© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
White Teeth

White Teeth


by Zadie Smith

Millat Iqbal

Character Analysis

Millat, the younger Iqbal twin, is the quintessential bad boy. He smokes, drinks, has sex with lots of women, gets kicked out of class, and is exiled from his parents' house. Millat repeatedly says things to Irie like: 

Thing is, people rely on me. They need me to be Millat. Good old Millat. Wicked Millat. Safe, sweet-as, Millat. They need me to be cool. It's practically a responsibility. (11.28)

The narrator confirms that Millat's statement is pretty accurate. He runs in many crowds and is a leader in all of them: the Raggastani crowd, the cockney crowd, the black crowd, and the Asian crowd. And, "underneath it all, there remained an ever present anger and hurt, the feeling of belonging nowhere that comes to people who belong everywhere" (11.29).

This is important to know about Millat: he seems all tough and whatever, but he really never feels as though he belongs. Identity is hard for him—just like it is for everyone but Archie in this novel—and he tries out more than one.

Eventually, Millat chooses the radical Muslim group KEVIN as his primary place of belonging. KEVIN stands for Keepers of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation, and the group has some very strict rules. The hardest of these rules for Millat to abide by is giving up the West and all of its influence. He loves gangster movies; he thinks of himself as a character in a gangster movie:

Worst of all was the anger inside of him. Not the righteous anger of a man of God, but the seething violent anger of a gangster, a juvenile delinquent, determined to prove himself, determined to run the clan, determined to beat the rest. (17.66)

Millat, then, isn't a very good member of KEVIN (he's chosen the identity but not the beliefs). But he fights against Marcus Chalfen's FutureMouse, and his own twin, alongside his KEVIN brothers. He tells Magid that "KEVIN will do whatever is necessary to stop you and your kind" (17.220).

Whether or not Millat is a good member, he clings to his cause. Throughout the novel, Samad demands that his children be good Muslims; Millat spites this oppressive desire by choosing the most extreme version of Islam he has access to. Samad is not pleased, which, of course, pleases Millat very much.

In the last scenes in the novel, Millat takes his extremism even further when he takes a shot at Dr. Perret with a pistol during Marcus's talk. Yep, Millat's search for identity gets pretty wild in the end. But just like his brother, and pretty much everyone else ever, he has a hard time figuring out who he is. Maybe that's why people love White Teeth so much; even though the characters might be much more radical and make much more extreme decisions than we do, their desires and their struggles show that they're really just like us after all.