Study Guide

White Teeth Chapter 10

By Zadie Smith

Chapter 10

The Root Canals of Mangal Pande

  • Everything is always the same in O'Connell's. It doesn't matter what year it is or what has happened. The narrator gives us an equation to explain why men are regulars there. You should go look at it. Now. Immediately.
  • Are you back yet?
  • Samad and Archie are there on New Year's Eve 1989, and they are O'Connell's experts. They deserve honorary PhDs in O'Connells.
  • The narrator says that there are no better experts on "The Post-War Reconstruction and Growth of O'Connell's Pool House" and includes a timeline that runs from 1952 to New Year's Eve 1989. This chapter is full of quirky things that break the traditional prose mold, like Archie's high pinball score.
  • Samad is trying to convince Mickey to hang a portrait of Mangal Pande in O'Connell's, and Mickey is not into it because he thinks the man is so ugly that people will lose their appetites. That's probably why there is no picture of Mangal Pande in this book.
  • But Mickey agrees to leave it up for a week and see how it goes. Ah, yes, compromise.
  • There are two camps of Beliefs About Mangal Pande, and there is a box with two lists on one of Smith's pages to represent these camps. The camps are: "An unrecognized hero" and "A palaver over nuffin.'" We are pretty sure you can guess where Samad's family and friends fall.
  • Anyway, Samad and company argue about the history of Mr. Pande, until Samad says the only story that matters is the full story, and full stories are rare. Okay, that's probably true.
  • So Samad starts to tell his version of the story of Mangal Pande. Oh jeez. Here we go.
  • He says that in 1858, the British were producing new bullets that had to be bitten to fit into the gun (like most bullets at that time). The problem was that the bullets were coated in pig and cow fat. Both Muslims and Hindus refrain from eating pigs and cows.
  • So, Mangal Pande decides to do something about this situation. Hence, the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857.
  • Archie thinks this is total bunk. He believes in history books and easy answers, so he believes in the account he has read about: the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857 was started by a drunk fool who shot a bullet.
  • There are many different versions of the Mangal Pande story, but Samad defends his version without doubt or any room for alternate versions. His bloodline is just that important to him.
  • Archie starts fighting with Samad about his version of the story. Just when you think you know the guy, Archie fights back.
  • Archie shares an alternate theory to explain why Pande missed his target and started the Great Indian Mutiny. Maybe he wasn't drunk (or a bad shot). Maybe he just couldn't bring himself to kill anyone.
  • Samad thinks this is ridiculous. He says that when a man is threatened, there will be people he will kill. Archie replies that there will also be people he saves. He says this with a very cryptic look on his face.