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White Teeth

White Teeth


by Zadie Smith

White Teeth History and the Past Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

So there existed fathers who dealt in the present, who didn't drag ancient history around like a ball and chain. So there were men who were not neck-deep and sinking in the quagmire of the past. (12.326)

After dealing with Archie and Samad, Irie is pretty blown away by Marcus Chalfen. Why do Archie and Samad drag the past around with them everywhere they go? Why do they need it so much?

Quote #2

The rest is that terrible thing: history. (13.28)

In White Teeth, history takes up a lot of space. It is required to explain just about everything that's going on in the present. And it isn't always pretty.

Quote #3

"I see. Is she Hindu? Muslim? She ain't Sikh, is she?"

"That is the worst of it," said Samad, his voice breaking. "English. White. English."

Shiva shook his head. "I been out with a lot of white birds, Samad. A lot. Sometimes it's worked, sometimes it ain't. Two lovely American girls. Fell head over heels for a Parisian stunner. Even spent a year with a Romanian. But never an English girl. Never works. Never."

"Why?" asked Samad, attacking his thumbnail with his teeth and awaiting some fearful answer, some edict from on high. "Why not, Shiva Bhagwati?"

"Too much history" was Shiva's enigmatic answer, as he dished up the Chicken Bhuna. "Too much bloody history." (6.216-220)

Shiva says that it will never work between a Bengali Muslim man like Samad and a white English woman like Poppy Burt-Jones (not that Samad wants to leave Alsana for her). There is too much history between their countries and races for even a relationship between individuals to survive. History is powerful stuff.

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