White Teeth

This is a Rerun: How Colonial History, Racism, and Cultural Traditions Shape the Immigrant Experience in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth 11th Grade

In Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth, several main characters struggle with their cultural identity as immigrants in contemporary London. During the mid twentieth century, economic opportunities in Great Britain attracted many immigrants from former British colonies. The influx of racially diverse immigrants from ex-colonies caused a backlash of xenophobic sentiments and a resurgence of ever-present racism. Throughout the novel, Smith alludes to the immigrants’ internal conflict between the desire to assimilate and the determination to maintain their traditional culture. In Chapter VII of the novel, two distinct but interwoven journeys occur: Samad travels to meet his mistress, Poppy Burt-Jones, and Samad’s children, Magid and Millat, meet up with their friend Irie, the daughter of Samad’s English friend Archie Jones and his Jamaican wife, Clara Bowden, to bring Harvest Festival donations to J.P. Hamilton, an old British man. Both journeys involve immigrants from former colonies, such as Jamaica and Bangladesh, traveling to see British citizens. The two journeys that occur in Chapter VII represent the immigrant plight in twentieth century London and demonstrate the effects of colonial history, racism, and cultural tradition on...

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