Study Guide

White Teeth Chapter 17

By Zadie Smith

Chapter 17

Crisis Talks and Eleventh-Hour Tactics

  • Joyce Chalfen goes over to the Iqbal house to engage in a Battle Royale with Alsana—she wants to figure out what should be done with Magid and Millat… as though the young men's lives were completely and totally in Joyce and Alsan's hands.
  • Millat quietly enters the house and stands in the hallway smoking and listening to Joyce and Alsana fight over him. He loves it; dude is used to women fighting over him.
  • As he listens to Joyce and Alsana argue, he ponders his life decisions. He realizes that he's split between the version of himself that KEVIN wants him to be and the old Millat who drank and smoked and had sex with many women, Jekyll and Hyde-style.
  • While this is going on in the Iqbal house, Samad is… can you guess where? Yep: O'Connell's. He's trying to persuade Magid to meet with Millat.
  • Magid's presence is quite the event at O'Connell's, and all the regulars are astounded to find out that Magid is Samad's son.
  • Mickey is completely impressed by Magid's very proper spoken English and demeanor. You know, basically Samad's worst nightmare.
  • When it comes time to order food, Magid asks for a bacon sandwich, which is completely against the rules at O'Connell's and also against Samad's rules as a Muslim. The nightmare continues.
  • Samad and Magid get into a heated conversation about how Millat and the other members of KEVIN are planning to take action against Marcus and FutureMouse.
  • Since Samad and Magid cannot agree on whether or not the two brothers should meet, Magid asks Archie what he thinks.
  • Archie, as unable to make a decision as ever, decides to flip a coin. A crazy thing happens when Archie flips the coin: the coin goes flying behind him and lands in the slot on the pinball machine. How many points is that? We think it should be a least a million.
  • It is decided that the boys will meet at a neutral place: a study room at a university. Hey, at least they've never been there before. Irie is given the key to the room so she can give it to Millat.
  • When Irie finds Millat, Irie touches his chest, and there is so much crazy history between them that they end up having sex on the floor. So, there that is.
  • Both of them are horrified when it's over. Millat regrets betraying his religious values; Irie's super upset that Millat feels so guilty.
  • After she leaves Millat, Irie charges toward Magid looking for revenge, but she ends up having sex with him. Like, twenty-five minutes after she left Millat. We know, this is starting to sound like an episode of As the World Turns.
  • On November 5, 1992, the brothers finally meet. It's been eight years since they've hung out. Magid confirms that he is going to continue to help Marcus with FutureMouse, and Millat gives him a leaflet called The Sanctity of Creation.
  • They act out the stories of their lives with chairs, paper, chalkboards, and an overhead projector.
  • The narrator tells us that we can say of them what people often say about immigrants. They make do.
  • Continuing on, the narrator tells us that we know many stories about immigrants' resourcefulness and how they will try another path if the first is blocked.
  • But Magid and Millat don't get anywhere with their meeting; they just wear themselves out.
  • The narrator says that the boys are running at a standstill and that this is like Zeno's Paradox.
  • As Magid and Millat try to run toward the future, they are more and more marked by the past. This, according to the narrator, is the other thing about immigrants: they can't escape history in the way that a person can't lose her shadow. Lotta deep stuff here, kiddos.