49 pages 1 hour read

Zadie Smith


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2012

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Important Quotes

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“‘Things change! We’re getting there, no?’ The woman does not know where there is. She did not know they had set off, nor in which direction the wind is blowing. She does not want to arrive. The truth is she had believed they would be naked in these sheets forever and nothing would come to them ever, nothing but satisfaction. Why must love ‘move forward’? Which way is forward?” 

(Part 1, Page 28)

The clash between Leah’s and Michel’s worldviews is as clear as it is drastic. While Michel focuses on advancing materially, economically, and by having children, Leah wonders why they cannot simply live in the present, finding solace in their physical relationship. Michel’s language of change, progress, and advancement seems foreign to Leah, ultimately causing her to feel alienated.

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“Look: you know what is the true difference between these people and me? They don’t want to move forward, they don’t want to have nothing better than this. But I’m always moving forward, thinking of the next thing.” 

(Page 32)

Michel’s ambition and desire do not stem from mere greed or materialism. Instead, the statements he makes about his goals show that his ambition is tied to his understanding of social class. By mentioning differences between those who want to advance and those who do not, and by directly stating that one path is “better,” Michel makes clear that he sees ambition as tied to quality of life. 

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“Privately she thinks: you want to be rich like them but you can’t be bothered with their morals, whereas I am more interested in their morals than their money, and this thought, this opposition, makes her feel good.” 

(Part 1, Page 90)

Though Leah struggles to find purpose and to understand Michel’s ambition, the challenges she faces are deeply connected to the values that she does hold onto. In the supermarket, she realizes that she is bothered by their inability to afford fair trade and local items because she values ethical principles, while Michel is bothered by it because he values economic standing. Throughout the course of the novel, Leah demonstrates a social and ethical consciousness in spite of her existential crisis.