Analysis Of Zadie Smith's Swing Time

Decent Essays

In Zadie Smith’s 2016 novel Swing Time, the narrator uses time to tell the story of her life in an interesting, non-chronological way. Her storytelling technique is unique in the way it unfolds unevenly and seemingly without much thought. In truth, though, the timeline was thoroughly considered by the author, and every jump or apparent gap in the book’s plot is intentional. While reading Swing Time, I perceived the narrator’s leaps through time as though she were winding a broken clock—the clock hands spun erratically around the clock face, seemingly choosing at random on which time it wished to land. Smith uses this broken clock motif to deliver her message in the best possible way; she wants to illustrate the general experience of …show more content…

Because Smith creates her own timeline within the novel—she even goes so far as to name the novel after its erratic relationship with time —her narrator’s thoughts and actions can be construed as mythmaking. Admittedly unreliable, the narrator of Swing Time revels in adding significant, albeit realistically nonexistent, details to her timeline in order to add a sense of whimsy and symbolism. When she suddenly discovers that she has two white half-siblings, the narrator remembers the discovery as being marked by a time of quiet bonding with her half-brother, who silently begins a game of hide and seek with her before leaving in a flurry of snow:
And then the girl [the narrator’s half-sister] came running down the stairs. No one ran after her, not my father or my mother. She was still crying and she came to the boy and they hugged and, still hugging, walked across the grass and out of the estate. Snow was lightly falling. (Smith 47)
Here, the narrator claims that it is snowing during a scene of intense emotion and sudden abandonment following a sudden arrival. When the narrator later recounts the memory to her mother, though, her mother sighs and says, “‘Trust you to add snow’” (Smith 48), thus illustrating the fact that the narrator takes mundane memories and adds her own spin to them in an effort to make them more symbolic. In this way, she creates her own myth by creating symbolism, and she uses the passage of time to do so.

Get Access