White Teeth

White Teeth Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-18

he fourth and final section is entitled Magid, Millat, and Marcus 1992, 1999 and begins with two definitions. Fundamental is defined as, "going to the root of the matter" and is referenced in a quote from the song As Time Goes By: "You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss / A sigh is just a sigh; / The fundamental things apply, / As time goes by."

Chapter 16- The Return of Magid Mahfooz Murshed Mubtasim Iqbal

As he waits for Magid's plane to arrive at the airport, Marcus, incognito, discusses his pop-science book with a girl who is reading it. She evaluates his project as "freaky," insinuating that genetic engineering will be the new way to "deal with the fundamentalist Muslims" via eugenics. In reality, the book makes no mention of eugenics; like much of Marcus's audience, the girl presumes his experiments have dark, manipulative undertones. Having been rejected by Joshua, Marcus is all the more eager to meet and be admired by Magid. Magid spots him immediately, because he is the only white man at the gate. Marcus sees Millat's features in Magid's face, but recognizes his genius and considers their meeting a miracle. His own family and the Jones family greet Magid with caution and fascination. Samad is ashamed of Magid's English ways, which are embarrassingly incompatible with his long, very ethnic name. Millat, now a Muslim fundamentalist, refuses to see his twin brother. Therefore, Magid stays with the Chalfen's, where he quickly becomes Marcus's prodigy and advisor.

Irie realizes that Magid has become like Mad Mary or the Ancient Mariner, always needing to impart his wisdom unto others. Meanwhile, she handles the public relations for Marcus's FutureMouse genetic engineering experiment. Joyce obsesses over bringing the twins together, stressed but delighted to have twice an additional young man to worry about. Joyce claims Millat's problem is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and thinks Magid is traumatized, but ignores Joshua's two month absence from home. When Irie tries to explain that Magid is fine, Joyce claims that someone who sits in a bath with his jeans needs help. In reality, Magid is simply trying to make them shrink-to-fit, as Irie suggested.

Chapter 17- Crisis Talks and Eleventh-Hour Tactics

After ignoring her for as long as possible, Alsana lets Joyce into her home for a discussion. Joyce explains that she wants to reunite the twins, but Alsana argues that Joyce is the one keeping them apart by getting Magid involved in FutureMouse when Millat and the rest of KEVIN are passing around anti-FutureMouse leaflets. Millat eavesdrops bemusedly, considering his position within KEVIN. He is one of the group's best proselytizers and spokespeople, but in truth is more interested in being a gangster than being a Muslim. Meanwhile, Magid joins Samad and Archie at O'Connell's. Magid charms Mickey so much that he convinces him to make a bacon sandwich (pork, forbidden by Islam, is not allowed in O'Connell's). In exchange, he gives Mickey an invitation to the launch of FutureMouse. Samad is furious that Magid would mock him in his favorite bar, and refuses to let him eat at their table. Magid asks Archie whether he should meet with Millat, and as usual Archie flips a coin to decide. However, he throws the coin very far and it lands perfectly in the slot of the pinball machine.

Joyce and Clara assign Irie the task of getting the twins together in a "neutral ground" room. Irie walks, sees Millat, and memories of him strike her like toothaches. She finds him trying to revise some KEVIN materials on proper worship and tells him about the meeting plan. She touches his chest, which sparks a frenzy of lovemaking on his prayer mat. Millat is immediately ashamed and goes to pray. Irie, also ashamed and enraged that Millat will never love her, marches straight to Magid and makes love to him as well.

Magid and Millat finally meet in the "neutral" room, and immediately begin arguing about FutureMouse. After approaching their arguments from countless angles, neither changes his opinion. The narrator explains that although they make no progress, they are constantly running towards the future as two separate expressions of their past. Therefore, no matter how revolutionary they become, they will only "more and more eloquently express their past," because "immigrants... cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow."

Chapter 18- The End of History Versus The Last Man

At a KEVIN rally, the founder is addressing his peons about issues including FutureMouse. Brother Ibrahim ad-Din Shukrallah is a short, underwhelming speaker who disappoints the audience with his awkwardness, though they would never admit it. He was born in Barbados, but at the age of eighteen began his obsession with Islam. After spending five years isolated in his garage with the Qur'an, he founded KEVIN and developed a large following. The narrator defines KEVIN as: "an extremist faction dedicated to direct, often violent action, a splinter group frowned on by the rest of the Islamic community; popular with the sixteen-to-twenty-five age group; feared and ridiculed in the press." Among the older members of KEVIN is Mo Hussein-Ishmael. He joined because he wanted to look important by donating money, but also because he is subject to frequent racist attacks by his customers. Millat agrees to let him join in on their secret plan as long as he keeps quiet.

At a FATE meeting, Joshua Chalfen and the other members plot against FutureMouse. The leaders of FATE are an attractive woman named Joely and her husband, Crispin. Like many male members of FATE, Joshua is extremely aroused by Joely and does everything he can to win her approval. FATE began as a militant few, but while Crispin served jail time for an attack on a laboratory, Joely transformed it into a larger underground movement. Joshua met Joely and Crispin after they lost their meeting place, and he found another for them. That, and because as Marcus Chalfen's son he is a "convert from the other side," puts him in good favor with FATE. His alliance with the group has helped turn him into a pot-smoking activist, but his devotion to their cause is confounded by his love for Joely and desire to rebel against Marcus.

Irie is living in the Jones household again. Ryan Topps and Hortense wake her with a midnight phone call, warning her to end her relationship with Marcus Chalfen. They make her agree to protest with them at the opening of the FutureMouse exhibit, where Hortense will go on a hunger strike, despite her age.

Magid is proud to have been intimately involved in the FutureMouse experiment. He considers the experiment godly, because to him godliness means certainty-as opposed to the "accidents" that have led him and Millat down irreconcilable paths. Unlike Magid, the mouse has, "No other roads, no missed opportunities, no parallel possibilities. No second-guessing, no what-ifs, no might-have-beens. Just certainty. Just certainty in its purest form."


Smith opens the last section of the novel by distinguishing "fundamental" from "fundamentalism." Fundamental means "going to the root of the matter," implying that fundamentals lead to new things. In contrast, fundamentalism means adhering strictly to set beliefs. While Magid and Millat share the same genes, they are fundamentally different. They stand on opposite sides of the FutureMouse debate and cannot reconcile even after hours of argument. Magid and Millat will continue to run on parallel paths throughout their lives, experiencing the same things but never meeting in their ideas. It seems ironic that Magid and Millat's meeting should surround a groundbreaking genetics experiment. After all, their developing irreconcilable beliefs could be seen as discrediting the power of their genes. However, Smith also reminds us that the twins are destined to honor their roots, to "more and more eloquently express their past," because as, "immigrants, [they] cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow." It is easier to apply this statement to Millat, who becomes a militant rebel like Mangal Pande. Like his ancestor, he stands up for what he believes to be injustice. By extension, he is sure to be misunderstood for his actions. On the surface, it seems Magid has succeeded in escaping his past. Despite growing up in Bangladesh, he is "more English than the English," and he becomes a staunch Chalfenist, even taking on Marcus Chalfen as his father figure in place of Samad. However, Magid's connection to his roots lies in his compulsion to pass his wisdom on to others. In this way, he is like Samad, who feels compelled to share the legacy of Mangal Pande whether it is relevant in the moment or not.

Chapter 18 lays out three different kinds of fundamentalism. In the first two, KEVIN and FATE, many members have ulterior motives. KEVIN satisfies Millat's desire to be a gangster more than anything else, and Mo Hussein-Ishmael joins just to gain status. Similarly, Joshua and other members of FATE are involved to get closer to either Joely or Crispin. Joshua is more concerned with rebelling against Marcus than abolishing animal cruelty. Therefore, many members of KEVIN and FATE are more interested in the simultaneous security and thrill fundamentalism offers, than in the specific doctrine.

In sharp contrast, Hortense and Ryan Topps believe wholeheartedly in being Jehovah's Witnesses, and are content living unglamorous, isolated lives with few thrills. To them, there is no separation between doctrine and life. By placing Magid's point of view in relation to the above three forms of fundamentalism, Smith makes us question whether Chalfenism is a form of fundamentalism as well. According to the definition Smith provides, there is little "traditional" or "orthodox" about Chalfenism's progressive ways. If Chalfenism revolves around a single belief, it is in the power of the human intellect. However, the common thread is that all of these groups worship, "certainty in its purest form," whether that certainty come from God, Nature, or themselves.