Appunti, Tesina di, appunto inglese

My son the Fanatic

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"My son the Fanatic" is a short story by Hanif Kureishi which deals with Religious Fundamentalism through Parvez and Ali's story. Parvez is a Pakistani man migrated to Britain to feed his family, he's an outcast of society who finds his home as the only place in which he can just be himself without serving others. He discovers his own son changing rapidly into a young fanatic, so involved in Muslim attitudes that he parts from his English girlfriend, stops ringing his old friends and to be a English boy with his love for playing guitar, listening to music, meeting friends, being a common student. The culminating moment or "climax" is in the final part when Parvez don't want to tolerate his son's behavior anymore, so he hits him without receiving any kind of reaction.

In 1997 Kureishi's short story was put into a movie, which is now of current interest thanks to the recent London bombings. The conflict between father and son in fact exemplifies the conflict between two different way of life and cultures: father and son, family man and fanatic, Parvez and Ali (Farid in the movie) love each other but the religion divide them. The major themes of the story are immigration, fundamentalism, the life of people who are at the bottom of society, racial abuses.

The film differs significantly from the short story. The order of events, scenes is sometimes changed and there are new facts and characters. The short story's setting is London, the movie's one is Bradford. The new characters are the maulvi who comes from Lahore, Fizzie and Mr. Herr Schitz, who is a key-character in the movie. Schitz is a German entrepreneur who is present nearly the whole film. He is the stereotype of the successful white businessman with a lot of money who likes to spend and to buy not only things, but also people. In fact he succeeds in buying Parvez and Bettina's services. The relationship between Schitz and the others(not only Parvez and Bettina) is like that of a colonial master with the natives, even if we are in England, and both Schitz and Parvez are foreigners in that country. Mr. Schitz embodies everything that Farid/Ali hates in the Western civilization, the German man exemplifies all the prejudices Farid has developed. In fact he drinks a lot of alcohol, takes drugs and hires prostitutes.

A night Parvez goes out with Bettina and Mr. Schitz to a club where he is racially abused by the comedian. He doesn't mind the racial abuses and injustices he suffer because he still prefers Britain's life to Pakistan's one. He takes many English habits in order to be assimilated to this new society. In fact he enjoys alcoholic drinks and he loves jazz and Louis Armstrong. Music is very important in the movie(while in the short story we only know that "Ali doesn't play his guitar anymore") for the social context in which this kind of music _jazz and blues music_ appears. It's related to slavery and sadness ("I feel blue" in Italian means: "sono triste"). While actions go on music is still present: music is a democratic space which deals with freedom and hopes, so Fundamentalism refuses it. Parvez and the other Punjabis feel as outsiders in a mainstream society, they share a inner emptiness due to their inferior condition, and only music can improve their lives.

Another important aspect of the film is the change of Parvez and Bettina's relationship. In the short story the author only says that Bettina and Parvez "take care for each other" since Parvez has protected Bettina from a client. It is also mentioned that Parvez can "talk to her about things he'd never be able to discuss with his own wife" so they are only good friends while in the movie they have a love affair (that Minoo, Parvez's wife, discovers). Minoo is a more complex ure in the film than in the short story. She develops from the loving mother which she is in the opening scene to the servant in her own home after the maulvi's arrival, even being required to eat apart from her husband. His husband and she don't talk about nothing important, only Parvez's job, so the man feel a little bit misunderstood and look for a kind of relationship in which he can have a emotion and thoughts exchange at a higher level.

Farid/Ali's new attitudes towards the world he has always lived in lead to a very big conflict with his father. This conflict is both in the short story and the movie: it's the key to the story. The short story opens with Parvez sitting in Ali's room. The narrator who is an extra-diegetic narrator says that Parvez is "bewildered" by the fact that his son is getting tidier. He also explained Ali's old behavior to give reason for Parvez worries. Then the reader learns that Ali has an English girlfriend from whom he has parted. The film opens with a scene that shows Farid's family at a visit at his girlfriend's family, the Fingerhuts. Parvez is very enthusiastic and already s his son's wedding.  The short story says that Parvez and Ali once "were not only father and son, but brothers". While Parvez was dreaming of a better life in Britain being engaged to Fingeruts' daughter could improve their position in the social ladder) he did not realize that something is going wrong with his son until he changed. After a conversation with his friends and with Bettina Parvez worries about his son taking drugs. In the movie it is shown how Parvez checks Farid's temperature and Farid's reaction shows that he knows what his father is looking for and therefore he stretchs out his arm to show his veins. Parvez keeps his son under surveillance so one day he follows him into the mosque. There Parvez faces with the fact that his son is not just becoming religious. He changes to a fundamentalist, so that he is not accepted in the mosque since he tries to change other people's opinion. Farid is more radical than Ali. In the short story Ali shows his disgust for his father in the conversation they have when they are out for dinner, offending him. He just wants to state his view of things. Whereas at the nearly end of the film Farid and his friends attack the prostitutes, in fact Farid spits at Bettina. This violence maybe seen as an influence the maulvi (a character who wasn't in the original short story). The maulvi takes very much influence on Farid and helps him to become more fanatic. Farid trusts more the maulvi ideals of life than his fathers.

I find "My son the Fanatic" 's themes of very current interest. Even without the religious implications, the conflict between two different generations is present at every level of the social sphere. Young people live a life that their parents don't understand, even if they are loving parents who always want the best to their sons. The movie, more than the short story which sometimes give a limited view of things, is a study on the last generations development, on immigration, racism, downtown life, and on all that matters that scary us because of the terrorism. Farid turning into a fanatic make us understand how it happens that a common guy becomes a criminal.


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