Analysis of Zadie Smith's Article 'Joy': Intimacy is a Human Madness

Categories: Human Nature

As Zadie Smith talks about her cognition of joy in the article “joy”, she states that “joy is such a human madness.” (6) We start to think about what is human madness. In my perspective, I would say human madness is a kind of dilemma. As for another article “The Empty Space,” the intimacy that narrator expresses between his family can be also described as a human madness.

What comes first is that we should ascertain the meaning of human madness. In the article “Joy”, Smith illustrates her point of view about joy by several personal experiences.

For example, Smith and his husband love their daughter very much. However, they have to give up arguing, smoking, eating meat, using the Internet, talking about other people’s faces, and voicing the dog since their daughter started to have conscious. As a perfect parents, they tried hard to provide the best circumstance for her to grow up. That’s why she states the strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight.

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We can conclude that joy is a double-edged admixture emotion which includes pleasure and several negative emotions. From the writer Julian Barnes’s quotation “it hurts just as much as it is worth” (6-7), we can interpret human madness as something which is harmful but we want to have.

Intimacy is an indispensable component in both two essays. From the example above, we’ve known one example of the intimacy. Another intimacy in “Joy” is about narrator’s husband. Even though they had furious argument about daily lives, Smith still describe this experience as worthwhile.

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From this, we can interpret that it is real love between she and her husband. In the essay “The Empty Space,” the author does not write many plot for intimacy. Nevertheless, based on several details, we can analyze his strong emotion to his family members. When he talks about light, he states that his “nocturnal reverie” (2) transforms into a “nocturnal fear” (2) and “the light could only donate an emergency.” (2) “Nocturnal reverie” is the light from the gap above his bedroom door, which offers him a sense of security in the night. He feels safe because he know his parents are here, which is a part of intimacy. Then his “nocturnal reverie” transforms into “nocturnal fear,” because he takes light as tool for emergency in the middle of the night and associates the light with situation of his mom in the hospital. He cares his mom very much and does not want to lose her. Also, after his mother’s death, he and his brother sat on a sofa for the whole afternoon. They always image that their mother are in the room. How they miss their mothers it is. All these details reflect strong kinship between narrator and his family. The intimacy is depicted vividly. From the examples in both two essays, what we find is that when we really care about the intimacy with someone, we will hurts a lot when we no longer own it. Therefore, intimacy can be described as human madness.

What we also should not ignore is the privacy part in “The Empty Space.” Dillon narrate it by telling us his personal thinking. For example, he depicted some plots after his mother died. He brought a magazine and considered about Live Aid. He states “everybody I know is watching this, and none of them, outside of my family, know that my mother is about died.” (3) This sentence gives me a strong feeling of loneliness. He thinks he disconnects with surrounding circumstances in that time. No one would understand his pain and sadness. That’s why he dreaded meeting neighbors and tried to shut himself down. Dillon writes “the house seemed to fracture.” (4) We all know that the house represents his family. This sentence means that the family is incomplete after losing one members. In the end of the essay, the narrator decides to leave the house, because he thinks that he was cursed by repetition between past and now. He cannot get away from devious spiral until he abandoned from the house. In his inner world, he stays in the house excruciatingly.

Based on the examples about intimacy and privacy, I think intimacy are something objective existence. However, privacy are more related to personal thinking. Combination of intimacy and privacy composes the essay visually.

In conclusion, based on the analysis above, I insist that intimacy is a kind of human madness.

Works cited

  1. Zadie, Smith. “In the Dark Room: Joy”. 2013
  2. Brian, Dillon: The Empty Space. 2005
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Analysis of Zadie Smith's Article 'Joy': Intimacy is a Human Madness. (2024, Feb 09). Retrieved from

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