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Temporal and Spatial divides and identity in 'Lucy'

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  1. Introduction
  2. Lucy's realizations in New York
  3. Tangible boundaries and intimate relations of her past
  4. The juxtaposition of time and memories
  5. Conclusion

Jamaica Kincaid's novel 'Lucy' illustrates the story of a girl with desperate desire to manipulate her personal identity. With motives so deeply ingrained in her determinedly expendable past and their manifestations in her present, her quest propels her obsessions divides past from present. In an effort to abandon her historical burdens and familial resentment in the West Indies, Lucy becomes a vagabond nanny in the global city of New York, a foreign realm she finds to be inextricably disappointing. This movement becomes the catalyst for transformation from her born national character, her ?unconscious inheritance?, to her adult national identity, one based on a ?matter of choice? (Parrinder, 24). It is this freedom of choice, her ultimate desire, which requires her departure; one she chooses to be spatial, temporal, and inevitably emotional.

Much of Lucy's realizations in New York succeed her initial experience of differences as they occur in stark contrast to her past experiences in the West Indies. Upon arrival in the city she is exposed to the reality of winter and expresses the first of many painful realities as ?enter[ing] [her] life like a flow of water dividing formerly dry and solid ground, creating two banks, one [her] past? the other [her] future?? (Kincaid, 5-6). This personal interpretation literally illustrates her immediate obsession with separateness. Towards the end of the novel, she reflects that she ?had begun to see the past like this; there is a line? [dividing] your past, a collection of people you used to be and things you used to do?the person you no longer are, the situations you are no longer in.? (Kincaid, 137).

[...] She became the namesake of her mother's Uncle Joseph because he rich from money he made in sugar in Cuba, and it was thought that he would remember the honor and leave something for [her] in his will.?, and Potter must have come from the Englishman who owned my ancestors when they were slaves Lucy was the only part of [her] name that [she] would have cared to hold on to which her spiteful mother claims came from ?Satan himself,? short for Lucifer.? This emphasis on Lucy's name is hugely insightful into her identity and her relationship with her mother; especially in consideration of her acknowledging this moment as moment [she] knew who [she] was.? (Kincaid, 149,152). [...]


[...] And there Lucy's conclusion truly lies, her quest for her identity is focused entirely her dissonant relationship with her mother and the feeling of worthlessness she was left with no other choice but to redeem. In her journal, she writes down ?only this: wish I could love someone so much that I would die from it.' . a great wave of shame came over me and I wept and wept (Kincaid, 164). The consistent interjection of memories and reflections throughout the novel clearly creates [...]

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