White Teeth

Cultural Diversity in White Teeth

The search for identity in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is one of the threads that Smith continually weaves throughout her novel. At one point or another, each character deals with the inevitable question of “Who am I?” From Irie’s search for an identity through her family history to Samad’s futile resistance to all things British, it becomes clear that the multiculturalism of modern London is making it increasingly difficult to align one’s self with a singular culture or background. Through the designation of names, nicknames, and other various epithets, Smith allows her characters to explore, choose, or deny their cultural identities in earnest. For somebody like Samad, these “nicknames” are considered slurs because they essentially insult the importance of his cultural background. But for his son, Magid, his attempts at Anglicizing his given birth name are simply attempts to adapt and blend into the multicultural British scene. Such differences, due to the “intergenerational adaptation” that Kris Knauer examined in his essay, are examples of why several characters respond in various ways to their names and nicknames. From “Mark Smith” to KEVIN, names in White Teeth serve to illustrate the difficulty of defining the...

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