Discuss the importance of multiculturalism in White Teeth with respect to theme.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is impossible to ignore the way in which Smith is presenting a picture of London that is multicultural to its very core. The one major English character marries a lapsed Jamaican Jehova's Witness and has a best friend who is an immigrant from Bangladesh. Throughout, Smith introduces themes such as immigration and the clash of different cultures in the arena of London, UK. Note, for example, the following quote that draws attention to the reality of life for immigrants in the UK:

These days, it feels to me like you make a devil's pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started... but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers--who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like you are an animal finally house-trained.

Smith is definitely challenging the status quo in this novel by offering such views and trying to suggest to her English speaking audience that immigration is becoming far more of a fact of modern-day life than perhaps the reader would care to admit. Multiculturalism is therefore presented in this novel through the tremendous variety in all of the characters and how they come from numerous religions, countries and different locations and are all crammed together in London in one glorious mish-mash of culture and background. It is the interplay of these cultures, and how, more seriously, characters try to deal with their migration and the kind of issues raised in the quote above, that make this novel multicultural.


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