White Teeth (Chapters 7-9)

Although Zadie Smith constructs Samad as a complex character in relation to Archie, his position in multicultural London society showcases anti-feminism and presents him as the “supermale” of the novel.  Despite two previous feminist movements in the Western world, Samad is an example of the backlash that surmounted in the 80’s responding to the increasing empowerment of women.

Leading up to Chapter Ten, Samad is portrayed as super masculine in his ideas and actions, especially in the way he treats women.  In Chapter Seven, Samad demeans Poppy during one of their meetings by suggesting that the two of them are incapable of discussing or acting any thing other than the “physical.”  In this section of the text, Samad makes Poppy feel as if she does not have the authority to speak about “metaphysical” issues, suggesting that those topics are left for men to talk about (151).   Samad quickly reiterates this point again, when they have a small spat, Poppy’s feelings are obviously hurt, and Samad attempts to make it better by focusing the discussion back to fulfilling his sexual desires, admitting to Poppy that he wants to “spend the night” with her (151).  Poppy is a sex object that Samad uses to his advantage, even though he portrays the affair innocently when asked about having sex.  Samad dehumanizes Poppy again when he ends their affair suddenly (because of his sons), without seeming to care about Poppy’s feelings at all.

Samad’s disinterest in his wife’s feelings also illuminates him as a patriarch in the novel.  Rather than feeling guilty or thinking about his wife during his meetings with Poppy, Samad again and again focuses on the negative impacts he is having on his two sons.  Samad is worried only about the other two males in his life, and this seems to be majorly for religion’s sake.

Samad as Muslim in the novel dramatically reinforces patriarchal tendencies to need to hold on to tradition and return to the past.  Although a section of the novel attempts to differentiate between religion and tradition, it is intertwined for Samad.  Samad strongly earns for his roots and wishes for his sons to experience and know the tradition of his culture, so much that he sends Migad back to Bengal despite disaster and bloodshed.   For Samad, the power of tradition and knowing one’s culture is more important the potential harm it might cause to his son.  This is an important point in the construction of Samad as a symbol of patriarchy because it displays the attitudes Samad has toward progression and the dichotomies he creates because of it.  Samad views progression as immorality, and the rigid rituals of his religion reinforce the patriarchal fear of women’s empowerment.  Samad ridicules and even beats Alsana because she is not as traditional as he; he accuses her of swallowing England whole (166).  As the physical fight ensues, it becomes more obvious that Samad is resentful to anyone who does not wish to hold onto the roots of their past, even if those roots are tainted by false memories and nostalgia.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. kelseywhelan2013
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 15:41:53

    I agree that the religion of many characters in the novel emphasize patriarchal tendencies, especially in Samad’s treatment of Alsana and Poppy. This treatment of women is also highlighted at the end, as Smith reveals that it wasn’t until December 31, 1999 that Abdul-Mickey opened his doors to women and Samad and Archie were accompanied by their wives for the first time in the pub.

    Reply

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