Study Guide

White Teeth Chapter 8

By Zadie Smith

Chapter 8


  • So, O'Connell's Pool House is neither Irish nor a pool house. Which is confusing, but it's a handy reminder not to judge a pool house by its cover. Let us explain: it's a bar.
  • There is an Irish flag tied to a map of the United Arab Emirates that separates the Arab man who runs O'Connell's from his customers. This man has terrible acne and goes by Mickey.
  • You have to earn your place at O'Connell's, and Archie and Samad have certainly done so.
  • Samad has called Archie to confess his affair with Poppy, and they're supposed to meet at O'Connell's to discuss it. Archie is late, and Samad, Shmoopsters, is insanely desperate.
  • When Archie sits down in the booth (which is not where they usually sit so we know something's up), he picks right up with where they left off on the phone.
  • Samad is seeing his children everywhere when he is with Poppy. Actually, he only really saw them once. Now, he is imagining them. This is not a good sign.
  • Samad doesn't know how he can possibly teach his kids anything about being good people when he is behaving so badly. He's come down with a little case of "Do what I say, not what I do," and he's feeling pretty guilty about it.
  • Archie suggests that Samad just stop seeing Poppy. Archie believes in the easy answer. Samad, of course, says it's not that easy.
  • Samad tells Archie that he and Poppy kiss, but that they are not having sex. Then Samad talks about how children in England don't honor tradition or respect. Yep, parents are always complaining about this stuff.
  • Mickey offers his opinion on the topic, not that anyone asked for it. He says that Samad has two choices; he can either send his sons back to India (Samad corrects him), or he can accept that his children are English now.
  • Tradition, the narrator tells us, is the real problem here, but it's not often recognized as a problem because it rarely appears sinister.
  • The more Samad is drawn away from his roots, the more determined he becomes that his children have roots. Wouldn't it be easier if he just tried to fix himself? Guess not. Instead, he decides to send his sons back to Bangladesh. But he quickly realizes that he doesn't have enough money to do that.
  • The next time Samad and Archie meet at O'Connell's (they are there all the time), Samad reveals that he plans to send one of his sons away. All Archie can think to ask is: which one?
  • Never, not once, do Archie and Samad think that what they are planning to do might fall under the category of kidnapping. Clearly, they do not watch enough detective shows.
  • On October 31st, Samad comes home to find Alsana weeping at the kitchen table. He thinks she's discovered his plan, but, in fact, she's listening to the radio. The Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, has been shot and killed by her Sikh bodyguards.
  • Samad pretty much screams at Alsana for crying over a politician who was no good anyway, but Alsana is not crying for the Prime Minister. She's crying because she knows that the assassination will cause violence in India and Bangladesh. So she is crying for her friends.
  • A huge fight is brewing. Samad calls Alsana fat; he ridicules the way she wears running shoes with her sari. She replies by pointing out that he is not wearing traditional clothes, either.
  • As they continue to fight, Alsana tells Samad that she knows he is plotting something. She says it will be over her dead body that their family moves back to a dangerous place.
  • Alsana also knows that Samad is going somewhere between leaving work and coming home.
  • They end up getting into a physical fight in the backyard, which is how they solve things. Healthy, guys, real healthy. Alsana wins by using a garden rake. Ugh. Can you imagine your parents wrestling in the back yard?
  • Samad then goes inside and calls Poppy to tell her that their affair is officially over.
  • Despite the fact that Alsana is right about people dying in the battle between Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus, on November 4th, Samad is committed to carrying out his plan. Archie, of course, has been enlisted to help. It's not like he would ever say "No."
  • Late in the evening, a table of women request to be served by him and only him. Poppy is at that table with her sister. Uh oh. She taunts Samad, but he doesn't say anything.
  • Right on time for the devious kidnapping plan, at 1:00AM on November 5, 1984, Archie waits for Samad outside the restaurant.
  • But Archie shows up all three kids in the backseat of the car, instead of just Magid. Millat and Irie had woken up, so Archie brought them all. He is not very good at dealing serious things. Or any things, really.
  • Samad tells the kids that they are going to Heathrow Airport and that Magid is going on a trip with their Aunt Zinat. Right Samad. Because lying to your kids will totally teach them to be upstanding citizens.