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Word Count: 2,166
The Britain of Zadie Smiths White Teeth is one of diversity and multiculturalism What it means to be British or any other nationality for that matter is hazy and ill-defined The novel explores possible criteria for defining nationality--official status genetics race culture--but undercuts each of these criteria by demonstrating its insufficiencies Smith offers two responses to this loss of national identity one radically inclusive the other radically exclusive but undercuts each of these too Ultimately she espouses a view of nationhood that falls between the two approaches--one that recognizes the problems inherent in defining nationality without resorting to hopeless relativism When Archie marries Clara they must each state their nationality Archie writes English and Clara writes Jamaican And yet the seemingly clear-cut distinction is undercut by the very act itself In signing the document Clara becomes a Jones and she also becomes British The distinction is thus blurred even as it is made The inadequacy of this distinction is further emphasized by the ease with which Claras nationality changes The wedding ceremony itself is quick simple and trivial The passage begins This and little more constituted the ceremony 50 before going on to describe the forms the bride and groom have to fill out The twins Millat and Magid demonstrate a further rejection of official status as definitive of nationality We learn that Millat stood schizophrenic one foot in Bengal and one in Willesden He did not require a passport to live in two places at once he needed no visa to live his brothers life and his own he was a twin after all 219 Smith offers genetics as an alternative for defining nationality Irie is described as having ledges genetically designed with another country in mind another climate 266 This could be seen as evidence that Iries genes distinguish her as Jamaican but then her own Jamaican-born mother has European proportions 265 The twins further challenge the validity
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