Choose from the topics listed below.  Regardless of topic, your final essay should be approximately 6 pages in length and discuss the novel in relation to 2 theoretical texts read for class.

Choose from the theoretical texts:

From unit 1: “Night to His Day” and “Patriarchy”

From unit 2: “Reading as a Woman,” “Why Race, Class, and Gender Still Matter”

From unit 3: “Gender Asymmetry and Erotic Triangles,” “Confessions of a Recovering Misogynist, ”Agency”

From unit 4: “Worlding Women,” and “Under Western Eyes”

  1. In an interview,  Zadie Smith says of White Teeth, "I wasn’t trying to write about race. . . . Race is obviously a part of the book, but I didn’t sit down to write a book about race. The ‘Rabbit’ books by Updike . . . I could say that [these are] books about race. [Those are] book[s] about white people. [They are] exactly book[s] about race as mine is. It doesn’t frustrate me. I just think that it is a bizarre attitude. So is [it that] a book that doesn’t have exclusively white people in the main theme must be one about race? I don’t understand that."* (from Reading Group Guides)

What are some of the indications in White Teeth that Smith is not as interested in race as she is the juxtaposition and interaction of people from different ethnic groups living their daily lives? 

Do the children of Archie and Samad experience their ethnic or racial identities in different ways than their parents do?

In a final essay of approximately 6 pages, consider Smith’s depiction of the interaction of different ethnic groups through the lens of our theoretical readings this semester.  Indicate how two of the theoretical texts inform your understanding of how intersectionality affects the relationships among the characters, and shapes the reader’s response to the text.  

  1.  Chapter 7 begins with the lines: “And the sins of the Eastern father shall be visited upon the Western sons. Often taking their time, stored up in the genes like baldness or testicular carcinoma, but sometimes on the very same day.  Sometimes at the very same moment . .. Unbeknownst to all involved, ancient ley-lines (definition of ley-lines: links that criss-cross the earth and connect historic landmarks and monuments) run underneath these two journeys–or, to put it in modern parlance, this is a rerun.  We have been here before.  This is like watching TV in Bombay or Kingston or Dhaka, watching the same old British sitcoms spewed out to the old colonies in one tedious, eternal loop.  Because immigrants have always been particularly prone to repetition–it’s something to do with that experience of moving from West to East or East to West or from island to island. Even when you arrive you’re still going back and forth; your children are going round and round.  There’s no proper term for it–original sin seems too harsh; maybe original trauma would be better. A trauma is something one repeats and repeats, after all . .. “ (135-136).

Consider the passage in relation to the characters and relationships in the novel. How are things repeated?  How does the “repetition” relate to ideas we have addressed throughout the course?

  1. There is, at times an emphasis in White Teeth on the idea of lineage and the concepts of culture and heroism passed paternally to children.  How does gender factor into the text?  What, if any,  comment on the role of gender in social and familial interactions?

  1. When the children go to Mr. Hamilton to bring him food from the Harvest Festival (note the symbolic celebration), he tells them “One sometimes forgets the significance of one’s teeth.  We’re not like the lower animals–teeth replaced regularly and all that–we’re of the mammals, you see. And mammals only get two chances, with teeth.  . . .The problem with third molars is one is never sure whether one’s mouth will be quite large enough to accommodate them.  They are the only part of the body that a man must grow into. . .Because they’re your father’s teeth, you see, wisdom teeth are passed down by the father, I’m certain of it.  So you must be big enough for them” (144-145).

How does the motif of “teeth” function thematically in relation to the concept of chance v. choice?  Mr. Hamilton suggests that people have a choice in how they care for their “teeth”, but we know that Archie makes life decisions based on the toss of a coin.  Thinking again, as Smith suggests, about relationships among the characters; how do chance and choice come into play in terms of social interactions as suggested by theoretical readings?

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