White Teeth Analysis

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In White Teeth, author Zadie Smith depicts the lives of characters and their families across multiple races and generations. Smith’s characters live in a world similar to our own, or as essayist Laura Moss posits, in a realist depiction of contemporary Britain. Moss examines White Teeth not as a depiction of a utopian world, but as a highly realistic rendering of our times, in order to comment on modern perceptions of race and culture. Moss asserts that White Teeth comments on the real world’s evolution toward accepting racial hybridity as a valid identity, but in arguing this point, Moss employs problematic reasoning that undermines the credibility of her claim. From the start, Moss’s argument is rooted in the belief that Smith’s work is…show more content…
To do so, Moss focuses on the differences in perspective held by characters in different generations. The older generations, Moss asserts, are bound to the ideal of cultural purity, and fear that hybridity and assimilation will result in a loss of their culture (14). This generation represents a starting point in a society that believes cultures must be mutually exclusive and distinct. But in emphasizing how Smith links her characters to the inescapability of identity, even in the case of the younger generations, Moss shows that the older generation’s fear of assimilation is not totally warranted. She then uses the birth of Irie’s child, who cannot be held to the cultural binary, as an example of the diminishing of culture purity, and asserts that this child’s existence symbolizes the normalization and acceptance of hybridity (12). Moss further argues for this burgeoning acceptance of the hybrid identity by examining the context in which hybridity arises. She contrasts the character of Hortense Bowden, a multiracial character who is said to be conceived under the circumstances of coercion, with Hortense’s granddaughter Irie, who is supposedly the product of love (12). With this example, Moss shows that hybridity has begun to occur consensually, not as a result of violence and violation. Moss intends to for these fictional examples to…show more content…
She argues that the book depicts society’s evolution toward the acceptance and normalization of racial hybridity, but her methods of furthering this argument are problematic at best. Moss not only ignores the author’s explicit intent in writing the book in favor of her own idea, but she tokenizes other authors of color to provide what is actually very weak support for her argument. She desperately wishes to show that Smith is depicting a post-racial reality, but in doing so, Moss ultimately diminishes the credibility of her argument by revealing her own
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