The story “My Son the Fanatic” by Hanif Kureishi includes several symbolic elements which are connected to its characters and themes.

All the characters are symbolic in various ways. Parvez is a symbol of the mix of traditional and liberal beliefs that might be found in first-generation immigrants. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, in Parvez’s case, they make him too indulgent with himself and too strict with Ali. He also sees himself as superior to Ali and believes Ali should obey him and be grateful for his sacrifices. Ultimately, because Ali criticises him and refuses to adopt his perspective on life, Parvez becomes angry and violent.

Ali is a symbol of young people who, in search of their identity and spirituality, can become involved with extremist groups. This is also suggested by Bettina: “Many young people fall into cults and superstitious groups. It doesn’t mean that they’ll always feel the same way.”

Ali’s beard is also emphasised as a symbol of his devotion. At the same time, Parvez’s friends mock “the local mullahs walking around with their caps and beards, thinking they could tell people how to live”. This shows that for Parvez’s non-religious friends, the ...

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