51 pages 1 hour read

Zadie Smith

On Beauty

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2005

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Character Analysis

Howard Belsey

Howard Belsey is one of the protagonists of the novel. He is named after the country house from E.M. Forster’s classic novel. This homage parallels Howard’s struggles with class. In Forster’s Howard’s End, characters of varying class statuses come into conflict with themselves and one another. Similarly, Howard tries to escape his upbringing in England by forming an academic career in America. But Howard cannot easily escape who he truly is. Howard struggles with his internal identity. He engages in a feud with Monty on the issue of morality while sacrificing his own moral codes. Howard cheats on his wife with a family friend as well as with Monty’s young daughter. Howard’s extramarital affairs reveal an identity crisis around his age; he wants to believe that life is full of possibility and tries to find this possibility through sex. Howard is out of touch with his internal conflicts, which causes him to act out in his external conflicts.

Kiki Belsey

Kiki is Howard’s wife of 30 years. She is a strong, resilient woman who is in touch with her inner self and complications. Kiki is the glue that holds her family together. She is intimately entuned with her children’s conflicts and provides a stabilizing force for them.