrilled by the violence of it (for sometimes it was that, violent), what an adventure this part of my life had become [. . .] (4.30).

Wait, did we just wander into an episode of Sex and the City? Lucy sure is open with Mariah about her sex life. And, given what we know of their relationship, we can't help wondering whether Lucy is boasting just a little in order to make Mariah jealous.

And then something happened that I had not counted on at all. At the store where I bought the camera, the man who sold it to me—he and I went off and spent the rest of the day and a half of that night in his bed (4.33).

Shocking, right? Nah, not really: this isn't the first time we've seen Lucy jump into bed with someone she's just met. Why do you think Lucy digs casual hook-ups so much?

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