Hypertext and Feminism


Reading has drastically changed with the advancement of technology. Doors to new possibilities have opened and books are no longer acknowledged as single purpose objects. Through digital mediums stories can now be told in experimental and non-traditional fashions. One experimental writing form is hypertext. According to Ted Nelson, hypertext is defined as “a software system that links topics on the screen to related information and graphics, which are typically accessed by a point-and-click method.” Hypertext breaks traditional form and adds several interactive features allowing participants to explore the message or theme at an exceptionally profound level. Nelson believes hypertext was the catalyst for the new era in written word. This new era was drastically different than traditional methods of reading and writing, but was readily accepted by those who utilized digital literary mediums.

“Patchwork girl”, a hypertext story written by Shelly Jackson, uses hypertext to present a feminist message. Jackson tells the story by using drawings of female body parts stitched together through text and illustration. The story and the images utilized to create Patchwork Girl uses this breakage from traditional writing and parallels it with the voice and perspective of a female narrative. Patchwork Girl is written in Hypertext style to give writer Shelly Jackson an experimental voice to mold and shape as her own without being transfixed to a still page. Patchwork girl correlates with an expression of feminism because it moves away from the indoctrinate style of writing with its nonlinear form, its deconstructive body of the monster and its lexias, and the random selection of its text.

As seen through lecture, hypertext has three central defining functions. It has multiple pathways to continue the reading, chunked text, and a navigation system of links. The form of hypertext is revolutionary because it breaks apart linear writing styles and puts it into something completely new. By making the writing nonlinear the author is essentially no longer in control of the flow of the story. Instead, the reader has control and can navigate the story as she or he wishes. The reader chooses the pathway and she or he autonomously concludes the ending.

While some authors of Hypertext stories may etch a constant fixed destination, other Hypertext stories reveal alternate conclusions depending on the reader, at least the reader can choose the road. The reader is not bound by a narrow pathway, but instead she or he has liberty to choose. The journey to the destination matters and choice, freedom, and independence is what Hypertext offers. Equality reverberates in the very foundation of Hypertext.

In Patchwork Girl, Jackson has more of a conversation with the reader about feminism and allows the reader to come to the same conclusion through the nonlinear usage of hypertext. The message of feminism is all about equality and by using hypertext this message is not only in the writing, but it also in the construct. Patchwork Girl has apparent ploys to convey a feminist message, but the hypertext medium itself expresses feminism because it breaks away from tradition. The writer and the reader become equal participants in pushing the story forward. Just like in feminism, both parties are equally important in carrying out to the finished goal. Robert Coover wrote that “the traditional narrative time line vanishes into a geographical landscape or exitless maze, with beginnings, middles and ends being no longer part of the immediate display. Instead: branching options, menus, link markers and mapped networks. There are no hierarchies in these topless (and bottomless) networks, as paragraphs, chapters and other conventional text divisions are replaced by evenly empowered and equally ephemeral window-sized blocks of text and graphics — soon to be supplemented with sound, animation and film” (Coover 707).  He continues by rhetorically asking if hypertexts are “to be linked to the chain of existence and events, (he answers) yes, but bound by it? No. I forge my own links, I am building my own monstrous chain, and as time goes on, perhaps it will begin to resemble, rather, a web.” Coover’s quote repeated by the monster in Patchwork Girl, not only shows the power of feminism underlined, but also relates directly back to usage of hypertext. Hypertext is completely different from the traditional hierarchal form of writing and just like the monster wishes to be something equal and autonomous, hypertext does so simultaneously.

The first image that is seen when entering the story of Patchwork Girl is the deconstructed monster. The body metaphorically represents the body of text that is the story and the body that must be sewn together in order to unfold itself into its story. This monster parallels greatly with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and is also equally as important to understand and travel through to comprehend the message of feminism behind the story. The female monster correlates Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein’s monster and offers a parallel to the words of Mary Shelly’s monster. What the monster in Frankenstein yearned for the most was a female companion to be his equal counterpart so he did not have to live in solitude, dominating over another sex. The wish was denied in Frankenstein, however this power of equality is granted in Patchwork Girl as the author stitches the patchwork of the story and creates the female monster. Frankenstein thinks better of creating the female counterpart in Mary Shelly’s book and destroys the monster and in Patchwork girl the female monster is given a voice to parallel as the reader patches it together. The reader essentially gives the monster life and the female monster interrupts the voice of Mary Shelly and remarks “I told her to abort me, raze me from her book; I did not want what he wanted. I laughed when my parts lay scattered on the floor, scattered as the bodies from which I had sprung discontinuous as myself rejoice to be.” The body is reassembled by reading about all of the different body parts and the story cannot continue without first reassembling the body parts of the monster and thus giving it the voice and option to speak its story. (PatchworkGirl)

Hypertext relents the author from taking dominance by allowing the reader to make the choice of which text box to click on and continue the story. The link between written and stitch not only portrays the metaphor written in the following body paragraph, but also shows the equal importance of the reader and the writer. The reader must stitch the story together and the writer is responsible for the text on the screen. Both links to sewn and writing parallel each other to convey this importance. There are five paths for the reader to take; “the graveyard, the journal, the quilt, the story, and the broken accents.” The reader chooses where to begin by constructing the story together. The reader in a sense is responsible for constructing the monster by which text box they decide to click on. All text boxes lead to several more text boxes in which the reader again gets to choose randomly of how to progress this story. The reader is essentially the parallel of Frankenstein and is responsible to giving life to the female counterpart of the monster. Shelley Jackson uses the voice of the monster to remark on how the original Frankenstein story structure and control of the author kept the monster back. “I alone remember the real Mary. Her curious mix of resonance and passion. The part that twisted under me with a dark satisfaction and the part that wiped her hands afterward and twitch the curtains open with punitive haste. You can see it in her book. How she embeds her tale in a thickness of letters and second hand account as if precaution were needed to secure the monster behind those locks and screens.” The usage of hypertext gives the monster more dominance vs in Mary Shelly’s story where the still pages in them self held the monster back and kept it constrained. It is only through the random selections of story that allows the female monster it’s free voice to speak openly and lively with the reader. The author seems to have little power to what the monster will say next because it is not controlling the voice.

Patchwork girl is an expression of feminism because it moves away from the indoctrinate style of writing with its nonlinear form, its deconstructive body of the monster and its lexias, and the random selection of its text. Hypertext diverges from the hegemonic style of writing and provides freedom for writers and readers. Not only does hypertext writing reflect the feminist theory, but the theme within Patchwork Girl explicitly reflects the medium through which the story is written. Without the shared control, the work perhaps could not be close read and defined as something equal. Nor would it be able to parallel with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein so deeply to its very core and would lose its ability to critique the author through structure. Hypertext is one of many experimental forms of the digital that opens the door to convey new messages. It is important to understand how hypertext can be used so a deeper point can come across to the reader.

“House of Paper”/Evolution in a Digital Era


Not all books owned come with the intention of reading. Some books can fill a house, but with little purpose other than decoration and as a reflection of how people want to be viewed by the outside world. With the rapid growth of digital literacy it is arguable that books are far less valuable then they once were. In the “House of Paper”, Carlos Maria Dominguez indicates that the function of a book on a bookshelf changes from person to person. Through textual evidence and explication of the character of Carlos Brauer, Dominguez persuades the reader and himself that in the Digital Age the survival of books relies on the recognition of the different purposes that a book holds.

Books are “capable of surviving one, two, or twenty centuries, of in some ways defeating the sands of time.” (Dominguez76) As seen through Nicole Howard in “The Life Story of a Technology” books are survivors, but not without change. Although a book is not a living organism, it is in a lot of ways alive and must adapt with the times, or face the threat of being left behind. There are a lot of aspects about books that have already changed over time. Typography for one is no longer created for its aesthetic beauty, as it once was in the 15th century, but now is printed with the mindfulness of space and clarity. There is no question to whether this new format changes the experience, but the consequences of holding onto the past too tightly result in the destruction of the object. In “The House of Paper” Carlos Brauer insisted on reading books that came before the twentieth century with candle light and urged his peers to do the same. The consequence that came with the inability to accept a book as an evolving technology resulted in the literal destruction of his index-file cabinet, without of which he could no longer find any of his books. Brauer was reluctant to create a modern device that would section off his books, but came to the sickening conclusion without the technological progress the books could no longer be found and read. In chapter two of “The House of Paper” Dinarli complains about people who bind old books. “I can’t persuade them to give up the obscure pleasure of the guillotine.” (Dominguez28) Binders are meant to give a book life again so that it can be used for new purposes and it can survive. However, many hold on to the history of what a book was and are reluctant to use it for anything else. They let books sink into their own graves to preserve what they once were. Books weren’t meant to be chained down to desks forever and they shouldn’t be treated as though they were.

With the invention of The Printing Press books became easily accessible to everyone. The journey of a book is no longer singular, but multi-dimensional. In the House of Paper Dominguez gives the reader several examples about the ways books change people’s destines and the journeys that they take them on, but what is even more remarkable is the way that a person can change a book’s destiny. It can be argued that a book doesn’t have a destiny because it is not alive. However, In “The House of Paper” as well as Howard’s “The Life of a Technology” there are a lot of similarities between books and people. In “The House of Paper” books have human characteristics; they laugh and talk with their owners and there a lot of images with books that have human facial features. Howards formation of the autobiography of a book was established in three sections that resembled a human lifespan; youth, adolescence, and adulthood. The relevance in all of these similarities lies into two explanations. One, books evolve over time like people do because they are essentially alive and two, being the way that people can change a books destiny. “To build up a library is to create a life.” (Dominguez35) Meaning, people are what give a book a life and they can easily take that life away. On page 54 of “The House of Paper” Dominguez learns of the books that were “carefully laid out in such a way that they reproduced the mass and outline of a human body.” It is interesting to note that the books didn’t place themselves on the bed in that formation, but were put there by a person. The magic and value that books hold is only animated as long as the reader gives it to them. It is the responsibility of people alone to determine the survival of a book by giving the book multi functions.

With the technological advancements in the digital era, books aren’t exactly the most convenient resource to use for reading anymore. In a lot of cases they are often bulky, heavy objects that take up unnecessary space. In mass quantities they can overwhelm homes and grow out from there original booksheleves just as they did to Brauer and Domiguez. Ebooks have become the prominent source of reading in this period and books for reading have decreased rapidly from what it was a century ago. Now, like so many times before, books have evolved. The functions of a book change from person to person. In the beginning of Chapter 4 it describes books being used as furniture, as means to keep furniture together—propping up a table, they are used to store things; leaves, flowers, money, letters…Braurer even uses the books to build a house. Books can be used for the simple satisfaction of having other people view them. Delgado kept his books in a separate part of his house with no intention of ever reading most of them, but still felt an overwhelming sense of pride when people saw them. He claimed that, “books should not get contaminated by domestic life.” (Dominguez 34) There are people and books that disagree with the function of being a decoration. Books can act as entity of a person, like an arm or leg. A book can be reflection of one’s own journey and can be falling to bits, with a broken spine and a missing cover, but is kept as a reminder of who that person is. Marshal Mcluhan illustrates what Dominguez writes on 21 in “The Medium is the Massage.” Books can function as a form of show business. Dominguez writes;

There were brilliant stars in the literary firmament, people who earned a fortune overnight with dreadful books that were promoted by their publishers, in newspaper supplements, through marketing campaigns, literary prizes, ghastly films, and prominent, paid-for-positions in bookshop windows. (Dominguez21)

A purpose of a book can sometimes simply be produced as an object that only serves to a monitorial value. Just as people fall into the Harry Potter franchise. It’s about marketing a book and giving it the multi-purpose to become a movie and a poster and a five-foot cut out of the heroine. Owning the book can be a symbol of being apart of something.

Brauer’s inability to see books with any other purpose besides things that needed to be read was his fatal flaw when it came to his books survival. In a lot of ways Brauer was a metaphor for what Mcluhan would refer to as “rearview mirror thinking”. Instead of torturing himself and letting himself be kicked out of his bedroom and take cold showers in both the summer and the winter, why didn’t he just buy a kindle? Owning a book to read it is no longer enough to sustain it. If there is an attachment, or another function it is hard for a book to progress into the digital era. Braurer’s reluctance to see a book as an entity that went past something that could be read is what led those books the path to their watery grave. The lack of innovation from the owner can also change the destiny of a book. Dominguez decided the fate of the Conrad book when he saw the destruction of the other books in the sea. when he saw the destruction of the other books in the sea. “What else could a book do here but bury itself in the sand, let itself be eaten away in the darkness, suddenly break the surface like the remains of a shipwreck?” (Dominguez85) The Conrad’s book, although it could not be read had in that moment had the purpose of a talisman. Thus, it survived but if the owner had chosen alternatively it could have easily have been to waste away at the bottom of the ocean.

The survival of book relies on the owner recognizes its different functions. The function of a book changes from person to person, but in all cases a book has surpassed its need to be something that is merely read. Through the story of Brauer and the choices of Dominguez the survival of a book can be found based on the recognition of the books evolution. If a book is used as something from the past, it will stay in the past. Digital Literacy will not destroy the book as long as the book can change its function. Just because the book is just read, doesn’t mean it has died. It has just evolved.

Milton Behind the Story of Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost is definitely a book that I want to read again. I read this book in school first so my review will primarily be a history lesson on why this book became.

It is a book that a lot of people have confused with real events, but I like the concept of having Lucifer have more human nature before the fall. There is so much background of the story as well that made me appreciate the book that much more. Seeing as the book was written during a time when the freedom speech was not a well known practice Milton indirectly used this novel to compare the heavenly revolt against the angels to the English Civil Wars of 1642.

England was divided in the 1640s between two political groups; the Royalists and Parliamentarians.
The Royalists consisted of a group of people who supported King Charles I absolute power.
Milton was among the Parliamentarians who believed that the country should be governed by Parliament and the King’s Power should not be absolute.

Milton was very much politically involved during his time. He stood in strong opposition against absolutists like Richard Lovelace and Thomas Hobbes who were the opposing contemporaries of his time.

After Beheading King Charles I, the Parliamentes set out to have parliament govern the nation, but their plan failed and the monarchy was restored by his son King Charles II.
Milton essentially fell from paradise and was thrown in prison for several years of his life
When he was released he wrote Paradise Lost “in honor of the King”

Milton used “Paradise Lost” as an opportunity to share a political message against the monarchy of England and utilized Lucifer to be the promethean hero who brought consciousness to man.

Of course in a Christian light Lucifer will always be the villain, but in paradise lost he plays the role of the anti-hero
Lucifer, the light bearer who defied the king of heaven, who was damned for attempting to equal god, cursed our 1st human ancestors and thus tainted us forever with the mark of sin. But perhaps this is not so….

When looking at how similar Lucifer is to Milton it can be perceived that Lucifer is a sympathetic character who is trying to give human kind consciousness to the tyrannical rule of God.
The fact that we both fell and that the fall of man is introduced in book I first, the reader is already set up a relation to the protagonist.
In Lines 755-757 a solemn council of demons discuss the next plan of action after being expelled from paradise. This parallels the rule of heaven and its absolute monarchy. Here Lucifer and his followers can be viewed as the ‘roundheads’; supporters of parliament who fought against King Charles I.

How to learn about History


In  history we have discovered that there are different variations and interpretations of the past. We have learned the importance of thinking critically and effectively in order to take in what is accurate and how to disregard the rest. There are several people who look at history as something that’s exactly how its seen in text. This is a folly of all kinds of sorts starting with the known knowledge that text books and people are riddled with mistakes. To know exactly what happened in history we must study the interpretations of the works of the historians not the past itself. Several historians saw the importance of this type of analytical thinking and through it were all able to contribute to the study of western history in their own way.

Thucydides, an ancient Greek historian of the fifth century and the earliest critical historian, wrote a justly famous account of the Peloponnesian Wars and was vastly known for his principled use of evidence and analysis. Through the study of the Peloponnesian war he was able to observe that the   interaction of states followed a a very structured pattern. It has been said that he plays  a big part in power theories and through his ideas we can contribute to the social hierarchy and to individual human behavior. Thucydides was what people first began to call a true historical spirit. According to  the historiography packet on page 4,  Niccolo Machiavelli, who centered his study history around the religion he partook in, believed that the function of history was not to reveal God’s plans in the lives of men—as often seen in the Middle Ages, but simply to narrate the experiences of particular states and individuals without reference to a divine plan.

Leopold Von Ranke, a German historian, (1795-1886) was the founding father of academic history. He was the first to establish discipline in critical thinking and contributed that all sound history must be based on primary sources, historical mindedness and rigorous “scientific method.” Before Ranke we didn’t have systematic uses that helped us keep history critical and organized. He helped the world transition into a set of skills towards the use of critical thinking that we have been able to apply to the study of history today. He stressed on one of the most important techniques in studying history which was basing any historical narrative firmly on the reading of primary sources. He believed that a reader should not take information lightly and should always analyze and annotate the text before allowing the information into a realm of possibility.

Karl Marx stressed the importance of social and economic forces in human affairs. Marx, a German economist and revolutionary philosopher is “widely recognized as one of the most influential thinkers of the last one hundred years.” Much of the study of western history and the appreciation for it can be seen as a contribution from Marx’s philosophies. Some of these philosophies being, the belief that as seen on page 6 of the historiography packet, that societies would develop through a number of steps ending in the formation of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and, inevitably become a classless society. Since these theories have never been able to be denied or accepted Marx has become a bit controversial. Marx was able to open the eyes of people into formulating the economic interpretation of history. “Marx argued that, at any given point in time, the mode of economic production determined, to a great extent, the character of the entire society-its ideas, values, political structure, and social relations.” He believed that economic qualities were the reasons for every social and political issues with society. There are few historians who would argue with his practices and the importance of economic value regarding the study and analysis of history.

Charles A. Beard followed up on this theory of important economic value in the study of history. Although concurred that he is no Marx, Beard was able to kind of transition what Marx believed and develop it more thoroughly. In “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States” published in 1914, Beard examined the economic interests of the framers of the constitution and concluded that it was designed to protect those economic values then in order to protect the political rights of the citizens. This opinion is extremely controversial but can be given gain to the study of western history by thinking critically.

T.B. Macaulay, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson all had one very important thing in common. Apart from all  having an intense interest in social history and the reasoning of why people did the things that they did, they were all thoroughly able to take that human analysis and apply it to the study of social history. T.B. Macaulay was said to be the history of history. He’s most famous for the third chapter in his “History of England” which he wrote in the mid 19th century. Sigmund Freud was most commonly known for his psychoanalysis and sometimes offensive beliefs and ideas. Just as Marx believed that economics played the leading role in history, Freud believed it to be more on psychology. Freud’s beliefs were widely practiced during the slaughter World War I and then later followed up by the practices of Erik Erikson. Erik Erikson, most famous for his contribution in psycho-history, also believed that human nature was a vital part towards history. His study in “Young Man Luther” (1958) as found in the historiography packet on page 9 can be seen as the contribution to why historians pay such close attention to the people of history.

All historians who have contributed to the study of history hold an extreme importance in the play of it all. Without any of philosophers and historians previously listed we would not be aware of the many interpretations in history and know the bases of critical thinking and analytical study. Text books are tainted with opinions and perceptions. Thanks to these people we are able to see that more clearly and can really know what happened in history.

The “F” Word



The role of a feminist is often misconstrued by the public and reduced down to some pretty degrading stereotypes. Some of the questions that were debunked were at a seminar I attended such as; feminists hate me, feminists don’t believe in marriage, feminists are angry; feminists aren’t feminine etc. All were proved to be false. Three presenters further explicated the role of feminists after the demonstration.

The first speaker was a man; which in my opinion spoke in waves simply because one of the common beliefs about feminists is that they are solely women. Which clearly is not the case. He started his speech with a bit of fire stating that although he had a class during this time he did not find it a good enough reason to not be there. He explained that life acts as a way to present us with a series of sometimes completely logical excuses to not put in the effort to create equality for women. However as long as women are not treated equally there can be no excuse for a person to not act. It impacts us all. He explained that he teaches philosophy, but tries to put in as many female writers into the curriculum as possible. Although he has often been ridiculed for it by his colleagues he finds that women need to recognized as great philosophers in history as well.

The Second speaker spoke primarily on white feminism. She made the audience understand on a more personal level of what white feminism was by using current pop culture events like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. Both of which have a lot of voice right now in the media and are considered to be feminist. The problem is that they focus solely on their own problems and forget to branch out to other races and sexual orientations. White feminism is not usually something purposefully done. It is easy to forget about the things that don’t include yourself and since white women are typically privileged in the ideas of an ignorant society; their problems are what are heard

The third speaker was an African American woman who was a previous Aztec and now is working for the LAPD. She spent her presentation talking mostly about police and how they are constantly misunderstood because of the media and how it is on both parts of the civilian and the officer to coexist. Regrettably, I didn’t see how this correlated much with feminists since she didn’t really mention any women, but I suppose that’s just a reminder to me that I still have a lot to learn and feminism is a broad concept.

All three presentations were very different, with three very different people, but that just shows that feminism cannot be branded as any specific topic. There is a lot that goes into being a feminist and working for equal rights goes beyond equal pay and sex. It is up to everyone to act towards a common goal and o stop making excuses to put it off.

Zadie Smith “White Teeth” vs Charles Dickens “Great Expectations” Essay on White Privilege

This is a paper I wrote for an English course at my university, but I am posting it because I find that it is very relevant to issues today and hope that it will provoke thought about the society we live in and how it has changed over history.


White Privilege

The characters in both “White Teeth” and “Great Expectations” are heavily judged for their social status. The rich and successful are greatly respected while the lower class suffers from their societal status. In White Teeth, Zadie Smith presents characters that carry little identity confidence because of their perceived place in society. Smith’s characters live with slim to nil hopes of being successful and advancing in the social construct. Their precarious conditions stem from external forces such as racism, religious intolerance, and low self-esteem. Social class is also prevalent in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Some key players struggle and thrive on scarcity. However, despite their humble beginnings some characters do transcend beyond their static life and rise above their positions. In Great Expectations, the one common obstacle standing between a character and advancements are finances. In White Teeth, it’s not the lack of money that robs the characters from happiness, success, or confidence. There are several hurdles in the way. The characters in White Teeth face greater societal obstacles than the characters in Great Expectations because Smith’s characters are constantly at war with racism, religious intolerance, and identity crisis.

Racism is explicitly apparent on the first chapter of White Teeth. Aside from the jarring racial slurs, the reader is quickly informed characters will be described by their ethnicities. These descriptions, often expressed in derogatory manners by some characters, occur throughout the novel. Even so, the first few pages provide examples.

On page four, Smith introduces a boy named Varin, “a massively overweight Hindu boy” who works at a butcher shop. Varin could have been introduced as a “kind young man”, but his ethnicity is presented second to being physically unhealthy. Soon after, someone supervising Varin begins poking him in the rear with a broom handle, giving orders to wipe off the dead pigeons recently killed by the shop owner. The kitchen worker jeers, “come on, Mr. Fatty-Man …poking as punctuation for each word. Get-your-fat-Ganesh-Hindu-backside-up-there-Elephant-Boy-and-bring-some-of-that-mashed-pigeon-stuff-with-you” (Smith 5). Today, human rights laws prohibit racial slurs in the work environment. Poking someone on her or his bottom with a broom handle would warrant a lawsuit. Verin is clearly robbed of his human rights. This sort of abuse demeans a person, can cause anxiety and depression, and can damper their capability of achieving positive self-worth. According to an article found in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior published in 2012, racism and discrimination “is associated with worse mental health and physical health …and contributes to the relationship between multiple disadvantage statuses and health” (Grollman). Furthermore, the article explains that the chronic exposure to racism can accumulate over time and “ones opportunities and life chances predicts worse health” (Grollman 2). Racism is negatively charged and can smother and snuff a person’s self-worth and self-confidence out, hindering the pursuit of full potential. The over-arching theme of racism throughout the novel is borrowed from Smith’s own experiences growing up in “the so-called ‘Thatcher era’ – the time when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister – was labeled by “a desire for a mono-lingual, mono-cultural Britain”: individualism and nationalism came to a new rise, and national identity was associated with being white.” (Holopainen). Smith

On page seventy-six, the characters Samad Iqbal and Archie Jones find themselves soldiering with two others in a tank during their younger years. Samad begins to gripe and express his misfortune. He believes he should have been an officer instead of an enlisted soldier. However, instead of receiving any sympathy or perhaps annoyance from his peers, Samad is suppressed because of his skin color. A soldier by the name of Roy contorts, “Indian officers? That will be the bloody day!” (Smith 76). Furthermore, Archie Jones denies Samad’s right to be English by disallowing him to kill a Nazi scientist. Archie says to Samad that “if anyone has a score to settle it’d probably be me. It’s Englands future we’ve been fighting for. For England, you know? Democracy and Sunday dinner, and …and …prominent piers, and bangers and mash-and the things that are ours. Not yours” (Smith 100). Smith uses Roy and Archie to reflect white English attitude towards non-white English citizens. If Roy and Archie are the reflection of white English perceptions then the non-white Englishman is inherently socially handicapped (Yancy).

Contrast to Great Expectations, education is not enough in White Teeth. While Pip rises from his social status with education, Samad never see’s the advantages. Pip fulfills his dream of becoming a gentleman. However, despite being educated and having served during the Second Great War, Samad’s occupation is a restaurant waiter. During his days in the war, Samad says “I mean, I am educated. I am trained. I should be soaring with Royal Airborne Force, shelling from on high! I am an officer! Not some mullah, some sepoy, wearing out my chappals in hard sevice (Smith 74). In Great Expectations, being educated leads to success. In White Teeth, if you are educated, but not white then your future still remains uncertain. When the characters are not white English then they are considered sub-citizen and less acceptable.

In White Teeth, all the characters seem to have assimilated their class and their ability to move up socially with their identity as being or not being white. The title “White Teeth” in itself is a metaphor for English white heritage or roots. On page 84 of the novel, Archibald explains that although he is dull he is very proud to be a Jones simply because it meant he was of “good English stock” (Smith). The characters Clara, Samad, and Magid all somehow assimilate themselves into white culture to move up in social rank. Clara is described to have changed her soul as the “Donny Osmond or Michael Jackson or the Bay City Rollers” (Smith 32). All three characters either change their identity or portray a societal perception to belong and be accepted by White class. Clara marries a white man and thus moves up her social rank simply by letting go of her heritage, dressing differently, and learning to lose her Jamaican accent. Whenever she found herself slipping back into her ethnic background she felt ashamed. On Clara’s wedding day the novel ties back into the metaphor of the title by explaining that she was wearing false white teeth. Although she had previously lost her teeth in an accident it can be seen that she was wearing Archie, a white Englishman as a way to assimilate herself into white English culture.

Samad is highly educated and often yearns for society to perceive him beyond an “Indian” identification. On page forty-nine, Samad explains his restless desire to demonstrate to the world that he is more than what he is commonly perceived. He deeply wants the world to see him as a person with depth, three-dimensional, and containing more than one aspect (being Indian). Furthermore, on this page Samad refers to himself as a waiter and not Indian. Smith shows the reader that race ultimately becomes embedded within identity, leaving the characters almost no choice but to identify themselves by their ethnicity regardless of how they feel. Unable to let go of his background as Clara did, Samad never finds his place as an Englishman and is often referred to as an Indian despite the long years spent living in England and fighting for it. He still falls to the fate of the other ethnic characters and assimilates himself into white society by having “the whitest teeth” (Smith 43) and by having an affair with a white woman.

Poppy Burt Jones, the white influence on Samad, tests Samad’s beliefs and practices. Strangely, in some manner, she influences him to dive deeper into English white practices. When Samad first meets Poppy he tells her that he plays bridge to be more attractive and portrays himself to be something other than he is. At the beginning of Chapter Seven, Smith demonstrates that Samad concocts identity by “packing the one shirt he’s never worn to mosque.” He does this to meet up with Poppy (Banerjee).

Additionally, in his early years, Samad can be found detesting the color of his skin and wishing to be less dark. When he was a youth, his mother used to rub white cream all over his body to make him lighter. She believed, as Samad also grew to believe, that he would be successful in life if he could be lighter pigmented (Smith 94). There may also be challenges in this process and, “where the resulting self-definition, for personal or collective reasons, becomes too difficult, a sense of role confusion results” (Erikson, 1968, p. 87) The kids seem unaware of how the adults treat them when it comes to their ethnicity, however as they become adults they are confused with their identities and their place in society. Samad moves his son back home because he believes that it is only in the native land that the children can really learn the culture. This thus further shows that the culture in England is strictly white and that ethnic identity is lost.

Samad furthermore reveals his efforts to assimilate by contradicting his faith and love for the East by trying to affiliate himself with English people and adapting to their customs. He also encourages Poppy’s racist remarks towards his customs and children so that he can remain attractive in her eyes. Magid, Samads son, is first introduced in the story when Samad meets Poppy. She remarks that it is unusual for Magid to be so intelligent and opinionated when Indians kids are usually subdued. Poppy’s racist words and behavior pressures Magid to associate himself as “Mark” while attempting to fully dissociate himself with any Bangladesh practices.

The White characters in the story such as Archie and Poppy feel less pressure to make up for their faults or talents in life because most of their identity is handed to them already. They do not feel the need to talk about their background nor the background of other white folks. They are simply English. They are often making ignorant racial assumptions about their “friends” and feel discomfort when affiliating ethnics and English. Poppy like Archie is said to have very few skills and is comfortable with being a one-show pony. They are handed respected titles like “captain, gentleman and teacher” based on the color of their skin. Archie makes no decisions for himself and leaves everything up to fate, not feeling the pressure other characters in the novel feel to have an identity or purpose in the world.

Unlike Great Expectations it is impossible for the characters of White Teeth to advance socially through carreer or money. The character Samad works with, Shiva, was said to have left the restaurant once in 1979 to start up a security firm, but nobody wanted to hire Paki bouncers so he was forced to comeback and be a waiter. Although Samad is an educated man with many skills he is often overlooked for raises at work and for promotions in the army. Although he personally sees this to be caused by the disability of his right hand, his peers reactions demonstrates that it is greatly to do with him being an Indian and never mention his hand. This was common for immigrants to come over to England with hopes of advancement only to be shot down because of their backgrounds. In Lecture it was seen through the song of “London is the place for me” by Lord Kutchner. In White Teeth this can be portrayed through Clara’s father, Darcus Bowden, who originally came to England to find work and save money to bring his daughter and wife to join and settle in with him. This was never to happen and after 14 years Hortense brought her daughter over by her-self only to find her husband had fallen into lethargy stuck in a chair and watching television, unmoving. (26)

In Great Expectations, some characters act in the interest to advance in society and gain confidence by solidifying some form of social identity. Pip, for example, leaves his sister and brother-in-law to pursuit becoming a Victorian gentleman. Miss Havisham ephemerally attempts teaching Pip English manners and aristocratic customs by inviting him to her home and playing with her protégé, Estella. Many can argue that simple association cannot educate someone. Later through the series, however, Biddy educates Pip. In contrast, characters like Joe Gargary are content with retaining their status and occupational position. Dickens describes as a “was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow,—a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness” (Dickens 2). Being a blacksmith, Joe finds his line of work enjoyable and satisfying. Later in the story, Biddy says “Joe ever did his duty in his way of life, with a strong hand, a quiet tongue, and a gentle heart” (Dickens 35). The differences between Pip and Joe are ambition and humbleness and the only thing stopping either one of them is lack of finances. Comparing the two stories, the challenges obstructing the characters in White Teeth are not matters of money. Characters like Samad and Clara are deprived of fulfilling their dreams because of racial suppression, spawning internal turmoil. The racial stressors then confuse the characters in White Teeth and identity complexes become reality. But race and identity are not the only issues suppressing these characters. The theological normativity in England plays a large role keeping the characters in White Teeth down.

Religious faith in White Teeth holds heavy importance when it comes to how a character will evolve within social class. Faith in this story really seems to hold these characters back when it comes to their agency and dictates huge aspects of their daily lives and aspirations. It is also relative on how they are judged and accepted by society. In regards to white privilege, Christianity and Catholicism are the most accepted religions in Western Countries, in this case, England. Smith demonstrates this when Samad and Archie’s children are first introduced at the beginning of Samad’s section of the book. School holidays celebrated in the school are primarily “white traditions” and when the argument presented to remove Hindu practices to introduce the kids to other cultures is made, it is swiftly turned down (Smith 109). When it comes to the main characters of White Teeth, Samad seems to have put it best:


“The Russians told me. He’s a scientist, like me—but what is his science? Choosing who shall be born and who shall not—breeding people as if the were so many chickens, destroying them if the specifications are not correct. He wants to control, to dictate the future. He wants a race of men, a race of indestructible men that will survive the last days of this earth. But it cannot be done in a laboratory. It must be done, it can only be done, with faith!” (Smith 100).

Faith is arguably the leading factor in which these characters make their decisions and that includes their decisions to move up in class. It is part of their identity and makes it harder for them to go anywhere in a society where their faith is not regularly practiced or understood. Samad expresses on page 120 that he has “been corrupted by England” when it comes to his faith. This can be seen through some of the white practices. So many faiths are allowed in practice, but they are not understood, accepted, or adapted as a part of the dominant culture. When it comes to Clara’s faith and sharing with her anglo-neighborhood she is often met with a face stating that with “the few doors she received the usual pained faces: nice woman shooing her away as politely as possible, making sure they didn’t get too close, scared they might catch religion like an infection” (Smith 29). (Childs) This argument about faith being a part of their culture becomes even more prevalent in the white’s view of the ethnic. For example, Poppy and the school don’t practice tolerance or understand much about the religions they are teaching to the children. They see the events held as more of a “community thing” and make little effort to understand other ways of ethnic culture. Archie also has no faith, other than his need to flip a coin to make decisions. This fifty-fifty faith also mocks religious faith in the way it dictates his life and leads to choices whether it be committing suicide or keeping a red coat rack. Additionally, faith is the first thing that these characters seem to disband of in order to assimilate into white practices. Clara lets go, with heavy guilt, of her faith at the end of the world and Samad starts bargaining his faith when he has an affair with Poppy. It is interesting that these characters feel a need to let go of their faiths in order to assimilate to society.

The only matter standing before any ambitious character in Great Expectations is the lack of money. Aside from social judgment and scarce resources, these characters show no real need to transcend beyond their social status because they are white. Most of the characters in White Teeth, however, face far greater obstacles because they do not fit the cultural, religious, racial description of a white Englishmen. The characters in White Teeth are against large odds because of their social, religious, and racial statuses. Despite earning an income to advance, white Britain seemingly keeps them down. Throughout the book we see the working class and they are not white. Zadie Smith uses White Teeth as an example to magnify on social injustices and teach readers how to improve intercultural communication (Thomas). There is a generation gap in the story to show how people are still affected today by culture. Both mothers in the story feel anxiety for their children’s generation of losing their culture and becoming too transfixed into this white culture. I think this is used to show that their needs to be a balance. It is impossible for an ethnic group to move up in society unless they fully assimilate.








Works Cited


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