White Teeth: The Cultural Significance

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The novel White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, gives an account of two North London families, one headed by Archie, the other by Archie’s closest companion, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Buddies since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are firmly an improbable pair. Trudging Archie is run of the mill inside and out until he weds Clara, a wonderful, toothless Jamaican lady a large portion of his age, and the couple have a little girl named Irie (Arikan 1680). Samad, passionately Muslim, miserably ‘outside’ marries the feisty and constantly suspicious Alsana in a prearranged association. They have twin children named Millat and Magid, one a pot-smoking punk-cum-aggressor Muslim and the other an excruciating science geek. The crazy and tormented accounts of the Joneses and the Iqbals are in a general sense interlaced, catching a realm of cultural identity, history, and hope. Throughout the novel, Smith uses teeth to represent People. Every individual had white teeth regardless of their ethnicity or religion, making them a symbol of unity and equality of humanity. Moreover, teeth are intertwined with one’s identity since they represent the heritage and experiences of each character.

Zadie Smith wisely utilizes the teeth allegory in her introduction novel White Teeth. All through which, teeth symbolize personality, history, and legacy of each character. Regardless of an individual’s race, shading, rank and so on, teeth are white accordingly meaning comprehensiveness. Simultaneously the teeth are a center point of numerous images like that of mankind, roots, family ancestry and so on. Like no individual has a similar arrangement of teeth, nobody individual has a similar history or roots. Teeth are effectively ruined and precarious. In like manner, an individual’s history, regardless of whether it is racial or family ancestry is powerless to change if not properly focused (Latha 671). We have in the novel shrewdness teeth, spoiled teeth and white teeth. White Teeth expounds and implodes the recognized thoughts of personality by representing the way that family alone can’t give a solid base to the idea of a character. Smith displays the blended variables of race, nationality, and culture as unpredictable that give a course forward instead of a root for the character. White Teeth sets muddled inquiries identified with the impact of heredity, birthplaces, roots and their puzzling effect on personality.

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The initial point in the book at which the picture of teeth is created is related to Clara Bowden. Archie Jones sees Clara just because as she was strolling down the stairs in moderate movement. At that point, Smith says that Jones was not only awed by Clara’s beauty but he had also never seen a creature as comforting as her. Smith also writes that “She gave him a wide grin that revealed possibly her one imperfection'(Smith 27). In this passage, it is clear that teeth are likened to Clara’s beauty which Jones noticed through her grin. Upon visiting England for the first time, Clara had buck teeth. In the part entitled ‘Teething trouble’ one can without much of a stretch see the story behind Clara’s missing teeth (Latha 671). Early-stage struggle represents the time when new teeth are developing and what was under the surface so far is getting clear. Smith herself expresses that Clara ‘had roots’ (Smith 28). Accordingly, Smith drives us to Clara’s past through the symbolism of teeth. Clara lost her teeth after she was involved in an accident. The missing teeth symbolize the unexpected changes that Clara experiences by surrendering her confidence in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. By dismissing her religion Clara has lost her underlying foundations attached to her family. At the point when she begins another existence with Archie she gets it going with another arrangement of teeth. It infers how she builds another way of life as a settler.

Once Clara gets married, she chooses to wear “a perfect set of false teeth” (Smith 50). Such a choice, notwithstanding, should be associated with another scene, which is related later in the novel, for example the revelation of Clara’s prosthetic teeth from part of her girl Irie: In the haziness Irie kicked over a glass and sucked in a sharp breath as the virus water leaked between her toes and into the floor covering (Latha 672). At that point, as the remainder of the water fled, Irie had the bizarre and ghastly vibe that she was being nibbled. Even though the reader realizes that Clara wears dentures, and may maybe feel that each other character inside her family thinks about it, Irie finds her mom’s arrangement of teeth unintentionally. The reader would now be able to know why the picture of “false teeth floating silently to the bottom of a glass” (Smith 91) is recently related to Samad’s endeavors to overlook difficult recollections.

Smith utilizes the term ‘root canal’ as a key allegory to investigate the various features of a character’s history. In White Teeth, Smith reveals personal and social clashes in all-inclusive Britain as far as first and second era migrants. Those individuals attempting to be a piece of the general public that does not share their social standards as well as religion feel unique and now and again distanced. Although outsider guardians experience critical troubles or emergencies in a multicultural world, we can say that their kids come through twofold traps (Arikan 1683). In this contention and its answer procedure, Smith introduces a significant issue that is the matter of history and root in the life of multi-ethnic and settler families. The significance of history is so carefully referenced in White Teeth that Zadie Smith starts her novel with the engraving of the statue named ‘The Future’ in the Washington exhibition hall: ‘What is past is prologue’ (Arikan 1683). In White Teeth, Smith addresses the history and root matter in two measurements that are ‚racial history and personal history. Even though those two measurements are joined, in White Teeth, the racial history is mostly reflected by original and their authentic journals and the individual history is allowed constantly age who is attempting to make an individual history in their personality development process.

The matter of history diffuses into the novel from the earliest starting point. The portrayal of White Teeth starts with the tale of Archie and Clara’s gathering day, 1 January 1975; then it starts with the individual history of Irie, their crossover little girl. Later on, Chapter 5, titled ‚The Root Canals of Alfred Archibald Jones and Samad Miah Iqbal, returns the reader as far as possible of The Second World War in which Archie and Samad were individual fighters (Arikan 1683). By this recollection to the battle period, Smith tells the individual histories of Samad and Archie, and establishes the colonization subject, based on ethnic and national histories. We discover that Samad was one of those troopers who were originating from the colonized nations to face a conflict having a place with the colonizer England. The voice of the English colonizer echoes in the novel as: ‘Samad, we are going to confer on you great honor. You will fight in mainland Europe-not starve and drink your piss in Egypt or Malaya, no-you will fight the Hun where you find him’ (Smith 88). Nevertheless, in opposition to the confident guarantee of the colonizer for a superior life, Samad was shot in his wrist on the third day of his participation in the war and his hand got debilitated to guard a nation that wasn’t his. By returning the reader to the war understanding of Archie and Samad, Smith interweaves racial-frontier history with individual history simultaneously.

At the point when Smith starts the pioneer history in the novel, she builds another story which interfaces the characters’ past to their future. We discover that Archie and Samad captured a Nazi specialist in the most recent days of the war and Samad convinced Archie to kill that specialist to realize them as genuine fighters. Even though Samad and the reader believe that Archie slaughtered that specialist, toward the finish of the novel we comprehend Archie had deceived his closest companion and professed to have murdered him (Arikan 1644). In a similar section of the novel, notwithstanding this individual history of those two companions, another significant reference to the racial history is given by going to the racial root waterways of Samad. The tale of Mangal Pande, the extraordinary granddad of Samad and an authentic character in the novel, holds a significant spot to develop the recorded foundations of colonization when all is said in done and of Iqbal family specifically.

Samad’s teeth are considered the whitest. He has roots and he solidly puts stock ever. Yet, it doesn’t imply that he isn’t defenseless against the weight of western culture. This seventh part is entitled ‘molars’. In this section, Magid and Millat get Samad with Poppy as they nibble into the fruits with their white teeth. Molars are the crushing teeth. It means that they are processing their dad’s filthy activities and are resolved to tail him (Latha 672. Toward the end of the chapter, Poppy is seen giving him a toothbrush which implies that he should clean up his deed. Without cutting off his illicit association with Poppy his teeth will remain ‘ unclean’ and his foundations will be rotted and disconnected. Samad expresses the inward battle of foreigners while removing themselves from another nation. Filling in as a server in his cousin’s eatery, Samad wants for an approach to propel his clients to remember him as something beyond a settler. He generally fantasies of informing his clients concerning the superb history of his incredible granddad Mangal Pande. He grapples with his distorted way of life as a settler. Jones and Iqbal’s families are especially grounded in everything verifiable and credible. The subsequent age is dubious of the ideas of local soil and unwavering quality of roots (Latha 673). The social clash among transient and post vagrant characters is clear of the evident inquiries concerning hybridity and beginning. The subsequent age demonstrates the way that the thoughts of birthplaces, roots, and idea of a solitary country have gotten dangerous and dreams in the 21st century.

Samad’s quality in armed force during the Second World War suggests that one of the standards of a working Empire was to recognize that the endeavors of colonizers to raise the immature countries ought to be taken care of with the countries helping their homeland in its needs and interests. Aside from recommending this reality, Smith additionally gives another significant connection to the pilgrim past of the Indian subcontinent, when she refers to Mangal Pande, an incredible granddad of the anecdotal Samad Iqbal. Mangal Pande is a genuine verifiable figure (Cechova 6). As per sources, Pande was a sepoy who opposed guideline and assaulted Brit-ish authorities in March 1857, which is viewed as the dispatch of the best uprising in India known as the Indian Mutiny of 1857-an occasion fiercely smothered by. In the aftermath of this uprising, considered Pande a double-crosser, yet in India, he is recognized as a contender for an opportunity. The two contradicting sees on the nearness of Mangal Pande throughout the entire existence of the Indian country are available even in White Teeth (Cechova 7). While from one viewpoint, Samad stands immovably and gladly by the activities of his ancestor, calling him “the great hero of the Indian Mutiny” (Smith 88), Archie frequently prods him about how colonizers saw Pande’s disobedience. Smith furnishes us with a note on the occasions prompting the Mu-small, as composed by a contemporary antiquarian named Fitchett-an adaptation that was sufficient to send Samad into fits of wrath.

Moreover, white teeth are also firmly connected to class. Irie Jones, the youthful female hero of White Teeth-little girl of a toothless Jamaican mother and an English dad feels frustrated when she finds that her mom has dentures. Clara’s dentures speak to her absence of association with her legacy. In this way to discover her underlying foundations, Irie searches out Hortense Bowden, her grandma. From her, Irie adapts a greater amount of her family ancestry. She denounces how the past and heritage entrap and confine the present. Irie’s reinterpretation of Shakespearean work is a model for how she attempts to make a space for her own. She turns into a dental specialist at last. Her activity will be to expel awful, harmed teeth. As a dental specialist, she may have the option to conquer the restrictions of her disastrous social foundation. She attempts to discover her very own space.

Overall, the teeth in the novel White Teeth represent all the characters. Smith uses the symbol in different instances throughout the story to show that no matter how different are, their teeth are white, meaning that no one is special. In addition, the teeth in is emblematic of having roots or a family legacy. It is constantly imperative to have a family ancestry to observe one’s character in the general public. Through the illustration of teeth, Smith disentangles the shrouded components in a person’s life. It responds to inquiries regarding an individual’s character, history, legacy, and roots by relating them to the national, racial, familial and individual measurements. Smith delineates the disappointment of escaping from history or living totally outside of its attraction.

Works Cited

  1. Arikan, Seda. ““History” and “Root” in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.’ The Journal of Academic Social Science Studies 6.2 (2013): 1679-1696.
  2. Cechova, Natalia. “’ What’s Past is Prologue’: the importance of history in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.’ Theory and Practice in English Studies 7.1 (2014): 2-16.
  3. Latha, Sree. “Teeth Metaphor in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.” International Journal of English Language 5.6 (2017): 670-675.
  4. Smith, Zadie. “White Teeth.” Penguin Book (2000): 1-543.


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