In White Teeth the first wartime meeting of Archie and Samad testifies to the power of trauma in forgingmutual loyalty and friendship. Both are palpably incomplete individuals. Archie is a callow, inexperienced virgin. The pompous Samad waits for a daughter to be born to the influential Begum family with whom an arrangement has been reached by his own. Subsequently, he marries his younger and far from docile wife, Alsana. Migrating to Britain, the unlikely couple produce twin boys, Magid and Millat, facing racism in the East End of London stirred by Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. This causality stresses that the private and public are intimately interrelated, and operates in the immediacy of such lives. Archie and Samad meet again in the mid-1970s, forging an unlikely friendship. The Iqbals have escaped Powellism, settling in Willesden, becoming neighbours of the Jones family consisting of Archie, his younger Jamaican wife, Clara, and their mixed race daughter, Irie. The three children share childhood experiences, and during adolescence do so within three highly self-conscious families, exploring both the relations of the past and present. This combination of a familial perspective and retrospection allows various multi-chronic and shifting viewpoints to become centripetal.
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