Study Guide

White Teeth Chapter 20

By Zadie Smith

Chapter 20

Of Mice and Memory

  • Archie is impressed because the scene in the Perret Institute, where the FutureMouse press conference is being held, looks like it could be on TV. This is pretty much the most impressive thing Archie can imagine, but he does wish the scientists were wearing white coats. We hear you, buddy.
  • Mickey is there, and he's not as impressed with all this science business as Archie is.
  • Joshua is there with FATE. Millat is with KEVIN, but he is not following their plan. Instead, he has a gun hidden in his pocket.
  • Looking for a sign from her unborn child and getting none, Irie relishes the thought that some secrets (like the secret of her child's beginning) are permanent. All of a sudden, Irie is okay with secrets, we guess.
  • Marcus is speaking, and there is a faint sound moving through the room. Apprently, Hortense and her crew are singing.
  • Marcus introduces his mentor with tons of praise, and even suggests that he deserves much of the credit for FutureMouse.
  • When Marcus calls his name, Dr. Marc-Pierre Perret, Archie thinks he recognizes it. And then he sees that Perret is crying red tears.
  • Archie definitely knows those tears, and so does Samad. Uh oh.
  • For Samad, this means that his only friend in the world has been lying to him for fifty years. Guess Archie never killed the ol' doctor after all. Sorry, Samad.
  • Weirdly enough, because Samad is obsessed with stories and history, he's not totally upset about Archie's lie. He's kind of pleased that there's more to Archie than he ever thought. And that the two guys now have a new story to tell everyone incessantly until they die. (A new story? Their families will be relieved.)
  • FATE starts moving. KEVIN starts moving.
  • As Millat takes a shot at the doctor, Archie sees the gun and runs toward the two men.
  • The narrator now takes us back to Archie and the doctor at the end of the war. C'mon, Zadie Smith, we want to know what happens…
  • Archie marched the doctor out and told him to stand still. He told Perret he didn't want to kill him, but he had to because of Samad.
  • The doctor bought himself time by asking if he could beg for his life and then asking for a cigarette. Perret started talking to Archie about his duty to Samad versus his duty to man. And he kept talking until Archie started crying.
  • As usual, Archie realized he had a coin, which he flipped as a way to decide whether or not to shoot the doctor.
  • But the coin fell way back behind Archie after he threw it. And as he bent over to pick it up, Perret shot him in the leg.
  • Archie was mostly angry because the coin landed on tails anyway, and he was only going to shoot the doctor if it was heads. Coin flips are serious business for Archie.
  • And then Smith zooms us back to the FutureMouse event. Archie is about to save the same man again. He has thrown himself in the way of the bullet.
  • Witnesses can't tell the difference between Magid and Millat. It's hard to blame them, as genetics can't tell the difference either. In the end, both boys are sentenced to 400 hours of community service, which they serve working on Joyce's latest garden project.
  • The narrator reluctantly gives us some information about the future of these characters.
  • Joshua and Irie eventually become lovers, and Irie's daughter calls both Magid and Millat by the name Uncle. Now that's a modern family for you.
  • Clara and Alsana eventually go to O'Connell's with their husbands because Mickey opens the bar to women in 1999. (Perhaps they party like it's 1999?)
  • At the very, very end, the narrator says it'd be interesting to divide the attendees of the FutureMouse event into two groups: the ones who looked at the bleeding man, and the ones who watched the super duper future mouse escape.
  • Archie watched the mouse; he was rooting for its escape. The end.