Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Marriage

By Jamaica Kincaid

Marriage

[Mariah] leaned her head backward and rested it on [Lewis's] shoulder [. . .], and she sighed and shuddered in pleasure. The whole thing had an air of untruth about it; they didn't mean to do what they were doing at all. It was a show—not for anyone else's benefit, but a show for each other (3.4).

So Mariah and Lewis only appear to be one of those older married couples who still have the passion of newlyweds. If Lucy's right, what do you think they're trying to accomplish by putting on this show for one another?

But to look at [Mariah and Lewis], they seemed as if they couldn't be more apart if they were on separate planets" (3.6).

We'll refrain from making some corny joke about men being from Mars and women from Venus. But why do you think Mariah and Lewis seem so disconnected?

My father had perhaps thirty children; he did not know for sure. He would try to make a count but then he would give up after a while. [. . .] My father had lived with another woman for years and was the father of her three children; she tried to kill my mother and me many times (3.33)

Yowza. After observing her parents' marital woes, it's no wonder that Lucy sees Lewis's infidelity as small potatoes.

When my mother married my father, he was an old man and she a young woman. This suited them both. She had someone who would leave her alone yet not cause her to lose face in front of other women; he had someone who would take care of him in his dotage (3.33).

This marriage sounds about as romantic as a bank transaction. Lucy's parents' arrangement shows that marriage can sometimes have very little to do with love.

Mariah did not know that Lewis was not in love with her anymore. It was not the sort of thing she could imagine (3.34).

Um, it's kind of scary to think you can be married to someone and have absolutely no clue what's really going on in their head (or heart).

A strange calm had come over Mariah and Lewis's apartment. They quarreled constantly but never in my presence. I would return to the apartment after running an errand with the children in tow, and I could smell the disagreement in the air (4.29).

Lucy's description of disagreement as a smell, or something that pervades the atmosphere, is a clever way of signaling just how much Mariah and Lewis's marital problems end up affecting everyone around them despite their efforts to contain their quarreling.

[Mariah] said, "I am going to ask Lewis to leave." She looked at me with concern on her face; she put out a hand to me, offering me support. But I was fine. I would not have married a man like Lewis (4.36).

Hmm, that is a little weird. Why is Mariah so concerned with Lucy's reaction to the breakup of her marriage?

In the letter I asked my mother how she could have married a man who would die and leave her in debt even for his own burial (4.48).

What, did Lucy think her mom had psychic powers or something? In any case, her mother's experience suggests that marriage can come with some surprises, right up to the bitter end.

[Mariah] said they were getting a divorce; she said the children were in a state of confusion and she was worried about their well-being; she said she felt free. I meant to tell her not to bank on this "free" feeling, that it would vanish like a magic trick [. . .] (4.50).

Way to rain on the divorce parade. Why does Lucy believe that Mariah's feeling of freedom is bound to disappear?

The holidays came, and they did feel like a funeral because so many things had died. For the children's sake, [Mariah] and Lewis put up a good front (5.14).

Looks like Mariah and Lewis are just as phony in divorce as they were in marriage. Is the argument that their pretense is for the children's sake enough to justify the dishonesty?

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