The (Un)Silencing of The Subaltern in Kincaid's Lucy

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Wendy Davis


A name represents a person. Their name provides them a voice, an identity to call their own. In Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy, the "voice" of the novel has no name until sixteen pages prior to the end of the book. Before the voice provides the reader her name, the reader assumes the female voice is named Lucy, because of the title of the book. But none of the characters call her by name. This nameless narrator is an immigrant and a subaltern. A subaltern is a marginalized person who has agency over nothing, not even their name. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's article "Can the Subaltern Speak?" claims that "The subaltern cannot speak," but Kincaid has found a loophole (104). I argue that Kincaid, an immigrant from Antigua and former subaltern, joins the debate, of whether or not the subaltern can speak, by not bestowing a name to her protagonist until the end of Lucy; hence letting the subaltern speak for herself.

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