Guid Essay

Guid Essay

Zadie Smith’s Way of Life and Critical Analysis of White Teeth – Free Essay Example

Zadie Smith is a British author, essayist and professor of creative writing. She was born in North London in 1975. Her father is a working-class Caucasian English man and her mother is a Jamaican immigrant. Since childhood she got absorbed in every book. In one of the interviews, she said that she “inhales” books and takes them with her in dinner time because she feels that they are a meal in themselves. Zadie attended King’s College in Cambridge where she studied English literature. Being a student, she began a manuscript for her debut novel White Teeth. Smith got really lucky to get picked up by a literary agent Hamish Hamilton and got a contract with a prominent literary agency Andrew Wiley Agency after finishing just first 80 pages (one chapter). The novel was published in 2000 when Smith was 25 years old and just graduated from college. Soon the novel got a universal recognition and received a wide range of awards: The Guardian First Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction), the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book). White Teeth also won two EMMAs (Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards) for Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer. Smith has been called the “voice of a “new England””.

Despite such acclaim, Smith remained humble after White Teeth’s release, maintaining that her ambition was not fame, but to sharpen her skills: “Even if I never write anything which anybody ever buys and reads again, White Teeth is enough for me always to be able to publish some little thing some day. That was the greatest pleasure of it, because all I wanted to be was a writer.”

Smith’s second novel, The Autograph Man, was less successful than the White Teeth, however, it led Smith to nomination as one of 20 ‘Best of young British Novelists’ by Granta magazine and also Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for fiction.

She spent the next seven years establishing herself as an essayist and cultural critic, writing pieces for the New Yorker, the Guardian, The New York Times and the Sunday Telegraph.

Hysterical realism

The storytelling style of White Teeth is categorised as hysterical realism. This term was first used by one of the most admired literary English critic at work today James Wood in an essay Human, All Too Inhuman published in 2000 in the magazine The New Republic where he analyzed Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth. Dale Peck labels this writing style as recherché postmodernism. Two popular critics were the first to articulate the turn in intermillenial postmodern fiction. “Recherché postmodernism” and “hysterical realism” became the interchangeable motto for a new literary movement the main features of which are: continuing at length, formal complexity, narrative and linguistic eccentricity, conceptual interconnection, and a shift in emphasis from “humans” to ideas and information. Hysterical realism refers opinionated narratives that evoke emotional richness from worldly events and are characterized by disorderly action and numerous completely different lines of thought.

Elevating Essay Writing: Delivering Excellence and Literary Distinction

Crafting Essays that Leave a Lasting Impression

In the realm of academic expression, where words have the power to shape ideas and inspire minds, we stand as a beacon of excellence. As dedicated essayists, we take immense pride in our ability to weave words into captivating narratives, enlightening arguments, and thought-provoking analyses. Our journey as essay writers has been one of continuous growth and meaningful impact. Let’s explore some remarkable instances where our expertise has made a significant difference.

Guiding Students Towards Success

Our journey is intertwined with the success stories of numerous students who sought our guidance. In one instance, a struggling undergraduate approached us with an intricate topic in the field of sociology. Through meticulous research and a nuanced understanding of the subject, we formulated an essay that not only secured the student’s academic standing but also ignited their passion for social sciences.

Similarly, a graduate student grappling with the complexities of literary criticism found solace in our expertise. We delved into the depths of literary theory, dissecting texts and exploring nuanced interpretations. The resulting essay not only garnered accolades but also instilled a newfound confidence in the student’s analytical abilities.

Breathing Life into Topics: Examples of Our Endeavors

  1. The Intersection of Technology and Society: In an era dominated by technological advancements, we embarked on an essay that explored the intricate relationship between technology and society. By seamlessly blending sociological insights with technological trends, we created an essay that resonated with readers across disciplines.

  2. Environmental Ethics and Sustainability: With environmental concerns taking center stage, we took on the challenge of crafting an essay that delved into the ethical dimensions of sustainability. Through rigorous research, we presented a compelling argument that not only addressed the urgency of the issue but also proposed actionable solutions.

  3. Literary Analysis: Unraveling Symbolism: Literary works often conceal layers of symbolism. In an essay dedicated to the works of a renowned author, we unraveled the subtle threads of symbolism woven into the narrative. This essay not only celebrated the author’s craftsmanship but also offered readers a deeper appreciation for the written word.

A Tapestry of Literary Accolades

Our dedication to the art of essay writing has not gone unnoticed. Over the years, we have had the privilege of being recognized in esteemed literary competitions that celebrate creativity and intellectual prowess. These accolades serve as a testament to our commitment to delivering essays that transcend the ordinary and venture into the extraordinary.

Literary Award Highlights

  1. Eloquent Prose Prize: Awarded by the Prestigious Wordsmith Guild, this accolade celebrated our mastery over language and the art of storytelling. The essay that earned us this honor explored the nuanced emotions of human existence through a compelling narrative.

  2. Critical Thinker’s Commendation: Presented by the Symposium of Intellectual Thought, this award acknowledged our prowess in critical analysis. Our essay, dissecting the philosophical underpinnings of existentialism, showcased our ability to navigate complex ideologies with finesse.

  3. Literary Luminary Award: Conferred by the Literary Confluence, this award celebrated our contribution to literary discourse. The winning essay, an exploration of the intersection between culture and identity, captured the essence of diverse human experiences.

Conclusion: Pioneering Excellence in Essay Writing

As we reflect on our journey as essayists, we are filled with a profound sense of purpose. Our dedication to delivering exceptional essays that enlighten, engage, and inspire remains unwavering. Through intricate narratives, incisive analyses, and unwavering commitment to the written word, we have carved a niche for ourselves in the realm of academic and literary excellence. Join us as we continue to shape ideas, foster growth, and transcend boundaries through the power of the written essay.

Wood describes hysterical realism as a literary genre characterized by a strong contrast between prose, plotting and characterization, from one side, and careful, detailed investigations of real, specific social phenomena from the other. He describes the genre as an attempt to turn fiction into social theory. This literary genre is also characterized by exceptional length, frenetic action, offbeat characters, and long digressions on topics secondary to the story. (Word Spy) Wood calls the forefathers of this literary genre American novelists Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon and their follower David Foster Wallace.

The contemporary fiction books that fall into the category of “hysterical realism” are:

  • big
  • full of information, ideas and stylistic rhythms
  • eventful plots that happen on so-called “broad social canvas”
  • experiment with form and voice
  • overtly

Wood uses the term to describe the contemporary conception of big ambitious novels, “novels of immense self-consciousness with no selves in them at all, curiously arrested and very “brilliant” books that know a thousand things but do not know a single human being.” (Wood) They are “social” novels but not because of their content or style but of their audience united by this kind of literature. This genre is consolidated by the fans who tend to like the same books rather than by the books themselves. The same people tend to like them, thus shaping society of the shared taste. A lot of these fans are critics. The reason for that is that these novels are full of ideas that can be explained by them. They also full of essayistic passages, and since critics are essayists themselves, such passages they find very attractive for the analysis.

“Hysterical realism is not exactly magical realism, but magical realism’s next stop. It is characterized by a fear of silence. This kind of realism is a perpetual motion machine that appears to have been embarrassed into velocity. Stories and sub-stories sprout on every page. There is a pursuit of vitality at all costs.” (Wood)

The novelist’s task is to go on to the street and figure out social reality. However, whatever the novel tries to reach, the “culture” can always reach something bigger. “If the contemporary American novel in its current, triumphalist form – are novelists’ chosen sport, then they will sooner or later be outrun by their own streaking material. Fiction may well be, as Stendhal wrote, a mirror carried down the middle of a road; but the Stendhalian mirror would explode with reflections were it now being walked around Manhattan.”

The novelist used to “alter the inner life of the culture.” It will be tricky of setting themselves up as analysts of society, while society bucks and charges so helplessly. Surely they will tread carefully over their generalizations.

“Indeed, “knowing about things” has become one of the qualifications of the contemporary novelist. Time and again novelists are praised for their wealth of obscure and far-flung social knowledge.”

In her response to Wood’s article published in the Guardian, Zadie Smith agreed with Wood by writing “these are hysterical times; any novel that aims at hysteria will now be effortlessly outstripped – this was Wood’s point, and I’m with him on it.” She said that it is not the writer’s job “to tell us how somebody felt about something, it’s to tell us how the world works”.

In regard to the term hysterical realism, she writes that it is “a painfully accurate term for the sort of overblown, manic prose to be found in novels like my own White Teeth and a few others he (Wood) was sweet enough to mention.” However, later she argued that “any collective term for a supposed literary movement is always too large a net, catching significant dolphins among so much cannable tuna” meaning that first-time novelists like she is, cannot be placed with literary giants like DeLillo, Pynchon and Wallace.

Zadie has praised the American writers David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers as “guys who know a great deal about the world. They understand macro-microeconomics, the way the internet works, maths, philosophy, but… they’re still people who know something about the street, about family, love, sex, whatever.”

Time newspaper wrote: “She has the gift David Foster Wallace had: the mere act of watching her think — about Kafka, Buffy, her father, her writing habits, whatever attracts her critical intelligence — makes you feel smarter.” Her way of writing is unique and intriguing and filled with a moderate dose of skepticism and sarcasm. Smith cuts between incidents, points of view, and eras with movie-like deftness, weaving these disparate stories into one narrative.

David Sexton wrote in the article The Autograph Man wrote that White Teeth had no harsher critic than Zadie Smith herself: “Exasperated by the enormous reputation accorded her debut, she disparaged it as “the literary equivalent of a hyperactive, ginger-haired, tapdancing 10-year-old”.

About the novel White Teeth

The novel White Teeth is centered around Britain’s relationships with people from formerly colonized countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. It illustrates the immigrant experience in the new society. The main characters are confronted with conflicts between assimilating and preserving their cultures. The novel illustrates the dilemmas of immigrants and their offspring as they are confronted by a new, different society. The novel examines the impact that cultural history can have on identity.

White Teeth is an examination of contemporary London, told from a different range of viewpoints. Though packed with tangential references to various eras and earlier generations, it focuses primarily on the parents and children of the culturally and ethnically diverse Jones, Iqbal and Chalfen families.

White Teeth is about various ethnic and cultural identities, and about the consequences of colonialism. The mixture of culture and races allows Smith to mix custom and vocabulary.

White Teeth deals with issues of race, ethnicity and culture. Smith claims that it is impossible to write about London without addressing these issues as London is a highly diverse city. In the interview, Smith said: “I was just trying to approach London. I don’t think of it as a theme, or even a significant thing about the city. This is what modern life is like. If I were to write a book about London in which there were only white people, I think that would be kind of bizarre. People do write books like that, which I find bizarre because it’s patently not what London is, nor has it been for fifty years.”

However, John Mullan a professor of English Literary History in an article for the Guardian wrote that the ethnic identities are so various in the book, that “Smith seems to be taking and enjoying new liberties rather than plotting the consequences of the Empire.”

It is colonialism that brought all the characters of the book to London and they are aware of their post-colonial identities.

The role of the past in forming one’s identity

In the preface to the novel Zadie writes the following quote: “What is past is prologue” – Inscription in Washington Museum, thus setting the thematic mood for the novel. The preface suggests that the past is inescapable, and encourages attention to details. By letting the wise words of the past speak before her, Smith acknowledges that ‘What is past is prologue applies to writers as well. Thus, the ideas she examines in the next 500 pages have developed out of her own personal consideration of the past. In that sense, the preface credits all the authors who have inspired Smith to write this, her first novel.

Some of the characters hold to the past while others try to reject it. In the novel, past is not just the prologue as the preface suggests but is sometimes hardly separated from the present. Example

The novel’s main story covers the time period from 1975 until 2000, however, in a flashback it goes back in 1907 and beyond. The events are set mainly in Willesden, North London, the part where Zadie was born and raised and which she knows the best. There are three different families of mixed ethnicity in the middle of the novel who are struggling with issues of heritage and legacy.

The protagonist is Alfred Archibald Jones (Archie) an Englishman who served in World War II. There he met his best friend a Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal and his Italian wife Ophelia Diagilo. As the war was over, Archie brought Ophelia with him back to London and after 30 years of marriage Ophelia become insane from Archie’s mediocrity and they divorced. On New Year’s Day, 1975, Archie attempts to gas himself to death in his car. However, the butcher, Mo Hussein-Ishmael, saves him. Archie feels for the first time in his life worthwhile. The same day, full of enthusiasm, Archie joins an End of the World party where he meets his future Jamaican wife Clara 20 years younger than he. Soon after the marriage with Archie, Clara becomes pregnant with a daughter, Irie.

At teenage years, Clara was an awkward and unattractive Jehovah’s Witness who spent her days proselytizing door-to-door. She abandons her religion when she began dating a boy named Ryan Topps. Ironically, Ryan eventually became a Jehovah’s Witness and tried to win Clara back to the Church. While riding on his scooter, they crashed into a tree, knocking out Clara’s upper teeth.

According to Smith, the novel is not autobiographical, however, she was inspired by the mixed-race marriage of her parents. She calls the scene where Archie and Clara meet, “a bastardized version of how her parents met.”

A second family is a bangladeshi man Samad Iqbal a middle-aged World War II veteran with a crippled right hand. Samad is working at an Indian restaurant, where he receives few tips. Samad is religious and straightforward, enjoy having control. He believes in destiny and imagine himself more worldly and intellectual than other do.

His wife Alsana Begum. Their marriage was arranged. She was promised to Samad even before her birth. To help her husband to pay bills, she sews clothing for an S&M shop called Domination in Soho. Despite the fact that Alsana believes that marriage is best handled with silence, because of her volcanic temper and judgmental nature, she always wins battles with Samad, injuring him. She becomes pregnant with two boys, Magid and Millat.

Most of all, Samad wants his sons to grow into good, traditional Bengali Muslim men. To ensure this, he kidnaps his son Magid and send him to be raised in Bangladesh.



Throughout the novel, teeth symbolize people. Teeth are presented as a universal symbol of humanity, they are always white no matter what a person’s race. They are something what unites human beings and are common to all. Even though teeth are universal, they are nothing without their roots. Samad tries to send Magid back to his Bengali roots, but Smith mocks: “You would get nowhere telling [Samad]… that the first sign of tooth decay is something rotten, something degenerate, deep within the gums. Roots were what saved, the ropes one throws out to rescue drowning me, to Save their Souls.” By saving a tooth’s root, one does not necessarily save the tooth. Indeed, even sending Magid back to Bangladesh does not prevent him from becoming an English intellectual.

J.P. Hamilton lectures the children about keeping their teeth healthy. While his madness eventually makes them run away, his wisdom is genuine. He says, “If you do not brush your teeth, they will fall out, in other words, If you do not pay heed to where you came from, you will not know where you are going.” Hamilton interjects the point from Smith’s preface, that the past always influences the present.

Heritage and Legacy

Smith does explain that Magid and Millat are destined to honor their roots, to “more and more eloquently express their past,” because as “[the sons of] immigrants, [they] cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow.” However, even if the twins’ actions are always products of their past, they have the power to make their own decisions. Magid’s intelligence threatens Samad who wants his sons to fulfill Mangal Pande’s legacy of devotion to the Bengali people. Mangal Pande is Samad’s great grandfather who shot the first bullet in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Samad considers Pande a tragically unappreciated martyr and bases his sense of worth on his relation to Pande. In all but one history book, Pande is remembered as a clumsy would-be hero who could not even commit suicide successfully after starting the mutiny.

Samad thinks that sending Magid to Bangladesh would secure such a legacy. However, Magid develops into an English intellectual, espousing the progressive views Samad fears instead of the traditional ones he intended Magid to learn.


Many of the KEVIN and FATE members are more interested in the simultaneous security and thrill of fundamentalism than in what makes up their doctrine.

Many different organizations:

Millat is a member of the Islamic fundamentalist group, KEVIN (Keepers of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation)

Smith defines KEVIN as: “an extremist faction dedicated to direct, often violent action, a splinter group frowned on by the rest of the Islamic community; popular with the sixteen-to-twenty-five age group; feared and ridiculed in the press.” KEVIN believes in strict adherence to Islamic doctrine and discourages all things Western, including pop culture, promiscuity, and open female sexuality. KEVIN satisfies Millat’s desire to be a gangster, and some members, such as Mo Hussein-Ishmael, join just to gain status.

Joshua Chalfen joins FATE (Fighting Animal Torture and Exploitation), the extreme animal-rights activism group

Hortense grandmother of Irie and Ryan (ex-friend of Clara) taking part in a hunger strike against genetic engineering

Magid supports FutureMouse. a project in which he genetically engineers a mouse to develop certain cancers at specific times in its development. Chalfen hopes his research might someday help cure cancer. The leader is Marcus Chalfen a genetic engineer, the father of Joshua. Magid accepts genetic engineering as the new God.

FutureMouse is met with protest from at least three fronts, including KEVIN, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and FATE.

Jehovah’s Witness

A member of a religious denomination founded in the United States during the late 19th century in which active evangelism is practiced, the imminent approach of the millennium is preached, and war and organized governmental authority in matters of conscience are strongly opposed.

Click to rate this entry!
(Votos: 0 Promedio: 0)


We will be happy to help you and inform you about any questions.


Leave a Comment