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Literary Analysis Of White Teeth By Zadie Smith - Essay Example

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Literary Analysis Of White Teeth By Zadie Smith

She is currently a Fellow at Harvard University in the US.

Our children will be born of our actions. Our accidents will become their destinies. Oh, the actions will remain. It is a simple matter of what you will do when the chips are down, my friend. When the fat lady is singing. When the walls are falling in, and the sky is dark, and the ground is rumbling. In that moment our actions will define us. And it makes no difference whether you are being watched by Allah, Jesus, Buddha, or whether you are not. On cold days a man can see his breath, on a hot day he can't. On both occasions, the man breathes. -Zadie Smith, White Teeth

If World War II and the knowledge of oppression it represents are absent from all too many postcolonial studies, fifty-five years after its ending, the event and its lingering effects have found a critical position in the remarkable novel White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, Britain's most celebrated postcolonial prodigy. In White Teeth, the last days of that war mark the beginning of an escape from the nightmare of belonging to someone else and chart a journey to somewhere else. White Teeth proclaims a declaration of independence not only from the haunting and constraining memory of the war's catastrophes and racist oppression, but from the very idea of belonging. After centuries of colonial oppression and decades of postcolonial depression and anger, White Teeth imagines the grand finale of Empire as the construction of a multicultural, multiclass British bazaar. Acknowledging its colonial history and debt to postcolonial studies, the novel creates a set of unanticipated mutating connections among historical and imagined events and identities interwoven among first-, second-, and third-generation postcolonial citizens of Britain. (Mike Storry, Peter Childs 53) The end of World War II meets the creation of a new Britain when a younger generation seizes the monocultural ground of Englishness on which their racialized conditions originated. As this younger generation remaps the future of their interrelated history, the narrative and political effects of their takeover represent a response not only to postcolonial critics, but to British women writing the end of Empire.
Born in 1975, of a Jamaican mother and English father, in the epicenter of "British racism of the 1970s and 1980s, "Zadie Smith writes White Teeth as a rebellion against her confinement in the role of marginalized victim in an ongoing history of oppression. Neither she nor her characters will accept their places as objects of an interminable and global racist plot. (Nasta 11)
Instead, she insists that "her own education at a comprehensive school and then at Cambridge shows that"life changes, my family is a picture of change"). The novel's hyperkinetic romp across interracial, multiethnic London veers from the marriage of working-class Englishman Archie Jones to biracial Jamaican Clara, from his friendship with his Bengali Muslim army mate, Samad Iqbal, to their children's entanglements with the Jewish Chalfen family. As their children hip-hop unimpeded through London's jumble of social and cultural identities, White Teeth understands, toys with, and then refuses inclusion in the "official racism of Britain in the 1970s". These characters and the whole of White Teeth will not play into the hands of Enoch Powell's racist rhetoric-"the triumph of barbarism over civilization". Powell's rallying cry against the postwar waves of postcolonial immigration reverses that slogan used by colonial conquerors and also by the Allies in their war against Nazi conquest-the triumph of civilization over barbarism. But Powell's slogan also exposes what all ...Show more

Summary

White Teeth has been translated into over twenty languages and was adapted for Channel 4 television in 2002. Zadie Smith has also edited an anthology of erotic stories, Piece of Flesh (2001), and was nominated as one of the best of young British novelists by Granta magazine in 2003…
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Literary Analysis Of White Teeth By Zadie Smith essay example
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