79 pages 2 hours read

Zadie Smith

White Teeth

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2000

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Essay Topics


In White Teeth, even minor characters and events tend to reappear, often in ways that tie together seemingly unrelated storylines. Marcus Chalfen’s mentor, for instance, turns out to be the scientist Archie nearly shot in Chapter 5, while the high school Irie and Millat attend is named after the man who was with Ambrosia when the Kingston earthquake struck. How do these (or similar moments) reflect the novel’s ideas about fate and chance?


In Chapter 9, three major historical events—the Great Storm of 1987, the Satanic Verses controversy, and the fall of the Berlin Wall—are depicted through the eyes of the Iqbal and Jones families. Discuss one of these episodes in terms of the novel’s broader treatment of history.


Several chapters in White Teeth take place on New Year’s Eve. Thinking about the novel’s themes and motifs, discuss the significance of this.