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Lucy: A Novel

Main Ideas

Symbols

Main Ideas Symbols

“The Islands”

Mariah’s friends refer to the West Indies as “the islands,” a phrase that reveals their presumptuously familiar attitude toward Lucy’s homeland, a place they’ve vacationed but don’t truly know. Because, as Lucy observes, many ranges of islands exist in the world, the failure to identify which islands implies a shared understanding among Mariah’s white, affluent friends, which lies in their frequent jaunts to the Caribbean for rest and relaxation. By referring to “the islands” in Lucy’s presence, they reduce her homeland to a tourist attraction, denying the presence of the everyday reality of an island where impoverished, colonized people live. Mariah’s friends, though not the literal colonizers of Lucy’s birthplace, show a colonial mentality by imposing their own experiences on the West Indies instead of recognizing the region’s native characteristics. The short phrase “the islands” speaks volumes about the arrogance of those of wealth and privilege.

Photographs

The photographs Lucy takes with her new camera suggest Lucy’s evolving sense of self. Initially, Lucy admires art and artists, but she believes that someone of her background is ill-equipped to pursue artistic endeavors. Eventually, however, a beloved book of photographs inspires her to take pictures herself. While the results don’t resemble the work in the book, Lucy still finds beauty in her prints, which she posts on her wall as a validation of her personal vision. Lucy’s journey toward selfhood has its drawbacks, and her photographs, too, illustrate her problems achieving self-fulfillment. Though she regularly develops photographs in her employer’s darkroom, they fail to meet her expectations, just as Lucy’s dreams fall short when they become realities. The photographs also represent Lucy’s difficulty in achieving intimacy, for she produces them by hiding behind the camera, indulging in her view of others without turning the lens on herself.

Daffodils

Daffodils suggest Lucy and Mariah’s disparate perceptions of the world. For Mariah, daffodils, her favorite flower, mean beauty and the arrival of spring. Lucy, however, sees them as reminder of a colonial education that forced her to memorize a poem about a flower she’d never seen, while ignoring the features of her native land. As Mariah leads Lucy to a field of daffodils in an attempt to change Lucy’s feelings about the flower, Lucy’s animosity toward daffodils only increases. She wants to kill them: not only do they recall colonial injustice, but they also represent Mariah’s colonial-like determination to make Lucy see the world as she does. While daffodils point to Lucy and Mariah’s opposing perspectives, they also represent symbols themselves, by showing how the same object can have vastly divergent meanings for different people. Symbols, then, have no inherent import but derive their significance from the person who views them.