Joyce with Millat: More Than Maternal?

Since we skimmed over the Chalfens today in class, I’d like to present some evidence for something that has been on my mind ever since page 263. It’s at this point that Joyce Chalfen – happily married Joyce Chalfen – lays her eyes upon Millat. What crosses her mind at this point? Zadie Smith is kind enough to tell us:

“Pulchritude […] That was the word that first struck Joyce when Millat Iqbal stepped forward onto the steps of her conservatory…”

Okay, we know that Millat is a charmer. After all, Irie and just about every other girl and woman in the city find him rather attractive. But Joyce’s obsession with him continues:

“Joyce, partially recovered from the vision of Millat Iqbal, gathered herself together…” 264

Later, we see Joyce expressing her joy upon seeing Millat through Oscar:

“‘But everybody loves Millat, don’t they, Oscar! It’s so hard not to, isn’t it, Oscar? We love him, don’t we, Oscar?'” Joyce, 274

This would all be well and good if Oscar actually enjoyed Millat’s company, but it’s obvious that this is not the case:

“‘Millat! Oscar, look it’s Millat!. Oscar, you’re very happy to see Millat, aren’t you, darling?’ Oscar screwed up his nose, pretended to barf, and threw a wooden hammer at Millat’s shins. ‘Oscar gets so excited when he sees you.'” Joyce, 274-275

With Oscar clearly not very happy to see Millat, one is left wondering what exactly Joyce is talking about. I propose that Joyce is attracted – sexually – to Millat. Before you accuse me of reading too much into it, let me add one more quotation, this one from Joyce’s own husband:

“…the hard truth is that [Millat] excels in nothing apart from charming the elastic waistband off my wife’s panties.” Marcus, 305

With this excerpt from one of Marcus’ correspondences with Magid, everything fell into place. 1) Joyce finds Millat attractive (or, pulchritudinous). 2) Joyce’s attraction develops into sexual feelings. 3) Joyce stops expressing her recognizably inappropriate affection directly and chooses to do so via Oscar, although Oscar’s aversion to Millat makes this practice utterly ridiculous and thinly veiled. 4) Joyce is so obviously attracted to Millat that even her husband realizes their relationship.

Just a few pages past their introduction on page 263, I had a vague Notes-on-a-Scandal feeling throughout the rest of the novel whenever they were in the same scene. The question that Marcus’ comment raises is whether Millat ever in fact submitted to Joyce’s desires. After all, we know that his “main squeezes were almost all exclusively size 10 white Protestant women aged fifteen to twenty-eight, living in and around the immediate vicinity of West Hampstead” (306). Joyce, at least as I imagine her, fits four of these five criteria.

What do you think?

-Chris Adkins


~ by slipstream99 on April 16, 2008.

2 Responses to “Joyce with Millat: More Than Maternal?”

  1. I definitely agree that Joyce had more than just maternal and nurturing thoughts toward Millat. But did anything ever happen between them? I don’t think so, and this may be due to Millat’s involvement with KEVIN. Millat was attempting to give up his sexual relationships with women for the Islamic fundamentalist group (even though he found ways around the rules for pleasure without touching his female companion).

    Therefore, I just think Joyce questionably had a schoolgirl crush on Millat that never developed into anything more. I will admit though, that at one time in the book I definitely thought we were going to have to try and understand another dramatic event in a book filled with conflict and confusion.

    -Zac Ramsey

  2. Interesting set of observations.

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