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Identity In Zadie Smith's White Teeth

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Everyone questions and struggles with their identity at some point in their lives, but this struggle is most heightened during adolescence. In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth conflicts with one’s race, socioeconomic class, and other social identifiers are shown through the lens of multiple generations. The novel’s cyclical timeline allows the reader to see the root cause of the issues the teenagers face, . Smith shows how one’s family and their history shapes the following generations through the similarity between father and son in the Iqbal family, the dark history within the Bowden family, and the forced ideology in the Chalfen family. Zadie Smith utilizes Samad’s secret past to display how the Iqbal family and their history directly affect…show more content…
The theme of miseducation is brought up multiple times throughout the novel, and it can be traced back to the beginnings of Jamaican colonization. For instance, before raping Irie’s great-grandmother, Ambrosia, Sir Glenard says, “It will only take a few moments my dear. One should never pass up the opportunity of a little education, after all” (299). Under the veil of giving others the gift of education and civility, many, such as Sir Glenard, were able to take advantage of the colonized. What may have been intended to be a gift ended up just negatively affecting people such as Ambrosia. These memories, despite happening years ago, are still present in many lives, represented by Hortense’s claims that she remembers being inside her mother’s womb. Though European colonization happened long before Irie was born, she still lives within a community where the effects of colonialism can be seen. For example, when the headmaster of Irie’s school praises Sir Glenard for founding the school with the intention of mixing Caribbean and English people, it is revealed, “Glenard’s influence… ran through three generations of immigrants who could feel both abandoned and hungry even when in the bosom of their family in front of a mighty feast” (255). While Glenard’s intention with the school was to unite, his history of prejudice makes the community inherently divisive. Indirectly, colonialism still affects Irie—whether through her desperate attempts to straighten her hair or even the school she attends. It is easy to say that since colonization has happened many years ago, it is no longer relevant to the modern day, however, indirectly or directly, one can still see the effects of the centuries of history that still shapes many to this
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