The mother-daughter relationship is a common topic throughout many of Jamaica Kincaid's novels. It is particularly prominent in Annie John, Lucy, and Autobiography of my Mother. This essay however will explore the mother-daughter relationship in Lucy. Lucy tells the story of a young woman who escapes a West Indian island to North America to work as an au pair for Mariah and Lewis, a young couple, and their four girls. As in her other books—especially Annie John—Kincaid uses the mother-daughter relationship as a means to expose some of her underlying themes.
Unlike in her novel Annie John, however, Kincaid does not specify which West Indian Island Lucy hails from. It also seems to be set in the post colonial period and there is evidence that this island was a colony of England. Evidence of the topic of the mother-daughter relationship is interspersed within the plot of Lucy. Much like Annie John, Lucy has an ambivalent relationship with her mother; one that has moved from a very intimate and loving one to one full of deception and contempt as Lucy’s mother tries impose her way of life on her daughter, being “mystified as to how someone that came from inside her would want to be anyone different from her:”
I had come to feel that my mother’s love for me was designed solely to make me into an echo of her; and I didn’t know why but I felt that I would rather be dead than become just an echo of someone (Page 36).
Despite her physical absence, however, Lucy's mother continually occupies Lucy's thoughts, inspiring feelings of anger, contempt, longing, and regret.
This is juxtaposed with the various aspects of British culture imposed on Lucy’s home island. As a child, Lucy attended “Queen Victoria Girls’ School” (Page 18), a school with a British educational system where she is taught British history and also British literature. Lucy remembers as a student in this school, being forced to memorize British poems, in particular one about daffodils. She “had been made to memorize it, verse after verse, and then had recited the whole poem to an auditorium full of parents, teachers, and [her] fellow pupils” (Page 18), even though she would not see such a flower until becoming almost twenty years old. Lucy sees the daffodils Mariah shows her as reminder of her colonial education. Upon close examination, one notices a parallel between the interactions between Lucy and her mother, and Lucy’s colonized country and its colonizer or “mother country,” England. The presence of her mother haunts Lucy’s mind while she is in America. She cannot seem to escape the traits she has inherited from her mother. Although Lucy’s mother seems to allow some kind of separation by allowing Lucy to travel to America, she has no intention of making it permanent and completely letting go of Lucy. She consistently writes her letters. Similarly the legacy of colonialism is almost impossible to escape from. It has woven itself with the ways of the country and the people of the...