Sunday, June 14, 2020

Zadie Smith, from White Teeth (The Waiter's Wife)

The Waiter's Wife is a short story pulled from a novel called White Teeth written by Zadie Smith. It follows a married couple, Samad and Alsana. They are recent immigrants from Bangladesh who try to adjust to life in London in the mid-1970s. Samad faces daily humiliations as a waiter in a restaurant, a job for which he is overqualified and ill suited. Alsana blames Samad for their financial struggles, lashing out at him and melodramatically throwing objects around the room as they quarrel. Later, she and her niece, Neena, have a heated exchange about Western views towards marriage. The story ends with Alsana admitting her confusion about modern life and reflecting on the fate of her unborn children and the children of her friend, Clara, who will grow up to have roots in two different cultures. Cultural displacement and cultural ridicule were the main themes that I recognized throughout the story.

The United States “economy is dependent on immigrant labor now and for the future. The U.S. population is aging rapidly as the baby boom cohort enters old age and retirement. As a result, the labor force will increasingly depend upon immigrants and their children to replace current workers and fill new jobs” (Immigrant). As of 2018, “About a third of immigrant workers do not have authorization to work legally in the U.S., and these immigrants are also vital to the American economy” (Kosten).

In the story, Samad is a waiter. He mentions at one point that he wishes he could wear a sign around his neck that says: “I AM NOT A WAITER. THAT IS, I AM A WAITER, BUT NOT JUST A WAITER”.Samad wished that he could wear that sign around his neck because he had a lot of predicaments in his work and life after he and his wife left Bangladesh to live in London. They faced many setbacks due to how they looked. Samad just wanted to be recognized as someone, not just by the color of his skin or by his job.

I feel like a lot of people feel this way; especially now, in our current predicament in the United States. Looking at what our country is facing today with protesting black lives matter. As a country, we need to recognize that all lives can’t matter until black lives matter. In this case, in the story, Samad and his wife just wanted to feel like they mattered. They faced a huge culture shock when they moved from Bangladesh to London. They were treated different because they did not fit in with how society wanted them to fit in, so they faced scrutiny.

“Immigrant Workers in the U.S. Labor Force.” Newamericaneconomy, Brookings,

Kosten, Dan. “Immigrants as Economic Contributors: They Are the New American Workforce.” National Immigration Forum, 5 June 2018,