The protagonist, known as Archie. He is mediocre and indecisive, preferring to make his most important decisions with the flip of a coin. Archie's ex-wife is Ophelia Diagilo, whom he supposedly drove insane with his mediocrity. He later marries Clara, a Jamaican woman less than half his age, with whom he has a daughter, Irie. Archie's best friend is Samad Miah Iqbal. The two men served together in World War II and frequently visit O'Connell's pub.
Samad Miah Iqbal
Archie's best friend, a middle-aged World War II veteran with a crippled right hand. Samad was born in Bangladesh and met Archie when they were tankmates in Eastern Europe. He works as a waiter at an Indian restaurant, where he receives few tips. His wife is Alsana Begum, and his twin sons are Magid and Millat. More than anything, Samad wants his sons to grow into good, traditional Bengali Muslim men. To ensure this, he goes to great lengths, even kidnapping Magid and sending him to be raised in Bangladesh. Samad is religious and outspoken, relishes control although he is a staunch believer in destiny, and fancies himself to be more worldly and intellectual than others credit him.
Formerly Clara Bowden, an awkward, unpopular Jehovah's Witness who spent her days proselytizing door-to-door. When she meets an equally unappealing Mod named Ryan Topps, she abandons her religion and takes up his trendy ways. When Ryan and Clara crash into a tree on Ryan's scooter, Clara's top teeth are knocked out. She meets Archie Jones and marries him, even though she finds him unimpressive and he is more than twice her age. Archie and Clara have a daughter, Irie Ambrosia Jones. Clara wants what is best for Irie.
Young wife of Samad Miah Iqbal, to whom she was promised before her birth. They have twin sons, Magid and Millat. To help pay bills, she sews clothing for an S&M shop called Domination in Soho. Although charismatic and judgmental by nature, she thinks marriage is best handled with silence. However, she has a volcanic temper and generally wins fights with Samad by injuring him.
Irie Ambrosia Jones
Daughter of Clara and Archie Jones. In Patois, her name means "Ok, cool, peaceful." Irie has been friends with Magid and Millat Iqbal since birth. After struggling with her racial and sexual identity, Irie finds answers in her grandmother, Hortense Bowden. She resolves to become a dentist and despite her best efforts to prevent it, ends up with Joshua Chalfen. Irie gives birth to a "fatherless" daughter, sired by either Magid or Millat.
Millat Zulfikar Iqbal
Son of Samad and Alsana, and twin brother of Magid. Born second, Millat is less bright and more interested in pop culture than Magid. After Magid is sent to Bangladesh, Millat comes into his own as a trouble-making, pot-smoking rebel, and every female classmate's object of affection. However, Millat eventually rejects this lifestyle in favor of fundamentalist Islam. He joins and becomes a major driving force of KEVIN. At the FutureMouse conference, he tries to shoot Dr. Perret, but instead shoots Archie in the thigh. Millat may or may not be the father of Irie's baby.
Magid Mahfooz Murshed Mubtasim Iqbal
Son of Samad and Alsana, and twin brother of Millat. Born first, Magid is intellectually precocious and insists on dressing and acting like an adult, even at a very young age. Magid resents his heritage and wishes he and his family were more "normal" and English. Samad essentially kidnaps Magid and sends him to be raised traditionally in Bangladesh. To his father's horror, Magid becomes a suit-wearing, secular, English intellectual. When he finally returns to London, he joins Marcus Chalfen's FutureMouse program. Magid is fascinated by the certainty of fate genetic engineering offers, and by having the power to choose another creature's path, as his was chosen for him. Magid may or may not be the father of Irie's baby.
Owner of the butcher shop on Cricklewood Broadway. Mo is also Ardashir Mukhul's brother-in-law and prides himself on his pigeon-killing prowess. Mo stops Archie from committing suicide by asking him to move out of his illegal parking spot. Later on, Mo joins KEVIN, motivated by a desire to look important and avenge the racist attacks he has endured in his shop over the years.
Archie's first wife, whom he met it Italy during the war when she served him a cappuccino at an Italian cafe. Supposedly, Archie drove her mad, and she divorced him. Even after the divorce, he is subjected to her relatives' insults.
A Swedish gynecologist who tied Archie for thirteenth place in track cycling at the 1948 Olympics in London. The men have not seen each other since just after the competition, when Horst got Archie drunk and they both slept with prostitutes. Horst writes Archie eerily prophetic letters, always cleverly incorporating his signature into the last sentence.
Archie's boss at MorganHero, a Direct Mail firm where Archie specializes in determining how things should be folded. Kelvin pays off Archie in luncheon vouchers so he won't bring Clara, whose black skin makes the other employees uncomfortable, to company functions.
Dr. Marc-Pierre Perret
A French scientist who collaborated with the Nazis on eugenics projects, referred as "Dr. Sick" by the local children in the village where he hides out after World War II. He has a chronic condition that makes him cry blood. Samad thinks Archie killed him, when he actually let him live. Dr. Perret changes his ways and founds the Perret institute in London, where the FutureMouse conference is held. There, Archie saves him a second time when Millat tries to shoot him.
An awkward, unattractive, and antisocial young man whom Clara dates as a teenager. Hortense Bowden converts him into a Jehovah's Witness even as Clara adopts his Mod ways. Their relationship ends when he crashes them into a tree, leaving him unscathed while knocking out her upper teeth. The incident cements Ryan's belief that he is meant to be saved, and he grows into a prominent member of the Jehovah's Witnesses. He eventually moves in with Hortense to take care of her.
Clara's mother and Irie's grandmother, Hortense is a staunch Jehovah's Witness, unfazed by having lived through two projected Judgment Days. Hortense was born during the Jamaican Earthquake of 1907. When Clara is in high school, she converts her boyfriend, Ryan Topps, into a Jehovah's Witness.
Known to Alsana as Niece-of-shame. She is a cobbler and progressively-thinking lesbian. Though she is only two years younger than Alsana, the latter treats her disdainfully, as though she is a child. Neena has a girlfriend named Maxine.
Neena's girlfriend, who joins her on a visit to the Chalfen household.
Music teacher at the elementary school, she teaches Magid, Millat, and Irie. She is described as "effortlessly pretty," and she unknowingly arouses Samad so much that she makes him relapse into his habit of frequent masturbation.
Samad's distant cousin and owner of the restaurant where he works. He is Mo Hussein-Ishmael's brother-in-law, and eventually joins and donates to KEVIN.
The best-tipped and only Hindu waiter at the restaurant where Samad works. Shiva advises Samad that relationships with English women never work because of "too much bloody history." Later on, he becomes a ranking official with KEVIN and works closely with Millat.
The old man to whom Magid, Millat, and Irie are assigned for charity work in honor of the Harvest Festival. He is senile and lectures the children on proper dental hygiene.
A mad neighborhood character who accosts people on the street and lectures them. She accosts Samad and Poppy when they are out for a stroll.
Also known as Abdul-Mickey, the owner and grill cook at O'Connell's pub. He is Middle-Eastern in descent, and named Abdul like all the sons in his family so that he might not put himself above any other man. He has a disfiguring genetic skin condition and prides himself on his intimacy with regulars like Archie and Samad.
Sir Edmund Flecker Glenard
Founder of Glenard Oak school. A successful 19th-century tobacco plantation owner in Jamaica, Glenard tried unsuccessfully to start an educatonional workhouse in England. In his plan, Englishmen and Jamaicans would work side-by-side to fill each others' educational defecits; the English would teach Jamaicans work ethic, and in turn the Jamaicans would teach the English about devotion to God. His plan failed, and he was killed in a 1907 Jamaican earthquake as Irie's grandmother looked on. His only legacy is his bloodline, which runs even through Irie.
Horticulturalist, writer, and wife of Marcus Chalfen. She has four sons, all who adore her fiercely. Joyce is a natural nurturer and constantly feels the need to care for things and people. From the moment they meet, Millat entrances Joyce, and despite his rough behavior, she treats him like a son.
Renowned Jewish genetic engineer and husband of Joyce Chalfen. His controversial FutureMouse experiment involves genetically altering a mouse so that it develops cancers at specific times and sites. Marcus loses interest in mentoring Irie when he begins corresponding with Magid.
Son of Joyce and Marcus Chalfen, he is a nerd at Glenard Oak school who turns inot a pot-smoking animal-rights activist. Joshua has a long-standing crush on Irie and later, on Joely. He stays in FATE largely as an excuse to remain close to her.
Clara's grandmother. Captain Charlie Durham impregnates her while she serves as his maid, and then sees to her education. After he leaves, she passes through the hands of Sir Edmund Flecker Glenard and a Mrs. Brenton, who makes her a Jehovah's Witness. She gives birth to Hortense during the 1907 earthquake, and looks on as Sir Edmund is crushed to death by a statue.
Captain Charlie Durham
An English captain who impregnates Ambrosia Bowden while she is serving as his maid. He then sees to her education, and when work forces him to desert her, leaves her in the hands of Sir Edmund Flecker Glenard. He unwittingly ruins the relief effort after the 1907 earthquake by insulting the Jamaican governer: The governer will not let Durham take Ambrosia on a boat with him, so Durham insults him, saying that the Americans' power and leadership prove his own lack thereof. The governer sends the Americans and their aid back to Cuba, and Durham is parted from Ambrosia forever. Her last message to him is a passage from the Bible, saying: "I will fetch my knowledge from afar." Clara thinks Durham, her grandfather, is foolish because of his actions and therefore regrets telling Joyce Chalfen that Durham is the source of Irie's intellect.
Co-founder of FATE along with her husband, Crispin. Young men who join the organization inevitably become mesmerized by her, as does Joshua Chalfen.
Co-founder of FATE along with his wife, Joely. He comes to despise Joshua Chalfen, who tries constantly to get closer to Joely.
Samad's great-grandfather, who shot the first bullet in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Samad considers Pande a tragically unappreciated martyr and bases his sense of worth on his relation to Pande. In all but one history book, Pande is remembered as a clumsy would-be hero who could not even commit suicide successfully after starting the mutiny. The word "pandy" comes from his name.
White Teeth Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for White Teeth is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Known to Alsana as Niece-of-shame, Neena is a cobbler and progressively-thinking lesbian. Though she is only two years younger than Alsana, the latter treats her disdainfully, as though she is a child. Neena has a girlfriend named Maxine.