Chapter 7 - Zadie Smiths 'White Teeth': Multiculturalism for the Millennium
It just goes to show," … "you go back and back and back and it's still easier to find the correct Hoover bag than to find one pure person, one pure faith, on the globe. Do you think anybody is English? Really English? It's a fairy tale! Smith, herself a second generation Jamaican immigrant, depicts the late 20 th century London as a great melting pot of diversity where a generation of immigrants seems to have found itself in opposition with their own London born children who are now paving the way to a completely new society.
Even the title and the names of the chapters allude to this new- found cultural gap between children and their own parents e.
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Throughout the novel the reader encounters a wide range of backgrounds such as British, Carribean, Muslim and Jewish - the cultural backgrounds of the novels protagonists. Samad Iqbal or rather Ick-Ball, as he tends to be known among his English-as-first-language speaking acquaintances is himself a Bengali Muslim. Samad is a Bengal then Pakistan, then East Bengal, then East Pakistan again and finally Bangladesh and definitely not India born, middle-aged WW2 veteran who lost the use of his right hand in Eastern Europe and found Islam again some time later in Western.
As a result, such individuals never seem to truly gain a chance of being seen as something other than a different-skinned, foreign- tongued, peculiar alien entity that is never to truly belong.
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It is not only the immigrants who are reluctant to change, but also the native population that warily anticipate the future that awaits them. It is only this late in the day, that you can find best friends Sita and Sharon, constantly mistaken for each other because Sita is white her mother liked the name and Sharon is Pakistani her mother thought it best — less trouble. There are still young white men who are angry about that; who will roll out at closing time into the poorly lit streets with a kitchen knife wrapped in a tight fist. But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears — dissolution, disappearance.
In fact, it is exactly what the immigrants like Samad are doing, they are holding on for dear life that is slowly slipping away from them, or more precisely, is being pulled away from them by their own progeny. Their lives and their identities are entwined to the point where they become one, their lives are their identities and if the latter disappears so will the former.
Samad fears identity loss.
He fears that one day there will no longer be Samad Miah Iqbal. The Bengali Muslim will be replaced by Sam Ick-Ball, an Englishman with a queer sounding surname, Londoners in place of sons, white babies instead of grandchildren and definitely no famous military strategist grandfather Mangal Pande. Samad believes that if he accepts either of these epithets he would effectively relinquish his Bengali allegiance. While he can negotiate the coexistence of national and racial affiliations as independent categories, he resists the erasure of one for the sake of the other. It is crucial that he keep his identity compartmentalized in order to avoid nullification of either.
When Samad decides to move to England he cannot sustain this colonial way of thinking for long. As London transforms itself from colonial metropolis to postcolonial cosmopolis, Samad must similarly refashion his identity from colonial to postcolonial subject. His inability to do this is what drives him toward fundamentalism.
But what is at the root of this determination to keep the two cultures with which he is affiliated so completely separate? Maybe in our bones. This thinking leads him to imagine that unless he manifests all the traits of a typical Bengali man he does some disservice to his ethnic heritage. This means that dress, speech, and religion are paramount for him. Instead of realising that all people are shaped by their environment, Samad is determined to seal himself off, claiming that he does not want to be 'a modern man.
He retreats into an intolerant fundamentalism which alienates his sons, who rather than attempt to fashion cultures as separate from one another, are quite accustomed to the kind of hybridity of which Irie is a physical example. The reality is waved at him by Alsana, his sons, Archie and the thronging, increasingly hybrid London around him, but Samad remains stubbornly fixed. As a result of this personal philosophy, Samad feels increasingly as though his mixed cultural identity is destroying him. His attempts to adhere to the teachings of Islam, while keeping the company of Archie — an unbeliever — and during a brief affair with Poppy Burt-Jones, lead him down a path of self-accusation and self-loathing.jlhghfdg.co.vu/antologa-de-la-literatura-armenia.php
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Act like one. In reality, the idea of cultural separation between the East and West is an illusion, as Alsana points out when she reads from the Encyclopaedia Britannica :.
Indo- Aryans. Do you think anybody is English? Really English? Alsana, like her sons, recognises that the notion of cultural purity is one of the most prevalent illusions of our time.
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Their idea of home is restricted to Willesden Green, the community in which they have grown up. These second-generation immigrants face new challenges as they construct identities for themselves. The second-generation of immigrants do not share the racialized world of their parents, because they have grown up in a world where hybridity is the norm:.
Everyone at Glenard Oak was at work; they were Babelians of every conceivable class and colour speaking in tongues… Brent Schools Report 67 different faiths, different languages. While construction of an identity proves challenging for both Millat and Magid who tend to go to extremes, they have grown up in a community where cultures are not sealed off from each other.
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The second-generation immigrants are constantly constructing new identities based on composites of the interpenetrating cultures of East and West. In this account of White Teeth , history turns out to be a false friend for Samad — instead of justifying his anxious grip on his identity, it seems to expose that identity as a sham. Does the 'history' of the book's narrative hold similar surprises for its characters, do you think?
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