The Ethical Laboratory of Beauty in Zadie Smith’s On Beauty

Anna Głąb, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Fall 2016), 491-512

This paper presents the issues addressed in Zadie Smith’s novel On Beauty (2005) through the prism of ethical categories or, more precisely, through the prism of the relationship between beauty, goodness, and truth. The analysis is carried out from the perspective of a laboratory, allowing the author to conduct experiments on the meanings of these concepts and to test their sense in the constantly changing circumstances of the world represented in the novel. The analyses show that the beauty-goodness-truth triad is seldom maintained and that circumstances destabilize and modify its unity by reformulating its elements. Although the article reveals the relative instability of this triad, it argues for its ultimate unity as evidenced by the Belsey marriage.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]