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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The most prominent theme in the novel, White Teeth, by critically-acclaimed author Zadie Smith is multiculturalism. In particular, a vision of harmonious multiculturalism in modern-day Britain.

The protagonists of the story—the Jones and Iqbal families of London—represent interracial/intercultural marriage. Jones children are part-white British and part-Jamaican. The Iqbal children are British-born Bangladeshi. The other primary characters in the novel, the Chalfen family, are Jewish-Catholic-atheists with liberal political roots.

The novel features love triangles among the children of these three families as they get older, thus physically and symbolically intermingling the different cultures they represent. Some children are sent off to Jamaica and Bangladesh for a re-education on their roots.

This illustrates the sub-theme of balancing one's cultural roots—representing the past—with the multicultural present and future. The setting of the story takes place at the turn of the 21st century, which was a time when the "Millennium bug," a.k.a. Y2K, was a popular end times theory.

The uncertainty of the 2000s frames the utopian ideals that is presented in the story by Smith, and makes the multicultural theme seem even more important, as multiculturalism is considered by the liberal theorists as a pillar of societal progress.

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Critical Essays