Themes and message

The main themes explored in the story “My Son the Fanatic” by Hanif Kureishi are the conflict between generations, cultural differences, and identity. The writer’s message with the short story is not explicitly stated. However, the conflict between Parvez and Ali illustrates that cultural differences challenge relationships. Neither Parvez nor Ali has a clear identity – however, they are both convinced their per…

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Conflict between generations

This theme is explored throughout the story and is reflected in the relationship between Parvez and Ali. 

At first, we learn that Parvez is a father who worked very hard to provide his son with a good education and everything he might need to prepare for his profession as an accountant. Parvez wants his son to have this profession because it is well-paid and because he wants Ali to be able to start a family.

The story suggests that Ali followed his father’s plan for most of his life – he was a good student and excelled at various sports, making his father proud. However, something changes and Ali gives up on this plan completely. Instead, he focuses on his Muslim faith and becomes convinced that the West is a source of corruption and persecution for Muslims.

Parvez fails to see this…

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Cultural differences

The writer explores cultural differences through the whole plot of the story. The conflicts in the story are a result of the fact that Parvez embraces Western culture, and Ali, his son, rejects it. Through different symbols, the story emphasises how cultural differences affect how the characters think and behave.

Parvez represents a mix of Pakistani and English culture: although he maintains traditional roles as a father and provider for his family, and expects his efforts to be met with gratitude and for his wife to …

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Identity

The theme of identity is explored in the short story in connection with religion and culture.

Parvez does not follow any religion – it does not play a part in his identity. Moreover, a difficult experience in his youth has made him reject religion altogether. Because of this, he cannot understand why Ali starts to follow the Muslim faith.

Parvez and Ali both live their lives according to their beliefs: Parvez identifies more with the West, and so he enjoys the freedom it provides. He believes life is for personal enjoyment and encourages Ali to take pleasure in it. He also adopts the more materialistic perspective of the West and wishes for Ali to have a well-paid job. With the help of Bettina, he tries to be more liberal in his attitudes…

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