Color In Zadie Smith's White Teeth

1484 Words6 Pages
Throughout her debut novel White Teeth, Zadie Smith weaves an intricate web of characters from countless different walks of life, including those of different ethnic groups, classes, religions, and genders. The book centers around two different families living in the diverse city of Northern London, England- the Iqbals and the Joneses- and how the members of these families interact and learn from one another throughout the course of their lives. Smith insists that she was not “trying” to write about race when writing this novel, and in a world where so many books, movies, and other forms of popular media focus primarily on the lives of white people, it seems bizarre to believe that books that predominantly feature characters of color can exist…show more content…
She is the product of a relationship between Archie and Clara Bowden, a black, Jamaican woman less than half Archie’s age. Before Irie is ever even born, many conversations revolve around what she will look like coming from parents of two different races like Archie and Clara. For example, once Clara finds out that there is a possibility of the unborn child having blue eyes, she does not let go of this wish for a child that looks like the “beautiful” ideal that she is used to seeing around her all her life, until Irie’s eyes change from blue to brown after two weeks, which almost seems to be representative of how Irie’s appearance later in her life constantly goes against typical beauty ideals. As she grows older, she becomes increasingly self-conscious of her unconventional appearance- she holds her hand over her stomach constantly in fear of looking “fat,” has “half-caste” hair that she hates and tries to get relaxed, and constantly tries to alter her appearance so that the people around her will find her more…show more content…
The concept of “reading like a woman” not only applies to being a woman, but rather reading as the “minority” of any given intersection. To read Irie’s character requires reading like a mixed-race, unattractive (by society’s standards) girl, and then the reader can begin to understand why Irie acts the way she does. But one will never fully understand Irie through just her race, class, and gender- one needs to understand all of the problems she faces. As Culler states in the aforementioned theoretical article, “women readers identify with the concerns of women characters,” (Culler 511) even if women characters’ concerns are not only those about gender. Another example of “reading like a woman” in the context of this novel is to read Magid and Millat’s characters as similar versions of one another in race, class, and gender, yet entirely different in personality. One can place oneself into Magid and Millat’s Bangladeshi, Muslim shoes, and still not be able to discern each of their differences without reading past these intersections. When reading White Teeth, it is important to try to put oneself in the shoes of every single character through both their personality traits and classifications in society in order to get a full grasp of who these characters really
Open Document