Study Guide

White Teeth Religion

By Zadie Smith


In White Teeth, we've got believers and non-believers all in the same place at the same time. Basically, like everything else in this novel, religion is complicated but it is never dull. Not for a second. Characters like Clara, who are raised on religion, leave it behind entirely (well, almost entirely). Then there are characters like Ryan Topps and Millat Iqbal who pick up religion on their own, and become extremely committed to it. (That might be an understatement.) For some characters, like Samad, religion is linked to tradition. For him, religion says more about who he is as a man than about what he believes or how he behaves. Then there are the atheists who have found something else, like science, to believe in. Never thought that science might actually have a lot in common with religion? Well, maybe you should.

Questions About Religion

  1. Why does Samad struggle with his religion so much? What does this struggle drive him to do?
  2. What about KEVIN appeals to Millat? Why is Millat willing to give up some of the very things that had previously defined him? What is he unable to give up?
  3. What is it about religion that White Teeth's religious characters find appealing? Why is Samad religious? Why are Hortense and Ryan Topps religious? Are there common factors that unite all of them?
  4. How does the narrator present religion to us? Is there a positive or negative spin?

Chew on This

Religious belief and science get into a serious duel in White Teeth, and there is not a clear winner.

Magid and Millat, the atheist and the fundamentalist, provide a unique opportunity to look at two extremes. When it comes to Magid's atheism and Millat's brand of Islam, both characters seem one-dimensional.