Lucy: A Novel – Lucy Josephine Potter

Lucy, the novel’s protagonist and narrator, seeks independence from the
colonial and maternal forces that shaped her youth, but her journey to North
America to serve as an au pair for a wealthy family only
highlights many of the influences that have hindered her and reveals the
ambivalence behind her apparent drive for freedom. For all her bitter remarks
about her mother and her native land, she frequently experiences intense
homesickness and longing for her mother’s love. Though she no longer lives under
British rule, she resents the upper-class privileges of her American employers.
She replicates her difficult relationship with her mother in her dealings with
Mariah and, to a lesser extent, Peggy. As she did at home, she embarks on sexual
relationships with men who please her physically but leave her emotionally
detached. Lucy realizes early on that her hopes of creating a glorious new life
for herself bear little resemblance to reality, and with each new
disappointment, Lucy develops a fatalism that at once strengthens her and makes
her vulnerable. Though Lucy’s harsh view of the world prepares her for the
hardships of living on her own terms, it also, at times, drives her to despair.
Much of Lucy’s quest for freedom results in isolation. She spends her
first weeks as an immigrant without much human connection, and though she grows
close to Mariah, Miriam, and Peggy, her most important relationships eventually
unravel, and she finds herself, for the first time, truly living on her own. She
has even further separated herself from her mother, and, by implication, her
entire homeland, by giving a false report of her whereabouts. While Lucy, to
some degree, has achieved her independence, it doesn’t bring her the joy she
imagines. On the contrary, the novel’s conclusion finds her tearfully yearning
for the capacity to love. Lucy’s alienation is typical of the immigrant
experience, but only some of her loneliness clearly relates to her new
surroundings. Her estrangement goes back to her place of birth and follows her
beyond her adjustment to America. For Lucy, isolation transcends immigration to
form an essential part of her existence, regardless of location or
circumstance.