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Race: A factor in Relationship Stability and Function

pbernal's picture

Jessica Bernal

ESEM- Play in the City


Race: A factor in Relationship Stability and Function


            In NW, Zadie Smith delves into three preeminent romantic relationships; Leah and Michel, Natalie and Frank, and Felix and Grace. Each relationship with stories and dilemmas of their own like any other typical relationship. Yet, Leah and Michel’s relationship is far more complex than the average relationship as we determine that their different ethnicities play a bigger role in defining their unity. From the view of a London inner city resident, the attitude towards interracial couples emphasizes that race plays a role in relationship stability and function to which such is represented by Zadie Smith’s unique relationship creation of Leah and Michel.

            Leah and Michel’s relationship is more of a physical attraction and sexual compatibility than respect and admiration for one another. Two complete different ends of a spectrum where as she is a white successful woman and Michel is a francophone black man trying to make a better living by disproving all stereotypes based on the color of his skin and in the end proving he as well can do greatness. Their social status creates tension within their relationship causing it to be unfunctional.

            In the United States, a common thought of interracial couples is the union between African American and white couples. Whereas in London, it’s a lot more diverse and couples marrying from all different backgrounds, like black and Chinese, white and Indian, and etc. thus creating a higher mixed percentage. In fact, more than a million people in Britain are now of mixed percentage according to news sky. With a higher population of interacial couples in the last couple of years, there’s also a rise in immigrants present in Britain. According to daily mail, “ […] the mixed population is now one of the fastest growing ethnic groups. One estimate is that the ‘Mixed Group’ is set to increase by 30% from 2010 to 2020.”

            With such significant increase in interracial couples, there is also a bigger overall consensus of acceptance towards interracial couples. As news sky mentions, “The think-tank's report, The Melting Pot Generation - How Britain Became More Relaxed About Race, says ‘mixed Britain is fast becoming the new normal.’ ”

Although there’s a significant increase in interracial couples, there’s also a higher percentage in divorce by 41% than divorced marriages of couples within the same race that stand at 31%. Race is a factor in stability bringing age and education levels into the matter. As Zadie Smith writes, “They were married before they noticed many small differences in background, aspiration, education, ambition.” (Smith, 27) Leah is embarrassed of Michel’s poor proper speaking skills and subtly corrects him every chance she gets which drives him mad. They create tension when they’re together in public drawing their racial differences to more attention.

            Leah and Michel’s sexual driven relationship works for them, but perhaps for the spur of the moment. Although they like to live within their four walls and pretend the world outside them plays no factor into their relationship, race, an element of who they are in the end does drive them apart and creates tension which becomes a factor of stability and functionality in their relationship.






Works Cited


1, "Mixed Marriage 'More Accepted' In Britain." skynews. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

2. "Writing is a Blessing." : Interracial Couples: UK vs US...My Observations.... N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

3. <>.

4. "Britain's mixed race population leaps over one million as research reveals prejudices have sharply dropped Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook." Daily Mail. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

5. "“But Will It Last?”: Marital Instability Among Interracial and Same-Race Couples." Wiley Online Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <,0>.

6. "Mixed marriages The mixture as before." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.