Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Chapter 1: Poor Visitor

By Jamaica Kincaid

Chapter 1: Poor Visitor

  • It's Lucy's first day. Her first day of what? Well, we're not sure yet.
  • Lucy recalls coming from the airport the previous night, looking around at all the cool buildings, parks, and bridges she'd always dreamed about.
  • Back to the first day. Lucy gets up and gets dressed. Even though it's the middle of January, it seems weird to her that it's cold out when the sun is shining.
  • See, Lucy's just come from a tropical climate so she doesn't exactly associate sun with below-freezing temperatures. She realizes a wardrobe change is in order.
  • Aww, Lucy feels homesick.
  • We learn that Lucy is staying in the maid's quarters, a small room with high ceilings. And we finally find out that her new job is to watch the kids who live in the apartment. She's going to be one busy girl because she also plans to go to school at night.
  • Zzzzz. Lucy is sleeping on the job already. She turns on the radio on her dresser, starts singing along, promptly falls asleep and has a dream about, of all things, her old nightgown.
  • Wake up! Another maid stands over her trying to wake her. Lucy tells us this maid doesn't like her to begin with and Lucy's cat nap certainly hasn't helped matters.
  • We don't hear anything more about how the big first day went. We can presume some time passes because Lucy jumps into describing her routine of taking care of the four little girls in the family during the day and going to school at night.
  • It's pretty much all work and no play for Lucy so it's no big surprise that she tells us she's not happy.
  • However, Lucy isn't about to let everyone back home know that she's miserable. No way. She writes and tells them how awesome her new life is.
  • After the maid tries to get Lucy to dance to some music she thinks is pretty lame, Lucy sings a calypso song about a runaway. FYI: Calypso is a style of music with origins in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago (check out a calypso beat set to this familiar tune).
  • We learn a bit about the family for whom Lucy works. Lewis and Mariah are the parents of the four girls Lucy looks after. Lucy is pretty impressed by their permissive parenting. She thinks it's cool that he kids don't have to eat everything on their plate and that they're allowed to say "bad" words.
  • Oh, and don't even think about telling any blond jokes around this family: all six of them have golden locks.
  • They call Lucy "the Visitor." Lewis even goes so far as to call her the Poor Visitor because she doesn't seem to laugh or smile that much (note: this family smiles and laughs a lot).
  • At dinner one night, Lewis tells a story about his uncle. While Lewis is telling his tale, Lucy's mind wanders and she recalls an erotic dream she had involving Lewis and Mariah.
  • After Lewis finishes his story, Lucy tells them about her dream. Awkward!
  • Lewis and Mariah laugh uncomfortably. Lucy is pretty confused though because she thinks it's a total compliment to them since she only dreams about people who are important to her.

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