White Teeth

Zadie Smith demonstrates that the characters share a fate that is to repeat the past and will, in turn, induce consequences. However, not all characters rely on their fate as Archie’s coin flipping emphasizes his reliance on chance. Though many characters consider the consequences that could ensue before they go about their actions, their fate has cemented their decisions and is shown through Smith’s use of historical chapters identified by “Root Canals.” The “root canal” chapters act as a way to enlighten the reader on each character’s past decisions and actions.

In previous sections, the root canals have set the background for Archie, Samad, Mangal Pande, and Hortense. Thus, this section allows the reader to recognize how history is being repeated through Archie, as he is shot in the leg saving Dr. Perret a second time (after the revelation of what really happened to his leg in the war) and Millat, as he reaches for the gun just as his ancestor, Mandal Pande, but is unable to assassinate the intended person.

Archie, who has made no decisions without the tossing of his coin to this point in the book, is forced to make a decision when he sees Millat reaching for the gun to shoot Dr. Perret, “So as the gun sees the light, he is there, he is there with no coin to help him… he is there between Millat Iqbal’s decision and his target, like the moment between thought and speech, like the split-second intervention of memory or regret” (442). Millat’s assassination attempt was a choice but was fated to be unsuccessful by his family’s history. Archie’s normal dependence on chance is destroyed as he is forced to make a choice without the justification of his coin. The inclusion of fate and free will serve as a major theme in the novel and is sealed by the repetition that happens in a family’s generations, as well as in the character’s own lives.


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