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Multiculturalism in Zadie Smith’s Short Story “The Waiter’s

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Silvana Meinerz

on 19 December 2014

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Transcript of Multiculturalism in Zadie Smith’s Short Story “The Waiter’s

Modern multicultural Britain
“English dream”;
Complex relations between the characters within a multicultural society;
Comic effect of the multicultural set.
From the British Empire to the Multicultural London
British Empire and the legacy of the English throughout the world
The need of workforce in Britain after the II World War
Fall of the Empire: creation of the Commonwealth

Alsana vs Neena
“‘He [Samad] works,’ replied Alsana tersely. ‘And prays,’ she added, for she liked to make a point of her respectability, and besides she was really very traditional, very religious, lacking nothing except the faith” (Smith 3064)
1947 – India’s Partition, creation of the separate states of Pakistan and East Pakistan (that would later became Bangladesh);
1962 (6 of Aug) – Jamaica became independent from the British Empire;
1971 (16 Dec) – Bangladesh Liberation War – Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan;
1972 (18 Apr) – Bangladesh became a member of the Commonwealth.
Smith’s sharp sarcasm reveals the hypocrisy of the ideology of London as a harmonious “melting pot”;
But it is not a pragmatic exposition of social issues;
No exaltation of immigrants.

Multiculturalism and Assimilation
Cambridge Dictionary: "the belief that different cultures within a society should all be given importance.”
“(…) the view that [cultural] groups should maintain their heritage cultures as much as possible” (Reynolds 1).
Berry: integration, being characterized “(…) by a positive attitude toward both the host and heritage culture” (Reynolds 6).

“(…) the belief that cultural groups should give up their “heritage” cultures and take on the host society’s way of life” (Reynolds 1).
Berry: assimilation “arises when the individual has a positive attitude toward the host culture and a negative attitude toward the heritage culture” (Reynolds 6).

Multiculturalism in Zadie Smith’s Short Story “The Waiter’s Wife”
Neena: “I thought that praying was done on people’s knees.” (Smith 3064)

Alsana: “[Sarah, Abraham' wife] popping out babies when she was a hundred years old, by the grace of Allah,” (Smith 3065)
Neena: “groaning at the turn the conversation is taking” (Smith 3065).

Alsana: “A woman has to have the private things – a husband needn’t be involved in body-business, in a lady’s…
.” (Smith 3065)

Neena: “Bloody Hell, Alsi, he must have been involved in your parts sometime, or is this the immaculate bloody conception?” (Smith 3065)

• Mahatma Gandhi: leader of Indian independence (“Mahatma” - Sanskrit: "high-souled", "venerable");
• Mohammed or Muhammad: considered by Muslims as the last prophet;
• “Morecambe and Wise”: a British television comedy duo.
Push factors:
Political suppression
Bad working conditions
Natural disasters
Pull factors:
Religious and Political freedom
Better jobs
Better living conditions

"English dream": the pursuit of a better life
“(…) some black people
friendly (…)” (Smith 3059)

“Whose friends are they? These are the people my child will grow up around? Their children – half blacky-white?” (Smith 3063)

Comic effect as a product of the Multicultural set
“Alsana screams, claps her hands over one of her own ear and one of Clara’s, and then almost chokes on a piece of aubergine with the physical exertion. For some reason the remark simultaneously strikes Clara as funny: hysterically, desperately funny, miserably funny; and the Niece-Of-Shame sits between them, nonplussed, while the two egg-shaped women bend over themselves, one in laughter, the other in horror and near asphyxiation.” (Simth 3067)
One last character – Sol Jozefowicz, the Jew

“ ‘The murder of innocents – is this funny?’
‘Not in my experience, Mrs Iqbal, no’ says Sol Jozefowicz in the collected manner in which he says everything (…) It strikes all three women – the way history will: embarrassingly, without warning, like a blush – what the park keeper’s experience might have been. They fall silent.” (Simth 3068)
Unity and no sign of “corrupting” English influences

 The unity is broken
Alsana's character
Alsana: “but where is the food?”
“Theatrically, she threw open every cupboard in the kitchen, ‘Where is it? Can we eat china?’
Two plates smashed to the floor. She patted her stomach to indicate her unborn child and pointed to the pieces, ‘Hungry?’
Samad, who had an equally melodramatic nature when prompted, yanked open the freezer and pulled out a mountain of meat which he piled in the middle of the room. His mother worked through the nigh preparing meals for her family he said. His mother did not, he said, spend the household money, as Alsana did, on prepared meals, yogurts and tinned spaghetti.” (Smith 3063)
“(…) she ripped to shreds every stitch she had on and added them to the pile of frozen lamb, spare cuts from the restaurant. She stood naked before him for a moment (…), then put on a long, brown coat and left the house.” (Smith 3063)
Alsana (choosing the babies’ names): “Magid and Millat. Ems are good. Ems are strong. Mahatma, Mohammed, that funny Mr. Morecambe, from Morecambe and Wise – letter you can trust” (Smith 3065)
“It took the Iqbals a year to get to Willesden High Road: a year of mercilessly hard graft to make the momentous move from the wrong side of Whitechapel to the wrong side of Willesden.” (Smith 3059)
“From six in the evening until four in the morning was work and the rest was sleep (…) And that’s what it was like most nights; abuse from Shiva and others; condescension from Ardarshir; never seeing Alsana; never seing the sun (…)” (Smith 3059/3061)
“But then the heartbreaking disappointment – to find out that the inclining of one’s head, poising of one’s pen, these were important. It was important to be a good waiter, to listen when someone said:
Lamb Dawn Sock and Rice. Please. With Chips. Thank you.
And fifteen pence clinked on china. Thank you Sir. Thank you so very much.”
(Smith 3061)

“Useless! Tell me Samad Miah, what is the point of moving here – nice house, yes very nice, very nice – but where is the food?” (Smith 3063)
Joana Meireles
Silvana Meinerz
Full transcript