Social Chameleon: New Immigrants’ Dilemmas in White Teeth

  • 吳 婉榕

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis will conduct a close reading of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth to explore the social dilemmas and conflicts encountered by post-war immigrants Most critics who analyze White Teeth tend to focus on racial and identity issues This thesis will not only discuss the identity construction of immigrants but examine the oppression female immigrants suffer in both the public and the private spheres both of which contribute to the ambiguity of their identities Given that the second generation immigrants are caught at a juncture between two different cultures their responses in attempting to solve this identity crisis is to either mimic western culture or staunchly defend their native cultures and traditions Through analysis of the responses of the main characters in White Teeth the thesis will explore how immigrants of color confront social problems and the strategies they adopt in seeking out and understanding their identities Chapter One will discuss the first generation immigrant’s social dilemmas in England Samad a Bangladeshi immigrant treats his religion and culture as the means of constructing his identity; consequently he expects his son to maintain his roots by embracing his culture or by returning to his homeland Chapter Two will focus on the second generation immigrants Though the younger generation is raised within the mainstream culture of England they still suffer marginalization and social exclusion The immigrants act like social chameleons that must adapt and camouflage themselves in order to fit into (or hide) as a means of survival within this predominantly white society Irie’s attempt at inclusion tends to revolve around impersonating western culture Millat on the other hand with his distorted religious beliefs still considers his religion an integral part of his identity Whether the characters choose to be westernized or return to their homeland or the culture of their origins it suggests that the hybridity of their identity not only is inescapable but is becoming a norm within a multicultural society Chapter Three will discuss the relationship between Archie and the FutureMouse By analyzing some characters’ perspectives on fate this chapter will show how fatalism and determinism affect the construction of identity In the conclusion the thesis will argue that the development of multiculturalism is inevitable and that in terms of identity construction there must be both sympathy and understanding when dealing with diverse cultures and identities
Date of Award2016 Jul 25
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorShuli Chang (Supervisor)

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