What was the purpose and message of Smith's novel On Beauty? What was the novel's audience?  

What was the purpose and message of Smith's novel On Beauty? What was the novel's audience?

 

 

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Zadie Smith is an English novelist with a Jamaican mother and English father, who was raised in London, graduated from Cambridge University, held a post-graduate fellowship at Harvard, and has since become a tenured professor at New York University.

On Beauty is an academic novel, resembling closely works such as Byatt's Possession, David Lodge's "Campus Trilogy," and Jane Smiley's Moo. The primary audience for academic novels is often professors and graduate students, as people often enjoy books about familiar settings. The writer's own ethnicity and the issues of race in this novel create a second, broader audience of people who are interested in race and how ethnic issues affect our perceptions of art. 

As this novel has much in common with the author's own life in the way it addresses the issues of people of mixed ethnic ancestry and the clash of different classes and races within an elite academic setting, part of its purpose may be for the author to express or work through her own experiences and personal issues. The characters who have non-white or non-elite backgrounds struggle with their own sense of authenticity in this elite white academic environment.  The message of the novel is that racial and class origins matter even when people appear to have succeeded in elite white environments.