Zadie Smith’s NW: A Compass in Sad Multicultural Land

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Heather Childress Custer (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
James Ivory

Abstract: Taking Zadie Smith’s most recent novel, NW (2012), as its subject, this master’s thesis engages in a postcolonial analysis of contemporary multicultural life in London. Smith’s return to her childhood North-West London neighborhood, which she introduced to the literary world in her debut novel, White Teeth (2000), documents a change in mood reflective of “post-catastrophe” England. A more severe social commentary than White Teeth, NW is preoccupied with human connectedness and social responsibility. Enacting its theme, NW privileges character over plot; therefore, this thesis engages in-depth character analyses of Felix, Nathan, Natalie, and Leah. A postcolonial attitudinal history of Empire, framed by Paul Gilroy’s Postcolonial Melancholia, underlies these four analyses. Major themes developed are the tense present of twenty-first century London, the haunting reality of institutionalized racism, the conflict between roots and routes (“up and out”), and the imperative to attend to spectral communities. In her sobering, troubled portrait of the city’s urban neighborhoods, Smith offers hope through a convivial society that values justice and benevolence, and is responsive to others’ needs.

Additional Information

Custer, H.C. (2014). Zadie Smith’s NW: A Compass in Sad Multicultural Land. Unpublished master's thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2014
Zadie Smith, postcolonial, multicultural, racism, spectral communities

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