Q. What are the themes of the story My Son the Fanatic by Hanif Kureishi? Discuss.
The story “My Son the Fanatic” is about Parvez and his son Ali. Parvez, originally from Pakistan, has made England his home and appreciates the lifestyle there.
However, he starts to notice that Ali is changing and acting differently. It confuses and worries Parvez because he cannot determine why these changes occur. The story depicts a father’s efforts to understand and reconnect with his son amidst these shifts.
It is not just about family ties but also about the challenges of living in a new country and adapting to its culture. Many people move to new places and try to blend in while holding onto their roots.
This story gives us a close look at these struggles. Through Parvez and Ali’s journey, we get to reflect on themes of family, identity, and the impacts of change in our lives.
My Son the Fanatic Themes
The story primarily revolves around the clash of cultures between traditional Pakistani values and Western lifestyles, examining how this clash impacts the characters’ identities, relationships, and moral beliefs. These are the main themes:
- Clash of Cultures
- Generational Gap
- Religion and Radicalization
1. Clash of Cultures
The story centers on the cultural conflict between Parvez, a father who has adapted to Western ways, and his son Ali, who chooses to embrace their traditional Eastern roots.
Parvez enjoys the freedoms and opportunities the West offers, from indulging in pork pies to drinking alcohol. On the other hand, Ali, born and raised in London, rejects these very elements of Western culture.
He feels they contradict the teachings of Islam. This theme showcases the challenges immigrants face when balancing their native traditions with the influences of a new culture.
Ali’s turn to fundamentalist beliefs highlights his search for identity. Growing up in the West, he struggles with understanding his place in the world. Ali attempts to find a sense of belonging and purpose by adopting strict Islamic practices.
Conversely, Parvez’s identity is intertwined with his adopted Western lifestyle. He believes that by assimilating, he is ensuring a better future for his family.
This theme concerns the challenges people face when figuring out their identity, especially when they are part of two cultures. It is like standing at a crossroads, not knowing how to go.
Being in two worlds can make it hard to decide what is right. It can lead to many questions about one’s beliefs and values. It is a journey of self-understanding that can influence how a person views their surroundings and interacts with others.
3. Generational Gap
Ali and Parvez’s contrasting beliefs also underline the generational differences between them. While Parvez sees his assimilation as a means of survival and prosperity in a foreign land, Ali perceives it as a loss of their cultural and religious heritage.
This theme highlights the common tensions between parents and their children, especially in immigrant families. Parents might lean towards assimilation for practical reasons, while the younger generation might revert to their roots in their quest for identity.
The story touches on the dangers of making assumptions. Parvez’s friends instantly assume Ali’s changed behaviour is due to drug use. They told Parvez to watch over Ali despite no apparent reason or evidence.
By doing this, they hint that young people like Ali might be up to no good. This way of thinking is not correct. It is like saying that all young people are the same and might make bad choices.
This kind of advice can make older people doubt and mistrust the younger generation without a good reason. It is not just about Ali. When we let such ideas spread, it affects how society views all young people.
It paints them negatively and does not allow them to prove themselves. It can lead to misunderstandings. Ultimately, it is important to judge people by their actions and not just because of stereotypes.
Similarly, Ali’s harsh judgment of Bettina, based purely on her profession, showcases the dangers of viewing people through a narrow lens. This theme reminds readers of the pitfalls of forming opinions without understanding or empathy.
5. Religion and Radicalization
Ali’s transformation into a religious fundamentalist serves as a central theme. He believes that the West contradicts the preaching of Islam, and he becomes more rigid in his religious practices.
This theme explores the reasons individuals might be drawn to extremist beliefs. For Ali, it is a mix of his identity crisis and his need to rebel against his father’s Westernized ways.
Parvez’s sacrifices for his family, especially for Ali’s education, are evident throughout the story. He dreams of Ali becoming an accountant, a profession he believes will ensure his son’s future.
Parvez’s long working hours and pride in his son’s academic achievements highlight his aspirations. This theme highlights the sacrifices immigrants often make, hoping for better opportunities for the next generation.
Ali’s turn towards fundamentalism can also be seen as an act of rebellion against his father. Throughout the story’s narrative, Ali’s discomfort and disagreement with Parvez’s choices come to the forefront with increasing intensity.
Initially, subtle hints of Ali’s disapproval become more evident, especially in the context of Parvez’s habits like consuming alcohol. Furthermore, Parvez’s association and friendship with Bettina, which might seem ordinary to some, becomes a significant point of contention for Ali.
As the plot unfolds, these differences in their beliefs and lifestyles do not just remain silent observations. They escalate, leading to confrontations and deepening the chasm between father and son.
This theme is about how kids while trying to figure out who they are, might question or not agree with what their parents think and do. It is a typical part of growing up where children might not see eye to eye with their parents on certain things.
As they try to understand their beliefs and make their own choices, they might go against what they have been taught or expected. It is part of the journey of becoming independent and forming one’s own identity.
Ali’s newfound religious fervor makes him question his father’s morality. He challenges Parvez’s choices, labelling them as sins. Meanwhile, Parvez believes he is leading a righteous life by providing for his family and embracing the freedoms of the West.
This theme explores the subjective nature of morality and how individuals define right and wrong based on their beliefs and experiences.
In “My Son the Fanatic,” various themes, such as cultural clashes, generational gaps, and personal transformation, come to light. The story explores how these themes impact the relationship between a father and son in a new country.
Parvez’s struggles to understand Ali’s changes highlight many challenges when balancing tradition and modernity. The tale reminds us of the power of communication and the importance of understanding one another’s perspectives.