by Zadie Smith
White Teeth Appearances Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Irie Jones was obsessed. Occasionally her worried mother cornered her in the hallway before she slunk out of the door, picked at her elaborate corsetry, asked, "What's up with you? What in the Lord's name are you wearing? How can you breathe? Irie, my love, you're fine—you're just built like an honest-to-God Bowden—don't you know you're fine?"
But Irie didn't know she was fine. There was England, a gigantic mirror, and there was Irie, without reflection. A stranger in a stranger land. (11.5-6)
Irie can't see herself except for through the eyes of others… and she does not imagine that others see her in a positive light. Poor Irie.
Naturally, there was a uniform. They each dripped gold and wore bandanas, either wrapped around their foreheads or tied at the joint of an arm or leg. The trousers were enormous, swamping things, the left leg always inexplicably rolled up to the knee; the sneakers were equally spectacular, with tongues so tall they obscured the entire ankle; baseball caps were compulsory, low slung and irremovable; and everything, everything, everything was Nike™; wherever the five of them went the impression they left behind was of one gigantic swoosh, one huge mark of corporate approval. And they walked in a very particular way, the left side of their bodies assuming a kind of loose paralysis that needed carrying along by the right side; a kind of glorified, funky limp like the slow, padding movement that Yeats imagined for his rough millennial beast. (9.185)
While this crew probably doesn't appear all that authentic, they are using they way they look to make an aggressive point to the world. What is that point, exactly? Why do they want to exude "corporate approval"?
He shuffled through the restaurant with his eyes to the ground. If aunts and uncles phoned, he deflected questions or simply lied. Millat? He is in Birmingham, working in the mosque, yes, renewing his faith. Magid? Yes, he is marrying soon, yes, a very good young man, wants a lovely Bengali girl, yes, upholder of traditions, yes. (16.34)
Neither Magid nor Millat is turning out how Samad would like. He is disappointed in both of his sons, and yet lying like this seems a little hypocritical. Guess he's just busy keeping up with appearances.