Q. Discuss the significance of the title, “My Son the Fanatic.” How does it encapsulate the central conflict and theme of the story?
The title of Hanif Kureishi’s “My Son the Fanatic” encapsulates the central conflict and themes of the story in a succinct yet powerful manner. The story revolves around the evolving relationship between Parvez, a Pakistani immigrant taxi driver in England, and his son Ali, who embraces Islamic fundamentalism.
The title itself serves as a brief encapsulation of this conflict, marking the story’s exploration of generational clashes, cultural identity, assimilation, and religious extremism.
The Role of the Father
The title, beginning with “My Son,” immediately positions the story from Parvez’s perspective. It signifies his profound sense of responsibility and concern for his son.
Despite Parvez’s efforts to assimilate into British society and provide a comfortable life for Ali, he finds himself estranged and disconnected from his son.
The title underscores Parvez’s bewilderment and distress as he grapples to understand Ali’s transformation, emphasizing the father’s role in the story’s central conflict. Parvez struggles to comprehend his son’s sudden transformation, revealing his sense of helplessness and concern.
The title also highlights aspects of ownership and confusion. When Parvez uses the term “my son,” there’s an inherent claim of familiarity and understanding; after all, he has raised Ali and watched him grow.
However, as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Parvez no longer recognizes his son. In a broader context, he fails to understand the changes in his environment, including the growing Islamic fundamentalism within his community.
This conflict between perceived ownership (“my son”) and baffling transformation (“the fanatic”) forms the core tension in the story, indicative of a broader generational and cultural disconnect.
The term “fanatic” in the title refers to Ali, who adopts a rigid interpretation of Islam, turning away from the Western lifestyle his father embraces. This word choice signifies the alarming change in Ali’s behavior from the viewpoint of Parvez.
It also encapsulates the key conflict in the story: the clash between Ali’s newly found religious fervor and Parvez’s secular, Westernized lifestyle. Parvez finds Ali’s newfound religiosity unnerving. His son’s zealotry was a mystery to him. It was as if Ali were taking revenge.
Furthermore, the title emphasizes the theme of fanaticism. In this story, the term ‘fanatic’ signifies an individual with extreme beliefs, unwilling to compromise or consider alternative perspectives.
Ali’s transformation into a ‘fanatic’ demonstrates the author’s exploration of the impact of extremist ideologies. As the title indicates, Ali’s fanaticism isn’t directed towards traditionally ‘teenage’ pursuits but religious fervor, creating a disorienting paradigm shift for his father.
Assimilation and Disconnection
Parvez’s efforts to assimilate into the new culture have unintentionally widened the gap between him and his son. Even though the phrase “My Son” signifies Parvez’s connection to Ali, the term “the Fanatic” highlights their growing disconnection due to their differing values and beliefs.
Parvez has worked hard to assimilate into British society, yet this assimilation is causing a rift between him and Ali. This is evident in Parvez’s confusion when Ali criticizes him for being too indulgent in the Western lifestyle.
Ali had a horrible look on his face, full of disgust and censure. It was as if he hated his father.
The title highlights the generational conflict portrayed in the story. Parvez embodies the older generation’s efforts to assimilate into the new culture. In contrast, Ali personifies the younger generation’s resistance and yearning to reconnect with their roots.
The title “My Son the Fanatic” concisely captures the essence of this generational divide and the consequential tension. It emphasizes the cultural and ideological rift between the two characters. Ali, the younger generation, rebels against this, turning to Islamic fundamentalism as an assertion of his cultural identity.
The title “My Son the Fanatic” is highly relevant as it perfectly captures the story’s main conflict and theme. The story portrays Parvez’s perspective as a father and explores the paradox of assimilation along with the generational and ideological clash between Parvez and his son, Ali.
The title, “My Son the Fanatic,” effectively summarizes the complex challenges of navigating cultural identity. It also encapsulates religious beliefs and assimilation within a multicultural society.