Q1: “Lucy” by Jamaica Kincaid
Kincaid highlights and exaggerates the conflicting values and upbringings of Lucy and Maria through her choice of point of view and narrative voice. By using first person, readers are given an insight into the perspective of Lucy as she navigates life in America and her complex relationship with Maria. The choice of first person allows the audience to learn more about the differences between the characters especially through Lucy’s viewpoint as Kincaid opens the window into the character’s head. We hear her thoughts about Mariah as she recounts her experiences with spring and her fascination with “flowers bending in the breeze”, questioning “how does a person get to be that way?” This allows the reader to solidify their suppositions that their may be some tension between the characters by explicitly showing them Lucy’s view on the situation. In addition, the fact that the story is in first person allows us to understand Lucy’s history and contempt of “daffodils” and that representation of springtime. This confession to the readers first and then to Mariah allows the audience to fully understand the path of reconciliation and understanding that Mariah and Lucy embark on by the end of the passage. If the story had been in any other tense, we as readers would not have the same understanding of the relationship between the characters that seems to be driving both character development and plot of the book.
Q2: characters and their differing perspectives/values
In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the tension between John Proctor’s desire to stay in good faith and Abigail William’s selfishness illustrates Miller’s negative view of the different facets of human nature. Abigail, is the antagonist of the story. After having had an affair with John Proctor, a married man, and being kicked out of their house by his wife, Elizabeth, Abigail transforms her bitter sentiment into ambition to accuse Elizabeth of being a witch so she can be rid of her. She acts in ultimate greed and selfishness, believing this action will allow her to have John Proctor all to herself. Abigail is an explicit depiction of evil, ironic because she is the one who is accusing others of the same. On the other hand, John appears to be a selfless man who loves his wife and is a good neighbour and Christian. On the surface level to everyone in the town, he is an ideal man. However, below the surface, the biggest chip on his shoulder is the affair he had with Abigail. This relationship with her contradicts the view of perfection he seems to have on the surface level. This presumed perfection before discovery of something much darker is representative of Miller’s view of human nature. Even those who appear good are inherently bad. The fact that he had an affair with Abigail, the established face of evil in the book, further taints his character, something that Proctor himself realises by the end of the play when he laments over the ruination of his “name”. These two characters illustrate another two sides of human nature as well: Abigail, so obsessed with herself, and John Proctor, so concerned by how others view him. This dynamic between the characters, where they seem like opposite sides if the same dice, drives forward Arthur Miller’s assertion that human nature is tainted by evil in many different forms.