The Challenge of Double Identity in Jamaica Kincaid’s Novel Lucy
Through the lens in which we analyze the novel Lucy, by Jamaica Kincaid, there is a noticeable challenge faced by the main character Lucy. Her double identity, consisting of both an Americanized and Caribbean viewpoint, is seen throughout the novel provoking Lucy to engage in a constant battle with herself. Lucy is consistently struggling with adapting from her hometown in the Caribbean to her new home in the United States. Lucy is not only a woman of African descent but she also embodies her Caribbean ethnicity which is evidently seen throughout the novel. Kincaid is able to portray the surprising challenge of double identity for Lucy through societal emulation and the use of daffodils.
Through Lucy’s experiences with the American culture she realizes that life in the states is a lot different from life back in the West Indies, which further strengthens her challenges with her double identity. “I had been a girl of whom certain things were expected…but in one year of being away from home, that girl had gone out of existence” (Kincaid, 133). In dealing with such a diverse place as the United States, it is hard for someone with Lucy’s background to not experience some form of identity change. Lucy is not only seen as a young black girl from Antigua, but in the eyes of those from the United States, she is a black girl of different status. Mariah’s friend Dinah refers to Lucy’s true home as “the islands” (Kincaid, 56). Angered by Dinah’s choice of words, Lucy responds in a way that reflects her post-colonial experiences as a native in the Caribbean. The way in which Dinah references the West Indies depicts the colonial perspective people of her background have towards those of colonized nations. Through this conversation, Lucy’s native persona reveals itself. She is taken back by the arrogance implied by referring to her homeland as just “the islands” (Kincaid, 56). Dinah’s indifference in the way she speaks to Lucy displays the pretension of those endowed in wealth and privilege. This example not only displays how select individuals in America lack empathy towards those of the colonized but it also displays the constant conflict Lucy faces in her minoritized identity.
In the novel, Kincaid symbolizes daffodils as Lucy’s double identity through a conversation between Mariah and Lucy. Mariah, the wife of the household, describes daffodils in a way that makes her “feel glad to be alive” (Kincaid, 17). In contrast, for Lucy, the image of daffodils brings back unpleasant memories from life back in the West Indies. As stated in the novel, Lucy professes, “I was then at the height of my two-facedness: that is outside I seemed one way, inside I was another; outside false, inside true” (Kincaid, 18). As much as Lucy despises the memory that comes along with Daffodils, her alternative identity shines through when confronted with the opinion of someone of higher status and of different culture. Feeling as though she has two identities in her own country forces her to endure all of the aspects of Britain’s culture while not fully feeling as if she belongs because she is not able to completely accept the traditions of the British people. In moving to a completely different region, it is hard for Lucy to adapt so quickly especially when the country in which she has now inhabited treated her people of the West Indies in such a horrific manner. When expressing how she felt false on the outside but true on the inside she meant that she may be acting fine towards the mentioning of daffodils but on the inside her true opinion is exposed, therefore forcing her to recognize her fabricated identity.
In establishing Lucy’s double identity, Kincaid is able to formalize this concept through societal confrontation and the use of daffodils. Lucy is able to look into situations and people in a different way due to her dual identity. Henceforth, in speaking of the West Indies and the opinions of daffodils, Lucy sees herself transitioning into a person she does not recognize. In understanding the culture and habits of the people in the new nation she inhabited, she is able to realize that holding a double identity is only natural for a woman of her background. The surprising challenge of coping with a double identity is existent due to the immigration from Britain to the West Indies. Lucy is able to hold the values of her own culture true to her native persona, but she is also able to recognize herself acquiring a second identity in order to assimilate into the culture of her new home.
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