Things Fall Apart

Family Relationships in White Teeth, Disgrace and Things Fall Apart

By comparing White Teeth with at least one other appropriate text, explore the presentation of family and family relationships in postcolonial literature.

The ‘metanarrative’ of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth differs from the direct linear narrative of other postcolonial texts such as Things Fall Apart and Disgrace. The metanarrative of White Teeth presents the strains and fragmentation of families in the postcolonial setting with a gently humorous, unserious and possibly optimistic approach whereas these other texts are more ambiguous yet emotive. The serendipitous events of White Teeth can at times become unrealistic, and Smith has been accused of neglecting characterisation for plot; however, in her three central families (the Joneses, the Iqbals and the Chalfens) she develops a powerful expression of the postcolonial struggles for her characters.

Family and history are two central relationships in the postcolonial genre. Things Fall Apart begins with an explanation of Okwonkwo’s history as the greatest wrestler in Umuofia and his attempts to move away from the reputation of his father as an unserious and unsuccessful Ibo man. Achebe develops the importance of family history and relationships throughout the novel and uses this to...

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