Cultural Identity In Toni Morrison's 'White Teeth'

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“In matters of race, silence and evasion have historically ruled literary discourse,” says Toni Morrison in her 1992 critical literacy piece “Playing in the Dark”. However, in “White Teeth”, we see the opposite of this as Zadie Smith brings the matter right into the open, shedding new light on problems of race and assimilation. The novel investigates post-colonial European culture and society through the use of compelling immigrant characters who are struggling with their cultural identities. The main drama comes from their attempts to carve out an identity for themselves but in doing they ultimately cause the downfall of their own unique culture into a hybrid mesh of sorts. This is by no means a bad thing but it does complete the work of…show more content…
However, he doesn’t weld these two affiliations together but rather compartmentalizes them, leaving himself with a dual identity that must be kept separate. This is crucial to his construction of identity as one allegiance must never be able to overpower or “corrupt” the other. The fact how he gets very distressed when called “Sam” by Archie shows this. He doesn’t want his name and supposed ethnic purity to be corrupted by the English equivalent. It is a verbal assault on his precariously balanced identity that is battling to be set free from the shackles of compartmentalization. Yet the fact he has to compartmentalize his identity means he has effectively completed the work of colonialism. He is no longer a Bengali man through and through. He now has created a separate identity for his affiliation to England. He has subconsciously adopted a British way of thinking and when he realises this duality is now a part of him, he is heartbroken. “Delhi? Who would have such an Englishman there? To England? Who would have such an Indian?” This identity crisis leaves him terrified of the future and makes him wonder how he fits into such a world.
This book can also be viewed as a migrant novel and by looking through the eyes of a first-generation migrant,
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