Irony and Politics of Ethnicity in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth
Graaf, R. de
MetadataShow full item record
The aim of this paper is to examine Zadie Smith’s 2000 novel White Teeth in light of the current state of affairs regarding race, multiculturalism and religion in Europe and the rest of the West. Published just prior to the 2001 attacks on the New York World Trade Center, the novel portrays a diverse, post-colonial and multi-religious London community that projects an inclusive, multicultural view of the world that seems at odds with current trends in religious and cultural politics and popular opinion. After initial analysis of critical response to the novel, and seeking a framework to analyse Smith’s arguments with, it becomes clear that through the use of irony, here defined as the author reversing expectations and evaluations of both characters and readers, she distances herself from cultural determinism, and questions the influence that history, race and religion have on identity, especially in the postcolonial sense. Finally, the rejection of determinism, the embrace of hybridity and the promotion of chance as influence on the course of our lives, in the novel explored through the separation and personal growth of two twin boys and their father’s expectations of them, all evince an individually-minded, inclusive and multicultural world-view.