The Lazy River

This study guide will help you analyse the short story “The Lazy River” by Zadie Smith. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, themes and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: The Lazy River (2017)
Author: Zadie Smith
Genre: Short story

Zadie Smith (b. 1975) is a contemporary British novelist and short story writer. Smith’s novels and short stories have won several literary prizes. She published “The Lazy River” in 2017 in the magazine The New Yorker.


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The title of the short story “The Lazy River” by Zadie Smith has both a literal and a symbolic meaning.

In the literal sense, the title is a direct reference to the pool of the all-inclusive hotel where the guests are staying during their holiday. The pool has artificial currents that allow the guests to float around, as if they are in a river. For this reason, this type of water ride is commonly called a “lazy river.” The narrator also frequently uses the term to describe the pool. The title holds an undertone of irony because it refers to an artificial pool as a “river”, which usually refers to a natural body of water.

In a symbolic sense, the title represents the worries of the narrator. The narrator uses the pool as an explicit metaphor for life and the passing of time: “Then we all climb back into the metaphor. The Lazy River is a circle, it is wet, it has an artificial current. Even if you don’t move you will get somewhere and then return to wherever you started”.

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The Lazy River

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