Essay: The Girl with Bangs by Zadie Smith

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  • Subject area(s): English literature essays
  • Reading time: 3 minutes
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  • Published on: February 10, 2020
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  • Number of pages: 2
  • The Girl with Bangs by Zadie Smith
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Everyone has been there before, in the midst of all your feelings towards a person. In Zadie Smith’s, “The Girl with Bangs.” the unnamed narrator reflects on her lesbian love affair with Charlotte Greaves back in college. Blinded by lust, the narrator’s short-lived infatuation affected her by deconstructing her sense of sexual curiosity, freedom, and emotional logic which are all jeopardized by Charlotte’s black bangs and led to the turmoil of leaving the narrator undone in her life values.
From the beginning of the story, the narrator mentions she was “in love with a girl once” thus introducing the fact of sexual attraction towards a girl (Smith 1). However it was unclear that the narrator was a woman until she mentions, “I became a boy for the duration…” which supports the fact of her sexual curiosity (Smith 3). Noticeably, upon laying eyes on Charlotte was her look of “Bedroom Eyes” which is a big factor into the role of lust in the growing infatuation of the narrator since she was dripping of sex in the way she carried herself (Smith 2). Subsequently, the narrator’s curiosity was the main trigger in her infatuation towards Charlotte leading to the extremes of switching gender roles. Even though Charlotte was known for sleeping with multiple partners she believed that somehow she could win Charlotte over by doing “all the old boy tricks” and somehow time would take over the cause-and-effect of love tactics (Smith 3). Throughout her journey of blind infatuation, the narrator became oblivious to the reality of Charlotte’s promiscuity and how it would make her incapable of love.
Alongside of sexual curiosity, was the effect it had on the narrator’s freedom. Being infatuated with Charlotte was very time consuming for the narrator since she was constantly on her mind. As soon as Maurice left on his business trip she took advantage of the extra time she had Charlotte, alone. Not only did this jeopardize her physical but also mental freedom. The narrator took many mental notes about Charlotte and went out of her way to study her by degrees “in the library, watching her hair make reading difficult” and “sitting next to her at lunch watching the bangs go hither” gradually charlotte and her bangs started revolving around her life ( Smith 3). Her main attraction was Charlotte’s bangs, covering all her flaws since she was neither good and “she was no intellectual” but none of this matter since the narrator was stuck under the spell of the bangs (Smith 4). Finally getting a taste of being a boy, the narrator was reaching her peak of the infatuation to get Charlotte to obtain mutual feelings and her thought was “there’s nothing” she would not do to still win her over in time (Smith 5).
Before the climax, the last thing that was affected was the narrator’s emotional logic. Since the beginning she knew what she was getting into when having an affair with a woman in an open relationship. The narrator’s time was up when Maurice came back and decided to propose to Charlotte also the girl “who had taken [her] apart piece by piece” and admits that she realizes how “(un)done” she has become (Smith 9)”. This reality check opens her eyes of the infatuation she was feeling and how it was better to let go of her goal of trying to win Charlotte over. Ironically when the narrator mentions, “…it is almost always women and not men who are waiting under windows”, Charlotte was the “man” to leave the female narrator disappointed even when the narrator thought she was being the man (Smith 11).
In the end , the narrator was only infatuated with Charlotte in a short-lived manner which gave the narrator a blunt reality check. This story can show how the bangs broke down the young life of the narrator but ironically helped her mature and become accepting of the different courses life may take her. Overcoming infatuation over the hot mess was the emotional breakthrough that changed the narrator’s life.

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