Study Guide

White Teeth Chapter 7

By Zadie Smith

Chapter 7


  • This chapter opens with Samad preparing to secretly meet up with Poppy, and Magid and Millat stuffing canned goods into their backpacks for charity, as part of the Harvest Festival.
  • The children and Samad all take the fifty-two bus, but in different directions.
  • Samad and Poppy had agreed to meet up by the Harlesden Clock at 4:30.
  • Samad gets there early enough to change outta his work clothes. Then he goes into a small shop owned by a cousin. He tells his cousin Hakim and his wife Zinat that he is going to buy life insurance so he's got an alibi for the evening. Pretty sneaky, sir.
  • Meanwhile, the others arrive at their charity charge's house. But this Mr. J. P. Hamilton won't let them in because he think's they're trying to sell something or rob him. We understand; who doesn't hate it when solicitors come to their home?
  • Millat makes it his mission to get inside the house. He is serious about charity (well, for a few minutes anyway). And dude does lets them in the house eventually.
  • However, he can't eat anything they've brought. Oopsie. He offers them tea and they agree to stay for a bit anyway.
  • Then the old man lectures the children about the necessity of brushing their teeth, revealing that his are fake. (What is it with this book and teeth, you ask? Take a trip to our "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section to find out.)
  • The conversation turns to war when Mr. Hamilton tells the children that everything has two sides, and that he used to shoot and kill Congolese men because he could see their white teeth in the dark jungle. He describes the process of killing black men, and it makes Irie cry.
  • Millat says his dad fought for England in the war, and the old man says that would have been impossible because there were no Pakistanis in the war (first he uses a racial slur, actually). He wonders what the army would have fed these men. He tells the boys that lying will rot their teeth (teeth, teeth, teeth).
  • All three kids run out of the house while Mr. Hamilton is talking, and he doesn't notice until they are gone.
  • Magid, Millat, and Irie are city kids, so they're used to all kinds of madness, but Mr. J. P. Hamilton is a kind of madness they weren't prepared for, the kind that sneaks up on you.
  • Back in Secret Date Town, Samad and Poppy encounter Mad Mary, a well-known kind of North London madness. Poppy thinks Samad is exaggerating the fact that Mad Mary is dangerous.
  • But Samad soon gets his chance to be proven right and to impress Poppy by protecting her from Mad Mary.
  • After dark, the two sit in Roundwood Park and talk to try to avoid their physical desire. Awkward. Finally, Poppy tells Samad that she likes him and kisses him on the ear. He says that he's too old, too married, and too Muslim for her. They go back and forth about these itty bitty issues until Samad offends Poppy. Oops.
  • The two quickly make up and decide to spend the night together.
  • Poppy reveals she has bought him something.
  • While she is digging in her bag for the gift, Samad sees his two sons waiving at him and notices their white teeth as they bite into their apples.
  • Poppy finally finds what she's been looking for: a toothbrush. Mr. Hamilton would be so pleased. Unlike us, who were totally not be pleased at all when we got toothbrushes in our Christmas stockings as kids.