71 pages 2 hours read

Zadie Smith

The Fraud

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2023

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Important Quotes

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Content Warning: This section of the guide discusses racism and enslavement, including explicitly racist ideas from the 19th century.

“No friends suddenly dead or disturbingly successful. No unusual or uniquely depressing news. More working men were to be allowed to vote. Criminals were no longer to be transported.”

(Part 1, Chapter 3, Page 7)

In this passage, Smith reveals the juxtaposition between the changing culture of British society in the late-19th century and the conflicts that interested the upper classes. Eliza reads the news because she searches for items that might be distressing to William: news about famous people he knows personally. Meanwhile, British society is changing in profound ways, such as ending the deportation of criminals and granting more voting rights to the working class. This juxtaposition emphasizes how out-of-touch the wealthy elite like Eliza and William can be.

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“But liking William and reading him had long been vastly different matters. Which reminded Eliza that what she had said was true—within very narrow confines. She had taken the measure of William and his friends long ago, had always known who had talent and who did not, and as long as her cousin asked no further questions, her discreet, ironic and yet absolute God would wink at it.”

(Part 1, Chapter 5, Page 14)

Eliza is loyal to William but sees his writing for what it is—average and even, at times, not good. Compared to his more famous writer friends, William’s writing is repetitive and overwrought. Eliza loves William but she doesn’t love his writing. She must lie to him about his writing because she can’t hurt his feelings. William’s ignorance of his own limited talents invokes the theme of The Complexities of Authenticity and Narrative.

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“In the third she came to understand that no matter what she thought she was, a mother had no more rights over her child than a slave has over his life.”

(Part 1, Chapter 10, Page 26)

One of Eliza’s deep-seated traumas stems from the time her husband ran away with their son. He forbids Eliza from seeing her son again, leaving Eliza with no legal recourse.