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Literary Analysis of My Son the Fanatic Written by Hanif Kureishi, the short story My Son the Fanatic develops through the conflict between a father and his son. In the story, the father Parvez who works as a taxi driver immigrated from Pakistan to England with his family twenty years ago.
His son Ali is a college student in England. When Ali was behaving abnormally, Parvez’s suspicion led him to discover that Ali had turned into a religious Muslim. Parvez, although born as a Muslim, does not strictly abide by Islam rules.
The father and son are holding different beliefs; hence they could hardly accept each other’s moral values anymore. Because the author told the story in Parvez’s point of view, it might be controversial that between Parvez and Ali, which character is on the right side.
However, as the title of the story suggested, Kureishi, the author, clearly wanted to convince the readers that the son Ali is the fanatic, urging the readers to take Parvez’s side. The author Kureishi, by no means, has depicted Parvez a perfect man.
Parvez as a character has a lot of shortcomings: as a Muslim, he gambles; he drinks; he eats pork; he makes fun of religion representative–the local mullahs and as a husband, he tries to avoid his wife by driving the night taxi (Kureishi 61, 63).
Some may argue that he has not been depicted as a good man or as a good father because those shortcomings, on the contrary, those shortcomings draw him closer to the readers. Parvez as a character had become so similar to somebody whom the readers might have known from their real life–a good man but with imperfections.
Therefore, it is imaginable how easily could the readers relate to the character or even his problems in the story. Under Kureishi’s depiction, Parvez might not be a good Muslim, yet his morals were not totally compromised. For example, he saved Bettina, a prostitute from a violent client, he obviously has a clear standard on what’s right or wrong besides what is being told in the Koran (62). The author summed up Parvez well in the story, “He knew he wasn’t a bad man.
He had a conscience. There were a few things of which he was ashamed, but on the whole, he had lived a decent life ”(64). In addition, Parvez not being a good husband does not stop Kureishi from depicting him as a good father. Parvez, in fact, is a good father indeed and he is proud of himself for being one. “For years, Parvez had boasted to the other men about how Ali excelled in cricket, swimming, and football, and what an attentive scholar he was, getting A’s in most subjects ”(62).
He cared for his son and worked hard to provide for him that “ he had always been aware of the pitfalls that other men’s son’s had stumbled into in England. It was for Ali that Parvez worked long hours; he spent a lot of money paying for Ali’s education as an accountant. He had bought Ali good suits, all the books he required, and a computer”(Kureishi 61). He believes a father should be responsible for his son that he “had blamed other fathers whose sons began running around with bad girls, skipping school, and joining gangs” (Kureishi 61).
So when things go abnormal with his own son, he ‘s afraid that he would be blamed for not being a good father (Kureishi 61), and tried to make things right again by closely inspecting his son and repeatedly reaching out to him. Kureishi provides the readers with little information about the son Ali’s personal life, and some of which are negative, so it is more difficult for the readers to relate to the character. For example, at the beginning of the story, the author informed the readers through Parvez’s point of view that Ali had broken up with his English girlfriend, and all his old friends stopped ringing (61).
This hardly counts as a positive sign for Ali as a character at the beginning of the story when the author suggests that he is being alienated or starts to alienate others. Apart from that, according to Kureishi, it is Ali who should always be blamed for the tension between the father and son. For example, Ali makes Parvez feel afraid with his silence and sharp tone (61). In the scene when Parvez gazed at Ali, to test if he has been using drugs, Ali replied his gaze with “more than a hint of criticism, … o much so that Parvez began to feel that it was he who was in the wrong, and not the boy” (63). Also, for multiple times in the story, Pavez tried to reach out to Ali in order to talk about their problems, it is always Ali who shows reluctance in communicating with his own father. In the part where Parvez suggested a night out with the son to understand more about his problems, “Ali refused to accompany him. He claimed that he had an appointment” (Kureishi 63).
As the story develops, Parves “attempted to make conversation about Ali’s beliefs, but if Parvez ventured any criticism, Ali always had a brusque reply ”, or replies him with a look of contempt (Kureishi 66). When Parvez attempted to reach out to Ali by taking actions like keeping a beard, Ali, on the other hand, “did not appear to notice it”(Kureishi 66). Some may argue Ali behaves that way is because Parvez, his father has no respect for Ali’s religion that he constantly challenges Ali’s belief. Somehow Kureishi showed that it is not the case.
In fact, Parvez was just trying to convince Ali that “there are other beliefs” as Bettina, Parvez’s closest friend suggested (67). However, Ali, in the story, responded to his own father “with such aggressive confidence that Parvez would say no more”(67). Kureishi depicts Ali as an ungrateful child who has no respect to his own father. From Parvez, the readers heard that Ali told Parvez, his own father that he ‘s going to Hell (66), and Ali looks at Parvez as if he is a criminal (66). Apart from the above, there is more to show about Ali’s disrespectfulness in the story.
First, Ali does not appreciate Parvez’s provision; he repays his father’s hard work by “throwing his possessions out ! ” (Kureishi 61). Second, Ali disapproves of his father’s life style. He accused his own father being “too implicated in Western civilization”(Kureishi 65). He criticize his father harshly based on religion rules, such as suggesting drinking and gambling are forbidden (Kureishi 64), even after his father patiently explained to him that those were the only hobbies he had after working long hours to provide for him.
Ali still gave Parvez “a horrible look, full of disgust and censure”(Kureishi 64). Third, Ali has no patience for his father’s beliefs. He treats him as “a rowdy crowd which had to be quelled or convinced” (Kureishi 65). Most importantly, he lost the ability to care for his father’s feelings, in the scene when Parvez fell, Ali “didn’t even offer him his hand”(Kureishi 66). Moreover, Ali humiliated Parvez’s closest friend Berttina in front of him, bluntly suggesting she is a prostitute by saying “you know what kind” (Kureishi 68).
In conclusion, Kureishi is trying to convince the readers to take Parvez’s side in judging who is right or wrong, he has told the story in Parvez, the father ‘s point of view to build the connection between the character and the readers. By describing the son Ali as the responsible side of the conflict, he has manipulated the readers to sympathize the father Parvez. Moreover, by depicting a slightly flawed character Parvez as a good father who cares and worries about his own son, along with an ungrateful and judgmental son Ali as the fanatic who has no respect to his own father, the author has given the readers a clear choice between the two.