79 pages 2 hours read

Zadie Smith

White Teeth

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2000

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Part 2, Chapters 6-8

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 2: “Samad 1984, 1857”

Chapter 6 Summary: “The Temptation of Samad Iqbal

It is 1984, and Samad and Alsana are attending a parents’ meeting at their sons’ school. Samad objects to the school’s observance of the Harvest Festival, which he would like to see replaced by a Muslim holiday. This proposal is voted down, but one person supported it: a young music teacher named Poppy Burt-Jones. Poppy approaches Samad afterwards and suggests meeting again to pursue the issue. She also gushes about Samad’s culture (which she assumes is Indian), his looks, and his two sons—Magid is an excellent student, and Millat is lively and a good saxophone player.

Samad is infatuated but remembers two mantras he has drawn on throughout his sexless marriage: “to the pure all things are pure” and “can’t say fairer than that” (115). The first expresses his hope that masturbation is not necessarily sinful for a “truthful and firm” man (116). When this failed to assuage his guilt, he came up with the second: a compromise by which he would give up masturbation in exchange for drinking alcohol.

Now that Samad has met Poppy, he finds he cannot abide by these terms. He confesses to his fellow waiter, Shiva, that he cannot stop thinking about Poppy and fears that Western culture has corrupted him.