Zadie Smith prefaces White Teeth with the following quote: "What is past is prologue"- Inscription in Washington, D.C., museum. This statement sets the thematic mood for the novel, in which three different families of mixed ethnicity struggle with issues of heritage and legacy. Some characters, such as Samad, cling to the past obsessively, while others, such as Magid, attempt to reject it. The preface suggests that the past is inescapable, and encourages attention to details. By letting the wise words of the past speak before her, Smith acknowledges that "What is past is prologue" applies to writers as well. Thus, the ideas she examines in the next 500 pages have developed out of her own personal consideration of the past. In that sense, the preface credits all the authors who have inspired Smith to write this, her first novel

White Teeth