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Why Friendship changes?

Mindy Lu's picture

Why Friendship changes?


  As I claimed in my last paper, the central relationship in the book NW by Adie Smith is the lifelong friendship between Natalie/Keisha and Leah. They have become best friends since grade school. However, when they grew up and became adults, their lives have spun in different directions, and then, their friendship changes. I am curious about the reasons and weather it is a common problem in women’s friendships.


“Leah took Keisha’s hand and ran back to the flat holding hands the whole way because they were best friends bonded for life by a dramatic event and everyone in Caldwell best know about it.”(Smith 203-204)

  When Leah and Keisha/Natalie, the main character of the book, were young, they became best friends-- they grew up in the same housing development, attended the same school, played in the same parks and experienced a lot with each other.


  However, when they grow up-- Natalie become a successful lawyer and marries a perfect man. Meanwhile, although Leah has a good degree from a good university, she gets a dead-end job in a welfare-distribution office and marries a hairdresser. Natalie and Leah still live in the same neighborhood where they grew up, but Natalie now lives in a big house with beautiful views, has a wealthy husband, becomes a mother of two children and hosts elegant dinner parties and casual brunches that make Leah uncomfortable. To Leah, although they live closely, it seems like that they live in completely different worlds.

“Their material circumstances were quite different. Keisha occupied a 60s- build dormitory of indifferent architectural design. Leah a 19th-century terraced house, with a defunct fireplace in every room and nine housemates. Instead of a lounge, a “chill out room.” Enormous speakers, no sofa”(Smith, 236)

   As the descriptions above I cite from the book, when they grew up, their living environment become different. I once thought that this kind of difference is the direct reason why their friendship changes. But I realize that difference cannot make two friends apart. I still remember that, when they are young, they wrote down some answers in cards, which showed their personal preference. In their cards they even did not have few same answers, for example, Leah’s the favorite color is yellow, while Keisha loves purple best. (Smith, 205) There had been so many differences between them at that time, but those differences never impacted the friendship during their childhood.


  Thus, I confused again. Why their friendship changes later? In the book, Leah, who doubts the way that Natalie lives, indeed envy her best friend at the same time. When I read the book, I can feel the conflict inside Leah’s heart. In one hand, she hates Natalie’s ambition of wealth and reputation. In the other hand, she is eager to achieve what Natalie has, such as the large house, nice job, and money. It is reasonable that Leah become envy because her friend who used to share similar lives with her seems live much better than her. For example, when Lean visited Natalie’s new house, which is not only large but also beautiful, Lean was embarrassed, and the atmosphere in the house was wired. As far as I concerned, envy is a common problem in women’s friendship, especially in the friendship between women who grow up together and shared everything. When they were little girls, they usually felt that their lives are on the same level, which means that there is no “the one is better than the other”. However, when they grow up, they have different fates, which lead to the difference of wealth and reputation. When one of them notice she is not as rich or popular as the other one, the envy may appear, which can easily lead to the change of friendship in the end.


  When I keep reading, I pity them to lose their best friend, and really hope they can be together again later. This book seems have no ending exactly, but it is thankful to see that at the last paragraph they talk to each other. The conversation looks a little bit odd, but gives the reader the hint that they fix up their friendship again.

  ““You are right,” said Natalie Blake. “It’s just the right thing to do,” and a few minutes later, as they went over the disparate bits of the tale once again, Leah said the same thing back to Natalie.” (Smith, 401)

  Can they get back to be the best friends again like before? Is that a turning point for them or just a precious moment for them? The author does not give an exact answer, which makes the readers, including me, become curious and imagine a lot about that.


Works Cited

Smith, Zadie. NW. New York: Penguin, 2012, Print.