Short summary - On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Summary of the work - Sykalo Eugen 2023

Short summary - On Beauty by Zadie Smith

As a literature teacher, I am delighted to provide a comprehensive overview of "On Beauty" by Zadie Smith. This novel is a masterpiece that portrays the intricacies of human behavior, relationships, and identity. The story takes place in the fictional town of Wellington, Massachusetts, and follows the lives of two families, the Belseys and the Kipps, who are brought together by a sequence of unforeseen events.

The novel opens with an introduction to the Belseys, a biracial family headed by Howard, a white Englishman, and Kiki, a black American woman. They have three grown children: Jerome, Zora, and Levi. Howard is a professor of art history at a local university, while Kiki is a hospital administrator. The Belseys are liberal and intellectual, and Howard is a staunch atheist, while Kiki is more spiritual.

On the other hand, the Kipps are a conservative and religious family headed by Monty, a white Englishman, and Carlene, an African American woman. They have two children: Victoria and Michael. Monty is also a professor of art history at the same university as Howard, but he is a conservative Christian and a vocal opponent of Howard's liberal views.

The two families are brought together when Monty Kipps is invited to give a lecture at Howard's university, and the Belseys attend the lecture. After the lecture, Howard and Monty engage in a heated argument that sets the tone for the rest of the novel. The argument is about the value of beauty in art, with Howard arguing that beauty is subjective and Monty arguing that it is objective and God-given.

The novel then follows the lives of the two families as they navigate their relationships with each other and the world around them. Howard and Monty's feud intensifies, with both men engaging in underhanded tactics to discredit each other. Meanwhile, their children, Jerome and Victoria, begin a secret relationship, despite their parents' disapproval.

Throughout the novel, Smith takes us on a journey into the personal struggles of each character. Howard's infidelity strains his marriage with Kiki, and Kiki grapples with her changing identity as she ages. Zora, the Belseys' daughter, struggles with her own identity and the pressure to succeed, while Levi, their son, becomes involved with a group of radical activists.

The characters' experiences are woven together to create a compelling narrative that explores themes of family, love, race, religion, and politics. Smith's writing is rich with metaphor and symbolism, and she masterfully captures the complexities of human nature.

As the novel progresses, the characters are forced to confront their own flaws and biases, and the consequences of their actions. The novel culminates in a tragic event that forces the characters to reevaluate their relationships and priorities.

Overall, "On Beauty" is a poignant and thought-provoking novel that challenges readers to examine their own biases and assumptions and to consider the ways in which we are all connected, even in our differences. It is a work of art that will leave a lasting impact on anyone who reads it.