Study Guide

White Teeth Friendship

By Zadie Smith


It often feels as if there is no such thing as a new friend in White Teeth. Friendships come with history, lots of history. You know that vague answer to the how-do-you-know-each-other question: "Oh, we go way back"? Yeah, it's like that. The significant friendships in this novel are all about lasting, standing the test of time. In this novel, friendship is an endurance sport, not a sprint.

Questions About Friendship

  1. Why are Archie and Samad such unlikely friends? How have they managed to stay friends for almost fifty years?
  2. How do Irie and Millat become friends? In what ways is their friendship similar to or different from their fathers'?
  3. Why is the length of time two people have known each other so important when it comes to friendship? What is it about the passage of time that makes Archie and Samad or Irie and Millat feel closer?
  4. Would you consider Clara and Alsana friends? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Archie and Samad probably shouldn't be friends after they return home from WWII. After all, they have nothing in common and sometimes don't even seem to like each other.

Archie and Samad have a significant kind of friendship precisely because they seem to have nothing in common, and come from very different backgrounds.