Study Guide

White Teeth Chapter 4

By Zadie Smith

Chapter 4

Three Coming

  • Clara calls Archie at work to tell him she is two and a half months pregnant.
  • She also tells him that she asked the doctor what the baby would look like, with a black mother and a white father, and that the doctor told her anything could happen. The baby could even have blue eyes. Neither of them can believe this. Even though it's just a little thing we like to call science.
  • Then Archie goes around the office telling everyone he's having a baby and that the baby might have blue eyes.
  • Mr. Hero, the Company Director at Direct Mail Specialists, wants to see Archie in his office urgently. When Archie gets there, Mr. Hero begins by telling Archie that he doesn't consider himself a "racialist." It's all down hill from here.
  • Hero rambles on for a while trying to find a nice way of saying the not nice thing he wants to say. He finally gets around to saying that Archie and Clara make people uncomfortable.
  • Mr. Hero gives Archie fifty pounds worth of vouchers for food that he can use in food stores all over the country, and tells Archie he doesn't need to come to a work dinner.
  • Archie walks away thinking about how pleased he is with the vouchers and that Samad will be too. He totally got played.
  • Partly because Clara and Alsana become pregnant at almost the same time, and partly because Clara's job as a youth group supervisor and Alsana's Asian Women's Prenatal Class are very nearby, the two women start to hang out a lot.
  • Alsana is pregnant with two boys and Clara with a girl. They don't know that, but we do. Shmoopsters, this is one of the perks of being a reader (or a wallflower, or something).
  • Clara and Alsana talk about baby names. Alsana plans to give her children names that begin with the letter M. She says those names are strong. Clara thinks that if she has a girl, she'd like to call her Irie, which is a Jamaican patois name that means "Okay."
  • Neena lectures Alsi (as she calls Alsana) about how it's 1975 and she should stop thinking about relationships in an old-fashioned way, where the wife obeys the husband all the time. Neena claims that there has to be communication in relationships.
  • Alsana says she doesn't want to talk all the time; she doesn't want to know what Samad does because she doesn't care. She's one tough lady.
  • Really, Neena wants to argue about Alsana and Samad's arranged marriage, as this is the biggest point of contention between the two women.
  • Alsana, who always has something to say, says that she liked Samad well enough on the day that she met and married him, but that she likes him less and less every day. That's unfortunate.
  • Neena has been giving Clara books to read, and Clara has recently read Greer's Female Eunuch, Jong's Fear of Flying, and de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Clara is actually interested in what Neena has to say, unlike Alsana.
  • Neena then sets out to shock her aunt by saying that it's a shame Alsana is having boys because men have caused enough damage in the world, and that if she, Neena, were having boys she'd consider abortion.
  • And boy does she pick a fight by saying that word. Alsana screams and covers her ears at the mention of this controversial a-word.
  • Alsana also says she and Clara married old men and that their children will always have fathers with one leg in the present and one in the past.
  • Alsana expresses her disgust with her and Clara's husbands and her doubts that they are heroes (she's not exactly her husband's biggest fan, after all). But the image of Archie as a hero is important to Clara.
  • Alsana tells Clara to really examine the evidence of their lives, to look at the thing close up. Have you ever accidentally looked in one of those magnifying makeup mirrors? Yep. Most things are a pretty scary when viewed at close range. Okay, stop plucking those nose hairs; it's time for Chapter 5.