Tuesday, March 27, 2012

White Teeth by Zadie Smith Ch 12-14

These few chapters, I found hilarious. The Chalfens are interesting characters. They are the type of people who are very book smart but know nothing beyond themselves. They have no common sense or real world ethics. They are contained in their own little world, at least the parents are. Their son Oscar seems not to fit inside that little world, but the parents are oblivious to that fact. I can understand the attraction that Millat and Irie feel for them. The Chalfens let their children do whatever they want, and the parents support it. Joshua was caught smoking pot, and his parents did not seem the least bit concerned about that fact, even though he wasn’t really smoking pot. The freedoms that the Chalfen children have would be intriguing to any child with over-protecting parents. However, as a parent, I think there is a time when you have to stop being your child’s friend and actually be a parent. They even encourage Joshua to have sex! While this may be every teenager’s version of dream parents, they are not really parents. With that said, I have known some real life families where this system actually works. I don’t understand it, but it works. Their children were friends of mine, and they were honor students, well-behaved, and the friends that every parent wishes their children had. They never got spanked or really punished. Any time they did something wrong, their parents would sit down with them and rationalize why it was wrong. I cannot imagine trying that with my children. It would be like preaching to a brick wall. It brings about this whole idea of nature versus nurture. As Mother Chalfen points out, it can’t all be about nurture, genes have to play a part.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

White Teeth by Zadie Smith Ch 9-11

These chapters were more background than anything else. We got a background on the bar, the school, and the school’s benefactor. I liked the background of Glenard. It resonated with the story of Samad. Glenard wanted to do something for the future, but he wanted to do it for himself, to make himself feel good about his life. He wanted to be able to say that he did good deeds. Samad has done the same thing with sending his son back to his roots. He wants to do something to “save” his children, so he splits up his family and sends his son to be taught by someone else how to be a good Muslim. The irony of both situations is that, even though they did these actions for selfish reasons, both actions seemed to have turned out well, so far. Glenard, although his factory did not work out as he had planned, inadvertently made way for a school to be born, which, theoretically, enriches the lives of students in the community. Samad’s decision, again so far, seems to have panned out well for Magid. While learning a lot, Magid appears to be enriching his life in many aspects by winning awards, such as the essay contest. Also similarly, Glenard’s school while professing the enrichment of students is a breeding ground of pot-heads and junkies; Samad’s decision to allow Magid a better life backfires in the fact that the more educated Magid becomes the less faithful he seems to be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

White Teeth by Zadie Smith Ch 5-8

These chapters are different from 1-4 in that we have very little input from the women. Even though the first few chapters did tell Archie’s story, we received a good amount of the point of view of the female characters.

Samad seems as unhappy in his marriage as Alsana. The affair can slightly be excused by the fact that Samad is stuck in an arranged marriage, but, at the same time, it still has a stigma. Samad seems to fall apart once he makes that step towards sin and corruption. Samad compares his situation to Archie’s situation with the Russian doctor, although I am not convinced that Archie actually killed the good doctor. If that comparison stands true, then Archie has overcome and moved on from his slip from purity, while Samad cannot get over his decision to fall from grace. Because he is unable to deal with his own guilt, Samad attempts to overcome by setting his son(s) on the right path. As a twin, I am appalled at the idea of splitting up the brothers. As a parent, I am torn. On the one hand I would be grateful to be able to give even one of my children the opportunity at a better life. On the other hand, I would be riddled with guilt for the lesser life I am leaving for my other child.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

White Teeth by Zadie Smith: Ch. 1-4

At this point in the novel I am reminded again of Herland. The argument about women’s expectation before marriage versus the reality after marriage speaks out. I like the contrast of the three women so far. Clara marries with the hopes that it will free her from her current situation. Alsana has an arranged marriage, very traditional. Then, you have the opposing, more modern, character of Neena, the Niece of Shame. Clara and Alsana both are disappointed in their marriages, yet they settle themselves with the idea that they have married good men and that should be enough. Neena, however, is the voice of the next generation, even though she is around the same age as Clara and Alsana. Neena has a more modern view of marriage where you should get to know the guy, fall in love, and then get married. I think both Alsana and Clara expected that their marriages would give them a better life, and, now, they are struggling with the reality of marrying older men with pasts.

When it comes to Sam and Archie, I can sympathize with them. In no way do I think that they are great husbands, although certainly not horrid. But, as someone who served in the military, I know what it feels like to want to relive those soldiering days. When you are a soldier, you have honor and respect. You know that what you are doing is the ultimate of respectable duties. When you get out of the military, it is as though all of that respect and honor disappears. No one remembers that you served your country. It can be difficult to live in the civilian world when you have to take a dead-beat job just to pay the bills. You start thinking, “I am better than this. I was a soldier!” I think that it is naturally to cling to that memory, whether the experience was good or bad. I also think that it is a yearning that most civilians don’t understand.