Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Archibald “Archie” Jones is trying to commit suicide. He is inhaling carbon monoxide from the exhaust fumes of his running car, which is parked in Willesden Green, a multiracial, multicultural, and mostly immigrant neighborhood of London. Suicide has been Archie’s New Year’s resolution since the miserable failure of his childless marriage to an insane Italian woman. As with most decisions in his life, he had tossed a coin to determine whether or not he should kill himself. A local butcher saves Archie’s life when he sees him in his car, which is parked in the shop’s loading area. Archie readily treats this as a good sign that his life has not yet given up on him.
Reinvigorated by his second chance, Archie, a forty-seven-year-old World War II veteran, attends a random New Year’s Day party, or rather, whatever is left of the celebration from the night before. At the party he encounters Clara Bowden, a nineteen-year-old Caribbean and a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness. Archie and Clara marry just six weeks later.
Born to a highly religious Jamaican mother, Clara immediately sees her marriage to a native-born Englishman as an escape from the old, convoluted ways of her family. Her mother, Hortense Bowden, was born during a 1907 earthquake in her native Kingston, Jamaica. Hortense’s mother, Ambrosia, was fourteen years old at the time of Hortense’s birth. Ambrosia had become pregnant by a white English captain stationed in Jamaica....
(The entire section is 1214 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of White Teeth Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
White Teeth is a complex and multilayered novel, with a wide cast of characters and a twisting plot ranging over many years and several continents. The story follows the fortunes of two best friends, World War II buddies Archie Jones, a white working-class man married for the second time to the much younger Clara, a Jamaican woman, and Samad Iqbal, a Bangladeshi who works at an Indian restaurant in London and marries the much younger Alsana. Naturally enough, their children Irie Jones and the twin Iqbal brothers, Magid and Millat, are friends in multicultural present-day north London. Samad, concerned that his boys are losing their culture, sends one brother, Magid, home to be raised by relatives in Chittagong. Irie and Millat, caught smoking marijuana in the schoolyard, agree to be tutored by classmate Joshua Chalfen in order to avoid harsher consequences. The Jewish-Catholic-atheist Chalfens are a stereotypical white liberal family, delighted to welcome such multicultural diversity into their home. Irie Jones has an unrequited desire for Millat; Joshua Chalfen has an unrequited love for Irie.
Marcus Chalfen is a genetic engineer who is working on a project called FutureMouse. Every event in FutureMouse’s life will be programmed and predictable; the mouse is to live for exactly seven years, from 1993 to December 31, 1999, the eve of the new millennium. The many threads of the novel come together at an event where FutureMouse will be introduced...
(The entire section is 495 words.)