This essay examines Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy, a novel that tackles the process of decolonization from old and new forms of colonialism through the language of servitude and family (specifically, mother-daughter relationships). The novel’s protagonist is not only an example of the wave of West Indian migration and the feminization of labor, but her agency also provides Kincaid with the necessary platform to deploy her views on U.S. imperialism. I propose reading Lucy’s evolution toward self-determination as not only an individual but also a collective experience. I interpret the novel as an allegory that can help us better understand the nuances, tensions, and challenges involved in the historical journey of former British colonies in the Caribbean, from colonial rule, through political independence, and into the current challenges posed by neocolonialism. Kincaid’s Lucy suggests the need for Caribbean countries to question, if not reject, the influence of American culture, economics, and politics, in order to achieve absolute independence and freedom to determine their own fate. This allegorical reading also illustrates how race, class, gender, and national origins are intertwined in Kincaid’s rendition of the Caribbean migrant experience. What makes the novel more relevant to discussions of current Caribbean migration patterns is how the author also weaves in the significance of the colonial past in approaches to the new globalization culture. Although Lucy’s story reflects a yearning for a borderless world where cultural differences do not restrict the individual’s choices, Kincaid does not allow her readers to escape the legacy of colonialism, challenging them to consider the complex nature of current U.S.-Caribbean relations. Lucy thus becomes a symbol of the neocolonial condition, experiencing the economic and social challenges that both Caribbean peoples and postcolonial writers face in today’s globalization era.

Author Biography

Dr. Laura Barrio-Vilar is an Assistant Professor of English at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her research and teaching interests include African American literature, Afro-Caribbean literature, postcolonial studies, gender and women’s studies, and critical race theory. Her research explores how race, gender, and class affect migration patterns and the notion of citizenship in the African Diaspora. Her most recent publication, “’All o’ we is one’: Citizenship, Migration, and Black Nationalism in the Postcolonial Era,” appeared in Callaloo.