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Maria Helena Lima’s “Imaginary Homelands in Jamaica “ Essay

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Section 1: Writing to rescue her life—It seems as though writer Jamaica Kincaid has written a number of novels in an effort to understand her past and her growth and development throughout it. Almost all of the novels Kincaid has written seem to be interconnected in that they all shed light on certain struggles of her past (paragraphs 1-4).

Section 2: Function of bildungsroman—The bildungsroman form, in which a novel focuses on a “person’s development or spiritual education,” is used specifically by Kincaid and other Caribbean writers to unravel the difficulties and disputations of growing up across the margins of different traditions and cultural universes. The acculturation of a self can be portrayed through the form, however in Kincaid’s novels specifically, the bildungsroman is not so much used as to show the growth in Lucy and Annie John’s adolescent life, but rather to show their reactions respectively to more worldly matters such as racism and colonialism (paragraphs 5-7) (freedictionary.com).

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Section 3: Far from home—Exile for characters like Lucy and Annie John does not serve the purpose of testing life without their parents, but rather opens their eyes to the escalating world. It is in this big bad world that the characters are forced to find their new identity and beliefs. Not only are these characters left with a sense of strangeness to the new world, but they also signal struggles with the place in which they came from. The longer they spend time in the new strange world, the further they find themselves from their first home. These colonial characters face the challenge of identifying themselves and their cultural origins (paragraphs 8-11).

Section 4: Effects of reading literature—Literature is claimed to play an important role in a person’s development. A person’s emotions and reactions stem largely from the literature he/she reads. Lucy had resentment toward daffodils because as a young girl, she was required to memorize a long poem about the flower without having ever seen one in real life. Lucy reads several books, which have an effect on her wanting to change her name. Reading of literature ultimately affects the way in which people react and think (paragraphs 12-13).

Section 5: Writing as a means of salvage—In an effort to cure Lucy’s desire for home, she becomes a writer. She writes negative letters to her mother in order to assuage or deal with her feelings. As much as Lucy wants to believe that she is not the girl her parents expected her to be, it is the written letters that she sends and receives that ultimately lead her to realize her true feelings (paragraphs 14-15).

Section 6: Finding identity in a culturally different world—As Lucy and Annie John, representations for Kincaid herself—lose parts of their past and are exposed to a strangely new present, they use their knowledge in an effort to comprehend the nature of the world and their part in it (paragraphs 16-17).


Professor Maria Lima’s “Homelands in Jamaica Kincaid’s Narratives of Development,” claims that writers in diaspora establish the bildungsroman form in their writings to explore the character’s need for individual and national identity. Specifically, Jamaica Kincaid uses mostly all of her novels to write about her struggles and developments in a strange world. Bildungsroman is used in these novels by showing characters’ reactions to more worldly matters such as racism, colonialism, and sexism. Exile is used in these novels, not to test life without the characters’ parents, but rather to open the characters’ eyes to the incredibly complicated world that lies ahead. These characters are forced to find a place for themselves in the strange world as well as having to form their own beliefs about societal matters.

However, the longer the time these characters spend away from home, the further they find themselves, emotionally, from home and are left with a strange feeling of loneliness in the world. They are then challenged with having to identify themselves and their cultural origins. Lima claims that Kincaid employs the reading of literature and writing as means of salvation. When put into the tough position of being emotionally disconnected from the world, characters, specifically like Lucy, in Lucy: A Novel, read and use their memories from books to identify themselves. In addition, writing helps the characters to cope with their estranged and complicated feelings. Those caught between culturally different worlds use what they know in an effort to comprehend the nature of the world and their part in it.

Discussion Questions:

1. How are the struggles Lucy faces similar and/or different than those of Melinda and Charlie in finding their respective identities? 2. What role does age play in all of the novels we have read thus far? How has Lucy’s older age helped/hindered her in finding her identity? 3. What role have reading literature and writing letters played in the novels we have read so far, specifically in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Lucy: A Novel?

Works Cited
Lima, Maria Helena. “Imaginary Homelands in Jamaica Kincaid’s Narratives of Development” Callaloo 25.3 (Summer 2002): 857-867.

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