Study Guide

White Teeth Chapter 14

By Zadie Smith

Chapter 14

More English than the English

  • In the 1990s, Marcus and Magid become pen pals—this is what people did before email existed—and they cannot get enough of letter-writing. Irie has to rearrange her filing system to make room for all the pages they generate.
  • Irie is not cool with this new friendship because her mentor seems to have found a new protégé in Magid. Their names even sound good together: Marcus and Magid. Alliteration FTW.
  • Through sneaking peeks at their letters, Irie sees exactly what she feared: mutual recognition and mutual admiration.
  • In one letter, Marcus says he doesn't think Irie has a future in hard science. He thinks maybe she should go into dentistry. At first, Irie is upset, but then she decides to be a dentist. That's one way to handle the situation, we guess.
  • Meanwhile, Joyce is trying to fix Millat's problems with white women. Women of all colors, shapes, and sizes want Millat, but he only dates Protestant white women who are size 10 (American size 8) between the ages of fifteen and twenty-eight (that's quite the age range, if we do say so ourselves).
  • Things are going well with his current girlfriend, Karina Cain. He is only cheating on her with three other girls, which is a personal best for Millat. Someone should get this guy a medal.
  • KEVIN doesn't like Millat's studliness with these non-Muslim women.
  • So Millat starts getting all annoyed with Karina Cain, the same girl who had been making him so happy. He begins to think that she's dressed provocatively because she wants other men to look at her. His acculturation to KEVIN is near complete.
  • One day, after working a shift at the Palace, Millat sees an Indian woman sitting alone. He goes up to her and starts quoting one of his group's leaflets about self-respect and soulmates and how women should only seek to provide "visual pleasure" to the men who love them. The woman is not having it. She asks him if he'll leave her alone if she pays him.
  • He walks a long eight miles home, and calls Karina Cain from a payphone to dump her. Cold.
  • Millat eventually ends up in the Chalfen's kitchen and finally asks Joyce for her advice.
  • She has basically been crossing her fingers for this moment and has been reading up on self-revulsion, which is what she thinks Millat suffers from. She's filled her head with statistics about what Asian men do and how Muslims feel.
  • Meanwhile, things are not easy at the Jones household either.
  • Irie is about to be the first Bowden or Jones to go to a university, and she plans to study dentistry. But Irie also wants to take a year off to go to Africa; she and Clara are in quite the tiff about her plans.
  • In fact, it becomes so serious that Irie and Clara stake out different areas within the house and have a silent contest. That is, until Irie wakes Clara up in the middle of the night because she knows that she's more likely to get what she wants in the middle of the night.
  • The two argue some more until Irie knocks over a glass and discovers that Clara has false teeth. So many chompers in this novel.
  • Anyway, Clara says she just never found the right time to tell Irie about her false teeth. Irie is furious about another secret in a long line of Jones/Bowden secrets.
  • Irie's so sick of never getting the full story that she leaves the house. She thinks of going to the Chalfens, but she decides that she has no choice but to go to see her grandmother, Hortense. Then she can get the real scoop. Desperate times call for desperate measures.