Alkis T.

International Literary Criticism Conference, LIT CRI '14, İstanbul, Turkey, 3 - 05 November 2014, pp.211-219 identifier

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • Volume:
  • City: İstanbul
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.211-219
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University Affiliated: No


Zadie Smith's contemporary novel, White Teeth seems to be based on the male characters' significant stories. She divides her book into four sections: three of them are entitled with male names and centre on male protagonists' experiences while only one is named with a young female protagonist, Irie. Actually, Smith's narrative implies that phallocentric discourse generally underestimates women's stories by hiding their struggles behind the patriarchal superiority. Man is favoured as a representative of society and as a protagonist of all the struggles and experiences of life while woman is reduced to a minor position in the binary system of antagonistic masculine ideology. Smith emphasizes the viewpoint of patriarchal society by showing Irie's imprisonment in the male-dominated world. Therefore, White Teeth not only represents the male characters' stories but it also highlights the woman's struggle against the dominance of patriarchal England. This paper concentrates on Irie, who is at the core of the binaries with her Jamaican mother and English father. It aims to show her struggles and experiences within and against the binary system of antagonistic masculine ideology and her challenge to the trap of this opponent system. She, as a black woman, is entrapped into stereotyped inferiority especially through the racial and gender binaries of masculine ideology. In White Teeth, Irie is immediately identified with her Jamaican body which is under the threat of colonization by rational man who is seen as the representative of mind. Patriarchy manipulates woman with its so-called universal oppositions in order to standardize her into socially-accepted gender roles and norms. Binary system is one of the most significant weapons of masculine ideology to privilege man's unchallengeable presence with the primary terms of the system like mind while categorizing woman as inferior with the secondary terms like body. Irie has to strip off the ready-made categorizations on her gender and race, and wake up from the illusionary trap of the hierarchical system in order to gain her self-expression, rather than be defined by labels, binaries, and cliches.