I wondered if ever in my whole life a day would go by when these people I had left behind, my own family, would not appear before me in one way or another.

This comment appears in “Poor Visitor” after Lucy remembers an unpleasant childhood acquaintance, and it illustrates Lucy’s ambivalence toward the community she has abandoned. Lucy’s words may simply express her attachment to her origins, but the context of the quote renders it more complex. This thought emerges during an intense bout of homesickness that surprises her, since she has long craved escape from her native land. Given Lucy’s bleak state of mind and her disdainful attitude toward the girl she has just remembered, the quote assumes a melancholy tone, suggesting that such constant appearances of those Lucy left behind would not be welcome. If Lucy will always mentally revisit her family and friends, then she has little chance of realizing her hope of achieving freedom from her past. Yet Lucy clearly misses her home, and the notion that she may never be without regular reveries about her community attests to the strength of her ties to it.

The quote’s internal structure sheds further light on the complexity of Lucy’s relationship with people back home. The phrase “these people I left behind, my own family,” has an ambiguous meaning that further complicates Lucy’s feelings. On one level, Lucy may simply consider her family a subgroup of those she left behind, as in “these people I left behind, including my own family.” However, the absence of a word defining the relationship of her family to those she left behind gives the impression of interchangeability between “these people I left behind” and “my own family.” Perhaps Lucy suggests here that everyone she left behind is like family to her, which, given Lucy’s reluctant filial ties, implies a close but not especially welcome bond with her community. Or, alternatively, despite her recent reference to her childhood acquaintance, Lucy implies that of those she left behind, her family, above all, concerns and haunts her, and that ultimately her greatest fears and hopes derive from leaving her family. The ambiguous construction makes Lucy’s final meaning difficult to pin down, but ambiguity seems fitting in light of the confused emotions about home that Lucy shows throughout the novel.