My Son the Fanatic My Son the Fanatic is a short story about a worried dad, Parvez. From his perspective we get to read how his son, Ali, is suddenly changing his view on life and with that, also turning upside down his father’s life. A theme of the story could be: ‘teenager creating his own identity’. That is what Ali is doing by breaking out of the world in which he was raised by his parents. Ali wants to take the opposite direction of his dad, to avoid ending up like him; this could be an important reason for Ali suddenly becoming a Muslim.
Another possible theme would be: ‘rebelling against parents’. The story is told in third person singular by an implicit teller who is aware of Parvez’ thoughts and how he is feeling. There are only three relevant characters in the story: Parvez the father, Ali the son and Bettina, who is a street prostitute and a friend of Parvez. Parvez is a taxi driver living in England with his family. Even though he was raised in Lahore and taught to be a Muslim, he tries to fit in with society as good as possible.
As a child, Parvez had bad experiences learning the Koran, which is probably what causes his anti-religious behaviour (p. 197 l. 21 and 197 l. 38-40). That is also why Parvez has difficulties trying to understand his son, when he finds him praying five times a day. He feels he has lost his son (p. 199 l. 22), and gets so angry that he can’t control himself in some situations. However, throughout the story we get the impression that he is a good father, really trying to live with the way his son has changed.
For instance, on page 196 lines 23 – 27, Parvez takes a night off to go out with his son and tell him about his family in Pakistan. Parvez’ good intentions aside; him having a drinking problem combined with the sharp tongue Ali has developed are two things that are not making it easy for Parvez to keep his temper. Throughout the story, Parvez talks to Bettina about the problem, sounding very insecure and worried. E. g. on page 194 lines 13 – 16: “I can’t understand it! ’ … We were not father and son – we were brothers!
Where has he gone? Why is he torturing me! ” This makes the reader feel sympathetic towards him until page 202 lines 1-4, where he kicks and beats his son several times. We know very little about how Ali was as a person before he changed. We know from his dad that he was messy, playing guitar, had English friends and an English girlfriend. Despite Ali being raised in a regular English way and being a teenager, because of his religious change, he has become more responsible, quiet and serious.
Living by the rules of the Koran, Ali is now behaving as a missionary towards his father. One reason for Ali’s sudden religious behaviour could be that he seeks his spiritual side. Maybe he wants some answers about life and death that science can’t give him. Ali could also be so afraid and disgusted by the idea of ending up like his father, a taxi driver with a drinking-problem, that he now does everything he can to prevent that from happening. The ending makes the reader uncertain of where his or her sympathy lies.
I was on Parvez’ side throughout the story, disliking how Ali didn’t involve his family in his sudden new life-style. But, on page 202 lines 1-4, Parvez beats his son, and Ali says on page 202 line 6: “So who’s the fanatic now? ”. Ali saying this makes the reader realise that Parvez actually has been very obsessed with his son’s religious behaviour, thinking about it constantly. This is a turning point in the story, since it becomes clear that Parvez is the one becoming fanatically angry time after time, while Ali is the more reasonable one, after his change of beliefs.
To conclude, this story is about a worried father whose teenage son is suddenly turning religiously active. The teenager is able to identify himself with neither his father nor the society he is living in. Therefore he seeks answers to fill a hole inside of him. Answers, that science cannot provide. The father is having a hard time accepting that, not realising that with his aggressive response to his son’s changes, he actually turns into a fanatic himself, constantly watching his son and obsessing about his behaviour. Savanna K2