Abstract: This worsens the relationship between the two


           This study attempts to apply Freud’s psychoanalytic theories to a literary work. Theories used are unconscious (below conscious, conscious and identification. A story short titled “My Son the Fanatic” was chosen as the object of the study. Story it contains about a bad relationship between a father, Parvez and his son, Ali. Parvez as an immigrant tried to impose his dreams to his son. These dreams are the latent or subconscious part of the soul. On the other hand, Ali did identification of his father. However, both failed in their efforts respectively. Ali’s identification failed and he sought a father figure on God in Islam. This worsens the relationship between the two so Parvez committed violence against Ali. This study shows that Freud’s theory can be applied in the work. 


                  The theme of my term paper is the analysis of a short story with special
regard to the Psychoanalysis and historical background. “My son the fanatic”,
by Hanif Kureishi. I have chosen this story because, as reported by my English
teacher, this story does not only describe the situation of immigrants in Great
Britain, it also describes problems between a father and his son so that the
story also has reference to every boy’s life.

Studies of
psychoanalysis are conducted to see the thwarted ways that the mind suppresses
feelings. The feelings include anxiety, fear to hostility and sexual desire.
These can be attributed to many sources, such as traumas of personal history,
instincts of the body. The studies  employing psychoanalysis are also directed to
dynamics of interpersonal relations and with the self is formulated through its
interactions with the familial and socio-culture environment. As to the
relation between psychoanalysis and literary studies, there are also studies of
characters in literary works under psychoanalytic perspective. These studies
are focused on the mind’s operations in literature which covers the unconscious
and the instincts or with the family relations, personal history, and the
social environments. Another strand in this type of studies focuses on the
writer’s unconsciousness as reflected in their work.

On the Author:

                        Hanif Kureishi was born on
December 5th, 1954 in London as a son of an Englishwoman and a
Pakistani. Since he grew up experiencing racial and cultural conflicts,
most of his works are marked by this. His decision to become a writer was
already made at a young age at which he began writing novels that were intended
for publication.

At 1972 Hanif Kureishi studied
philosophy at the University of London and earned his living by writing
pornography under the pseudonym of Antonia French. After a humble beginning as
an usher for the Royal Theatre, Kureishi later became a writer in residence of
the theatre. His first play, “Soaking Up the Heat”, was produced in 1976 at
London’s Theatre Upstairs. He had a first great success with his second play,
“The mother Country”, for which he received the Thomas Television Playwright
Award in 1980. But his breakthrough was his first play for the Royal Court
Theatre,” Borderline”.

But also with his first efforts
in the film business Kureishi was very successful and gained him a larger
audience. “My Beautiful Launderette” for example, written in 1985, won several




                        Kureishi, Hanif
“My Son the Fanatic” in: “Many Voices Many Cultures, Multicultural British
Short Stories”, Philipp Reclaim, Stuttgart 1997 Publisher: Barbara Korte und
Claudia Sternberg, p.147-165.


             The short story “My son the Fanatic”, by Hanif Kureishi is about
problems between Parvez, who is a Pakistani immigrant in England and his son
Ali. Since Ali’s behavior has changed Parvez supposes that something is going
wrong with his son. One night when he is together with his two closest friends,
he talks with them about his problems with his son and they come to the
conclusion that Ali is taking drugs. As Parvez is a taxi driver he often drives
Bettina around, who is a prostitute. Since their relationship to each other is
very good he also talks with her about his son. She advises him to watch his
son more critically and to search for clues for his addiction. But although
Parvez observes his son very strictly he cannot find any kind of hint about his
son’s addiction. But what Parvez finds out is that his son is growing a beard
and that he does not sell his belongings but he gives them away to charity
shops. Furthermore Parvez notices that his son prays five times a day. So
Parvez decides to go out with his son to talk with Ali about these things. But
when they are in a restaurant, Parvez drinks too much alcohol so they begin to
quarrel. Ali criticizes his father because of breaking to many rules of the
Koran and wants him to change his life. Later he also tells his father that he
wants to give up his studies in accounting. Because Parvez thinks that he has
lost his son and he cannot endure his son’s criticism any longer he wants his
son to get out of his house. But Bettina can convince him of trying to identify
with his son so that Parvez endures his son’s criticism and that he is even
growing a beard to please his son. Furthermore he tries to talk to his son to
tell him his attitudes of life. But Ali still despises his father because he
does not stick to the Koran.

When Parvez drives around Bettina with
his taxi they meet Ali on the street and they stop and take him with them
because Bettina wants to talk with him. But when she tells him that his father
loves him, Ali only gets angry and begins to insult Bettina so that she leaves
the car. Because Parvez now is very angry about his son he begins to drink when
they arrive at home so that he finally goes into his son’s room to hit his son
who neither covers himself nor retaliates,



Parvez’ roles in the
story are predominant. In fact, this story seems to pay primary attention to
his problems and desires. His problems may start from his curiosity over his
son, Ali. Ali’s behavior changes in a strange manner in his opinion. He was
initially bewildered, but then confused. He then begins to feel anxious since
Ali starts to dispose stuffs, such as “computer discs, video tapes, new books
and fashionable clothes” (Kureishi, 1997). Ali also breaks his relation with an
English girl. This is followed by Ali’s change of behavior towards him. Ali
becomes hostile about him. He is, however, unable to discuss this change with
Ali. In fact, he feels that this change affects him negatively. He thinks that
he has worked hard to provide his son what he needs, yet his son does not feel
that way. Parvez’s anxiety over his son’s changes of behavior is unconsciously
rooted in his unpreparedness for the change. It seems that Parvez has a
straight idea about life, that is, his son needs the fulfillment of material
needs and pleasant social relations with other sex. He is not prepared that
this kind of notion will gradually be shattered by his son challenging actions.
In Freudian terms, this is “the state of expecting the danger or preparing for
it, even though it may be an unknown one.” Why do the changes produce an
anxiety in him? This can probably be explained by Fromm’s conviction that
anxiety turns up whenever there is “a threat against vital (material and
emotional) interests”. The vital interests in the story are seen from Parvez’s
feelings that he is being treated unjustly by his son because Ali’s disposing
stuffs he has provided for his own interests and his being cynical to him. Both
Parvez’s material and emotional interests are threatened. He has provided for
Ali material fulfillment, but Ali throws them away. Ali’s actions are threats
to him. Apart from that, Parvez also feels that he is loosing control over Ali.
What happens next is interesting because, while being treated these ways by his
son, he cannot bring up the problem. Instead, he cannot sleep and drinks whisky
more and more. Parvez’s behavior in facing such changes is not to face and
discuss them with his son. What he does, instead, is a sort of escaping from
the problems by drinking whisky, being not productive either. Three things can
be read from this behavior. The first is that Parvez is not close to his son.
If he is close enough to him, he will invite him and ask for explanations for
the changes. This shows the father-and-son relations in the family. Secondly,
Parvez has probably strings attached in his bringing up his son. He has
particular hidden purposes for his son which he keeps in his mind and does not
let his son know about it. He does not want to discuss Ali’s behavior because
Ali will surely criticize him for not being close to him and for directing Ali
to a particular path which may not be wanted by Ali. Thus, these also imply
that Ali is strange to Parvez or even, as the story goes on, both do not
understand each other. Each is alienated from the other. Thirdly, it is
interesting to notice that Parvez’s drinking as a means of escaping from the
problem. There is a possibility that his act of drinking is related to the
obsessive desire to be free from reality. He has dreams and his dreams are
about to be thwarted. Thus, he also seeks a compen- sation for his dreams. The
possible reason for this is that by getting drunk, he will be able to get
connected to his pleasant content of unconscious or escape unpleasant reality.
Dreams lie in the unconscious part of psyche. In the next part of the story, we
learn that Parvez does not want to discuss his problems with his friends at
work either. His feelings is that he is too ashamed of being blamed from the
way he brings up his son and for what he has boasted.

Parvez is a Pakistani immigrant in England. He grew up in
Lahore and he has been a taxi-driver for twenty years.

Although Parvez was taught the Koran in Lahore, his
relationship to the Koran is very bad which becomes clear in many parts of the
text. describes Parvez’ indifference to the Koran at his young age: His maulvi
had to attach a string to the ceiling and to tie it to Parvez’ hair to stop him
from falling asleep while he was studying the Koran. And also in England his
attitude to the Koran has not changed. When he is told by his son that he is breaking
the rules of the Koran , Parvez only shrugs  or answers “For instance?” He even says that he
loves crispy bacon and that he avoids all religions.

A person Parvez likes very much is Bettina. This is
indicated for example: “He could talk to her about things he’d be never able to
discuss with his own wife”: “To his relief, he found Bettina sitting in his
car”. He even shouts after her to make her come back when she jumps out of the
taxi and runs away. It is also obvious that Parvez has his problems with
alcohol. An example for this is “he went more often to the whisky bottle, even
when he was at work.” And even when he knows that he gets drunk he cannot stop
himself from drinking



       Ali’s behaviour is interesting to notice
because he does what he thinks is right. From the start, his behaviour towards
his father is not a warm one. This is probably caused by his father’s ignorance
towards his real activities and personal development. In fact, there is not any
narration in the story telling that he and his father shows any harmonious
relation. His behaviour changes as soon as he studies Islamic teachings. The
change is not known by his father. It seems, however, there is a problem in his
practicing the teachings. He changes his behaviour all of sudden. This may be
understood if he lets his parents know about what is going on. However, he
seems to be alienated from his father so that his communication with him is
useless. It is worse since, after he studies the religious teachings, he
becomes critical against his father. Here a typical Oedipal relation starts to
appear. Under this theory, there is a stage in any individual during their
development to experience the liberation of an individual from the authority of
their parents. If this stage is not passed successfully, then a neurotic will be
produced. Initially, the “child gets to know other parents and compares them
with his/ her own, and so acquires the right to doubt the incomparable and
unique quality which he had attributed to them. Small events in the child’s
life which make him feel dissatisfied afford him provocation for beginning to criticize
his parents, and for using, in order to support his critical attitude, the
knowledge which he has acquired that other parents are in some respects
preferable to them” (Freud, 1959:237). The problem with Ali in relation to his
critical attitude, however, is far stronger than gaining knowledge about other
parents. Ali seems to seek the father figure in a God in Islam. He finds the
perfect ideal of father in it. This is because he initially idealizes his own
father. However, he changes to turn to God as a father-substitute because he is
not given attention by his father. In this God, he learns about things that are
allowed and prohibited. When he sees that his own father who has not paid any
attention to him breaks the Divine rules of God as a father-substitute, he defended
his God against his own father. In this situation, his interpretation of
religious teaching is based on oppositional principle, black-and-white model.
In relation to this problem, there are only two possible sides in Islamic
teachings, that is between good represented by God and evil as depicted by
Satan. Ali chooses God to fight against Satan. Thus, he becomes so obsessive in
criticizing his father since his father, he considers, is a substitute of
Devil. However, there is a conflict within Ali in doing so because, on the one
hand, he longs for a father who cares abut him and leads a religious life and,
on the other, he hates his father’s breaking the religious norms. There is a
contradiction between the things that he thinks his father should do and those
that his father is doing. This creates an ambivalent attitude on his father.

Analysis of the relationship between
Parvez and his son Ali:

                   It is obvious in the story that
the relationship between Parvez and Ali is bad and that they do not understand
each other.

A reason for this mainly is Ali’s
development to a Muslim, which Parvez does not notice. Of course Parvez notices
that his son’s behaviour has changed, he notices for example his son’s computer
disks, videotapes, new books and fashionable clothes beside the dustbin and that
Ali throws out his possessions like his TV, his video-player, his stereo system
and his guitar, but Parvez is not able to bring up the subject of Ali’s unusual
behaviour. Of course this behaviour results from Ali’s religion

and there is a rule he has to
stick to called Zakat (explained on page 3-4: “Aspects of

And also when Ali is growing a
beard and when he is praying five times a day Parvez does not recognize his
son’s Islamic religion. So Parvez does not only have problems to understand his
son, he also misunderstands his son by interpreting his behaviour as being
addicted to drugs “His boy – the drug-addict”.

But although Parvez does not
understand his son anymore he loves Ali anyway. He works long hours for Ali and
yearns for the time when they were “brothers” “We were not father and son – we
were brothers! Where has he gone?”. So Parvez decides to go out with his son because
he desires “more than anything” to know why his son’s behaviour has changed By
this I think Parvez wants to restore his old relationship with his son. But by
Ali’s claim that he has an appointment and that he refuses to accompany his
father it becomes clear that Ali does not like his father anymore. So Parvez
has to insist on his opinion that no appointment could be more important than
that of a son with his father. Here even Parvez describes their relationship as
father and son, which shows that their relationship has become worse and worse.

Especially when they are together
in the restaurant the religious aspect why they do not understand each other
becomes clear. Ali does not accept his father’s way of life “the boy urged him
to mend his ways” because he does not stick to the Koran” Each time Parvez took
a drink, the boy winced, or made some kind of fastidious face” so that he even
hates his father for this “Ali had a horrible look, full of disgust and
censure. It was as if he hated his father”.

It is also obvious that Parvez
suffers from his son’s intolerance towards him. So Parvez even cries “Parvez
eyes filled with tears” and tries everything to please his son so that they
will be “brothers” again “Parvez told Bettina he was willing to pray, if that
was what the boy wanted”. But Ali does not seem to notice his father anymore.
Even when Parvez is growing a beard to please his son, Ali does not seem to
notice it. So Parvez feels that he has lost his son “I feel as if I’ve lost my
son”. In my opinion it also shows that they have “lost” each other on  “Parvez stumbled and fell in the road,
scraping his hands and ripping his trousers. The boy didn’t even offer him his
hand.” I would interpret this situation as follows: Parvez is at his lowest
point here. He does not know how to please his son in order to become
“brothers” again. And Ali does not come to meet his father to give him the
“helping hand” to come together again. Another situation, which shows that they
are really apart from each other, is when Parvez and Bettina drive around with
the taxi. They meet Ali and take him with them. In this situation it even seems
that Bettina has a closer relationship to Parvez than Ali has because he gets
into the back seat where passengers normally sit, while Bettina sits in the
front, beside Parvez.

In addiction, I think it is not
only the religious aspect which makes Parvez and Ali understand each other so
badly. I would also interpret their situation as generation conflict because
they often have different attitudes towards life. Parvez for example says: “Was
it asking to much for Ali to get a good job, marry the right girl, and start a
family”  or “While I am here on earth I
want to make the best of it. And I want you to as well”. So Parvez wants his
son to make “the best” of his life but this life is for sure not the life Ali
wants. For example Parvez works long hours for Ali to spend a lot of money on
Ali’s education as an accountant, but this is not what Ali wants. Ali wants to
give up his studies in accounting and he is going to work in prison with poor
Muslims. And there are many more examples of these contrary attitudes: While
Parvez thinks he has lived a decent life, Ali does not think so because in his
opinion his father has broken countless rules of the Koran. Or while Parvez
thinks that they have to fit in in England, Ali thinks that Parvez is “too
implicated” in Western civilization.

Because of this generation
conflict and their bad situation resulting from Ali’s religious behaviour the
situation escalates. Parvez who feels that he has lost his son loses his temper
and hits the boy “Parvez kicked him over. Then he dragged the boy up by the
front of his shirt and hit him. The boy fell back. Parvez hit him again. The
boy’s face was bloody.”

Although the story ends at this
point, you can figure out that by this act Parvez and Ali have “lost” each other



relation to the structure of personality, Freud propounded his theory about the
components that comprise a personality. He stated that two important elements
of human beings include what he termed unconscious and consciousness. The
former is considered to be the reservoir of sexual instincts and of desires and
feelings which are regarded as unacceptable by the conscious. The term
conscious denotes the part of human’s mind which is aware to external stimulation
and internal impulse. In other words, it is the awareness part of mind. The two
elements interacted the aspects of unconscious. What lie in the unconscious
must be controlled, suppressed, or even eliminated from the conscious. On the
other hand, these aspects of unconscious continually try to gain satisfaction
or release and need expression. The results can take the forms of indirect or
thwarted expressions. In a similar manner, desires are also repressed and this
results in an energy that is directed towards conscious representation. The
conflict between these instincts and desires and the suppressions enforced by
the ego will result in the distortions or displacement of unconscious forces
since these urge expressions. As a consequence, neurotic symptoms or dreams
will appear.

Other concept that
freud proposed is identification. He stated that ‘a little boy will exhibit a
special interest in his father; he would like to grow like him and be like him,
and take his place everywhere.” However, he further argued that in such a
process of identification, an ambivalence occurs. Identification contains both
the sense of being similar to as well as being against a father figure. Freud
hypothesized that the reason for such a split due to the boy’s notion that the father
stands in the way in the boy’s relationship with hin mother. The father becomes
a hindrance to the boy’s cathexis towards the mother.


             Both Parvez and Ali are in situations where new
identities are searched and formulated. Parvez is pulled between his past and
present. His past is religious life in Pakistan and his present is a more
liberal life in England. His wife who is ordered to cook pork represents the
past while Bettina, the prostitute, is his present. His attempts to obliterate the
traces of past is seemingly successful by breaking religious laws and betraying
his marriage. Yet, there is a part of him that is till attached a bit to the
past. However, his dream about successful immigrant is the dearest thing in his
life. He finally defends his dreams against his son’s rebellion in a furious
way. Meanwhile, Ali is also torn between the daily Western culture that he
experiences and the Muslim values that he recently understands; both of which
are in contradiction. The problem with Ali in embracing and practicing Islamic
teachings is that he learns the religious norms, yet he has unsolved problems
with his father. So, when he feels that there are some religious prohibitions
are violated by his father, he becomes so obsessive that he demonizes his
father and despises him. He considers his father the Devil who resists God’s
regulations and does not deserve any attention. On the other hand, he has no
power to defeat his father. He has been plunged into a kind of interpretation
on religious teachings that everything against religious norms should be fought
against instead of being changed in a gradual fashion. In other words, he
deviates even from the religious principle in his method of making his father
understand about his new religious belief. He mistakenly represents Islam and deserves
to be called “fundamentalist”. Then, however, he is still insistent that he is
the right one and he cannot understand his father’s knocking him over. What is
conveyed through the story is that, when Oedipal conflict between a father and
his son takes place, there is a chance for the son to win. However, the son
will experience an ambivalent attitude towards his father under such a
circumstance because, on the one hand, he wants to rival his father in his
understanding about life, he is not capable of carrying the role since he realizes
his own weakness under familial relationship, on the other. So, when the son goes
out of control, the father will do anything to punish him, even with violent


1. http://www.islam.de/?site=virtuelle_bibliothek/wasistislam


3. http://www.al-islam.org/beliefs/content.html

4. http://www.al-islam.org/beliefs/index.html