79 pages 2 hours read

Zadie Smith

White Teeth

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2000

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Part 2, Chapters 9-10

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 2: “Samad 1984, 1857”

Chapter 9 Summary: “Mutiny!”

Alsana tries and fails to have Magid returned to England. More than anything else, it is the precariousness of life in Bangladesh, and its psychological effects, that upsets her. As a result, she punishes Samad by never responding to his questions directly: “Through the next eight years she would determine never to say yes to him, never to say no to him, but rather to force him to live like she did—never knowing, never being sure” (178).

Meanwhile, Magid writes letters to his parents, including one describing how a vase blew over during a storm and broke his nose: “‘When I grow up I think I should like to make sure vases are not put in such silly places where they can be dangerous’” (179). Samad interprets this and other statements as evidence that Magid is benefiting from life in Bangladesh. Millat, on the other hand, continually disappoints Samad as he grows older; charismatic, good-looking, and rebellious, he begins smoking and sleeping around by the time he is 13.

The narrative skips most of the next six years, focusing instead on three particular days. The first is the Great Storm of 1987—a cyclone the Iqbals decide to ride out at the Joneses’, where Archie has “prepared for every disastrous eventuality from tidal wave to nuclear fallout” (186).