Study Guide

White Teeth Chapter 16

By Zadie Smith

Chapter 16

The Return of Magid Mahfooz Murshed Mubtasim Iqbal

  • Marcus is about to smoke a pipe in Heathrow airport when a girl tells him that's illegal.
  • The girl, who is young and pretty, happens to be sitting with a copy of Marcus's book, Time Bombs and Body Clocks: Adventures in Our Genetic Future.
  • He tries to ask her casually about the book (not that Marcus is remotely capable of being casual).
  • The girl isn't exactly singing Marcus's praises. She thinks the book is weird and somewhat scary; she doesn't like the idea of genetic engineering. She argues that there is something fascist about the idea of removing "undesirable qualities" in people and wonders who decides what that even means. Fair point, airport girl.
  • Marcus understands it differently. He believes that he is, for instance, working to determine the future of cancer, not the future of the mouse.
  • Marcus and the girl end up arguing for a while.
  • The reason that Marcus is at Heathrow airport is to meet Magid. Part of what interests Marcus about Magid is that he has the exact same genetic makeup as Millat, but he's a completely different person. Marcus thinks about everything in terms of genetics.
  • With Magid back, Alsana confides to Clara that she doesn't recognize her son at all.
  • Samad is horrified at the sight and habits of his recently returned son. He responds to his disappointment with total maturity. He writes to relatives and saying that Millat is working at a mosque in Birmingham and that Magid wants to marry a Bengali girl. Okay, that's really not mature at all.
  • Millat comes home in October and refuses to stay in the same place as Magid, so Magid goes to stay with the Chalfens. Musical chairs, much? Irie is also spending almost all her time over there.
  • Samad and Archie commiserate over what they think of as the loss of their children.
  • Mostly through flattery, Magid gets Marcus to break down his work into more digestible pieces.
  • Bit by bit, Marcus starts pulling away from all responsibilities and interactions with others except, of course, for Magid.
  • Irie spends a lot of time in Marcus's office reading a press release to journalists about the launch of FutureMouse. It announces to the public that a FutureMouse will be put on display at the Perret Institute in London on December 31, 1992, and will remain on display for exactly seven years. This is twice the normal life expectancy of a mouse—sweet.
  • Marcus is selling the idea of the FutureMouse as an opportunity for the public to see life and death up close. Kind of like this exhibit on human bodies.