Abstract: 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. Introduction: The theme of my term paper is the analysis of a short story with specialregard to the Psychoanalysis and historical background. “My son the fanatic”,by Hanif Kureishi. I have chosen this story because, as reported by my Englishteacher, this story does not only describe the situation of immigrants in GreatBritain, it also describes problems between a father and his son so that thestory also has reference to every boy’s life.Studies ofpsychoanalysis are conducted to see the thwarted ways that the mind suppressesfeelings. 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 todynamics of interpersonal relations and with the self is formulated through itsinteractions with the familial and socio-culture environment. As to therelation between psychoanalysis and literary studies, there are also studies ofcharacters in literary works under psychoanalytic perspective. These studiesare focused on the mind’s operations in literature which covers the unconsciousand the instincts or with the family relations, personal history, and thesocial environments.
Another strand in this type of studies focuses on thewriter’s unconsciousness as reflected in their work.On the Author: Hanif Kureishi was born onDecember 5th, 1954 in London as a son of an Englishwoman and aPakistani. Since he grew up experiencing racial and cultural conflicts,most of his works are marked by this. His decision to become a writer wasalready made at a young age at which he began writing novels that were intendedfor publication.At 1972 Hanif Kureishi studiedphilosophy at the University of London and earned his living by writingpornography under the pseudonym of Antonia French.
After a humble beginning asan usher for the Royal Theatre, Kureishi later became a writer in residence ofthe theatre. His first play, “Soaking Up the Heat”, was produced in 1976 atLondon’s Theatre Upstairs. He had a first great success with his second play,”The mother Country”, for which he received the Thomas Television PlaywrightAward in 1980.
But his breakthrough was his first play for the Royal CourtTheatre,” Borderline”.But also with his first effortsin the film business Kureishi was very successful and gained him a largeraudience. “My Beautiful Launderette” for example, written in 1985, won severalawards.LiteratureReview:Bibliography. Text. Kureishi, Hanif”My Son the Fanatic” in: “Many Voices Many Cultures, Multicultural BritishShort Stories”, Philipp Reclaim, Stuttgart 1997 Publisher: Barbara Korte undClaudia Sternberg, p.147-165. Summary: The short story “My son the Fanatic”, by Hanif Kureishi is aboutproblems between Parvez, who is a Pakistani immigrant in England and his sonAli.
Since Ali’s behavior has changed Parvez supposes that something is goingwrong 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 theconclusion that Ali is taking drugs. As Parvez is a taxi driver he often drivesBettina around, who is a prostitute. Since their relationship to each other isvery good he also talks with her about his son.
She advises him to watch hisson more critically and to search for clues for his addiction. But althoughParvez observes his son very strictly he cannot find any kind of hint about hisson’s addiction. But what Parvez finds out is that his son is growing a beardand that he does not sell his belongings but he gives them away to charityshops. Furthermore Parvez notices that his son prays five times a day. SoParvez decides to go out with his son to talk with Ali about these things.
Butwhen they are in a restaurant, Parvez drinks too much alcohol so they begin toquarrel. Ali criticizes his father because of breaking to many rules of theKoran and wants him to change his life. Later he also tells his father that hewants to give up his studies in accounting. Because Parvez thinks that he haslost his son and he cannot endure his son’s criticism any longer he wants hisson to get out of his house. But Bettina can convince him of trying to identifywith his son so that Parvez endures his son’s criticism and that he is evengrowing a beard to please his son.
Furthermore he tries to talk to his son totell him his attitudes of life. But Ali still despises his father because hedoes not stick to the Koran.When Parvez drives around Bettina withhis taxi they meet Ali on the street and they stop and take him with thembecause Bettina wants to talk with him. But when she tells him that his fatherloves him, Ali only gets angry and begins to insult Bettina so that she leavesthe car. Because Parvez now is very angry about his son he begins to drink whenthey arrive at home so that he finally goes into his son’s room to hit his sonwho neither covers himself nor retaliates,CharactersAnalysis:Parvez.Parvez’ roles in thestory are predominant. In fact, this story seems to pay primary attention tohis problems and desires.
His problems may start from his curiosity over hisson, Ali. Ali’s behavior changes in a strange manner in his opinion. He wasinitially bewildered, but then confused. He then begins to feel anxious sinceAli starts to dispose stuffs, such as “computer discs, video tapes, new booksand fashionable clothes” (Kureishi, 1997). Ali also breaks his relation with anEnglish girl. This is followed by Ali’s change of behavior towards him. Alibecomes hostile about him.
He is, however, unable to discuss this change withAli. In fact, he feels that this change affects him negatively. He thinks thathe has worked hard to provide his son what he needs, yet his son does not feelthat way. Parvez’s anxiety over his son’s changes of behavior is unconsciouslyrooted in his unpreparedness for the change. It seems that Parvez has astraight idea about life, that is, his son needs the fulfillment of materialneeds and pleasant social relations with other sex.
He is not prepared thatthis 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 forit, even though it may be an unknown one.” Why do the changes produce ananxiety in him? This can probably be explained by Fromm’s conviction thatanxiety turns up whenever there is “a threat against vital (material andemotional) interests”. The vital interests in the story are seen from Parvez’sfeelings that he is being treated unjustly by his son because Ali’s disposingstuffs he has provided for his own interests and his being cynical to him. BothParvez’s material and emotional interests are threatened.
He has provided forAli material fulfillment, but Ali throws them away. Ali’s actions are threatsto 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 hisson, he cannot bring up the problem. Instead, he cannot sleep and drinks whiskymore and more. Parvez’s behavior in facing such changes is not to face anddiscuss them with his son. What he does, instead, is a sort of escaping fromthe problems by drinking whisky, being not productive either. Three things canbe 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 forthe changes. This shows the father-and-son relations in the family. Secondly,Parvez has probably strings attached in his bringing up his son. He hasparticular hidden purposes for his son which he keeps in his mind and does notlet his son know about it.
He does not want to discuss Ali’s behavior becauseAli will surely criticize him for not being close to him and for directing Alito a particular path which may not be wanted by Ali. Thus, these also implythat Ali is strange to Parvez or even, as the story goes on, both do notunderstand each other. Each is alienated from the other. Thirdly, it isinteresting to notice that Parvez’s drinking as a means of escaping from theproblem.
There is a possibility that his act of drinking is related to theobsessive desire to be free from reality. He has dreams and his dreams areabout to be thwarted. Thus, he also seeks a compen- sation for his dreams. Thepossible reason for this is that by getting drunk, he will be able to getconnected 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, welearn that Parvez does not want to discuss his problems with his friends atwork either. His feelings is that he is too ashamed of being blamed from theway he brings up his son and for what he has boasted.Parvez is a Pakistani immigrant in England.
He grew up inLahore and he has been a taxi-driver for twenty years.Although Parvez was taught the Koran in Lahore, hisrelationship to the Koran is very bad which becomes clear in many parts of thetext. describes Parvez’ indifference to the Koran at his young age: His maulvihad to attach a string to the ceiling and to tie it to Parvez’ hair to stop himfrom falling asleep while he was studying the Koran. And also in England hisattitude to the Koran has not changed. When he is told by his son that he is breakingthe rules of the Koran , Parvez only shrugs or answers “For instance?” He even says that heloves crispy bacon and that he avoids all religions.
A person Parvez likes very much is Bettina. This isindicated for example: “He could talk to her about things he’d be never able todiscuss with his own wife”: “To his relief, he found Bettina sitting in hiscar”. He even shouts after her to make her come back when she jumps out of thetaxi and runs away. It is also obvious that Parvez has his problems withalcohol. An example for this is “he went more often to the whisky bottle, evenwhen he was at work.” And even when he knows that he gets drunk he cannot stophimself from drinking Ali: Ali’s behaviour is interesting to noticebecause he does what he thinks is right. From the start, his behaviour towardshis father is not a warm one. This is probably caused by his father’s ignorancetowards his real activities and personal development.
In fact, there is not anynarration in the story telling that he and his father shows any harmoniousrelation. His behaviour changes as soon as he studies Islamic teachings. Thechange is not known by his father. It seems, however, there is a problem in hispracticing the teachings.
He changes his behaviour all of sudden. This may beunderstood if he lets his parents know about what is going on. However, heseems to be alienated from his father so that his communication with him isuseless.
It is worse since, after he studies the religious teachings, hebecomes critical against his father. Here a typical Oedipal relation starts toappear. Under this theory, there is a stage in any individual during theirdevelopment to experience the liberation of an individual from the authority oftheir parents. If this stage is not passed successfully, then a neurotic will beproduced.
Initially, the “child gets to know other parents and compares themwith his/ her own, and so acquires the right to doubt the incomparable andunique quality which he had attributed to them. Small events in the child’slife which make him feel dissatisfied afford him provocation for beginning to criticizehis parents, and for using, in order to support his critical attitude, theknowledge which he has acquired that other parents are in some respectspreferable to them” (Freud, 1959:237). The problem with Ali in relation to hiscritical attitude, however, is far stronger than gaining knowledge about otherparents. Ali seems to seek the father figure in a God in Islam. He finds theperfect ideal of father in it. This is because he initially idealizes his ownfather. However, he changes to turn to God as a father-substitute because he isnot given attention by his father.
In this God, he learns about things that areallowed and prohibited. When he sees that his own father who has not paid anyattention to him breaks the Divine rules of God as a father-substitute, he defendedhis God against his own father. In this situation, his interpretation ofreligious teaching is based on oppositional principle, black-and-white model.In relation to this problem, there are only two possible sides in Islamicteachings, that is between good represented by God and evil as depicted bySatan. Ali chooses God to fight against Satan. Thus, he becomes so obsessive incriticizing his father since his father, he considers, is a substitute ofDevil.
However, there is a conflict within Ali in doing so because, on the onehand, 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 acontradiction between the things that he thinks his father should do and thosethat his father is doing. This creates an ambivalent attitude on his father.Analysis of the relationship betweenParvez and his son Ali: It is obvious in the story thatthe relationship between Parvez and Ali is bad and that they do not understandeach other.A reason for this mainly is Ali’sdevelopment to a Muslim, which Parvez does not notice. Of course Parvez noticesthat his son’s behaviour has changed, he notices for example his son’s computerdisks, videotapes, new books and fashionable clothes beside the dustbin and thatAli throws out his possessions like his TV, his video-player, his stereo systemand his guitar, but Parvez is not able to bring up the subject of Ali’s unusualbehaviour. Of course this behaviour results from Ali’s religionand there is a rule he has tostick to called Zakat (explained on page 3-4: “Aspects ofIslam”)And also when Ali is growing abeard and when he is praying five times a day Parvez does not recognize hisson’s Islamic religion. So Parvez does not only have problems to understand hisson, he also misunderstands his son by interpreting his behaviour as beingaddicted to drugs “His boy – the drug-addict”.
But although Parvez does notunderstand his son anymore he loves Ali anyway. He works long hours for Ali andyearns for the time when they were “brothers” “We were not father and son – wewere brothers! Where has he gone?”. So Parvez decides to go out with his son becausehe desires “more than anything” to know why his son’s behaviour has changed Bythis I think Parvez wants to restore his old relationship with his son. But byAli’s claim that he has an appointment and that he refuses to accompany hisfather it becomes clear that Ali does not like his father anymore. So Parvezhas to insist on his opinion that no appointment could be more important thanthat of a son with his father. Here even Parvez describes their relationship asfather and son, which shows that their relationship has become worse and worse.
Especially when they are togetherin the restaurant the religious aspect why they do not understand each otherbecomes clear. Ali does not accept his father’s way of life “the boy urged himto mend his ways” because he does not stick to the Koran” Each time Parvez tooka drink, the boy winced, or made some kind of fastidious face” so that he evenhates his father for this “Ali had a horrible look, full of disgust andcensure. It was as if he hated his father”.It is also obvious that Parvezsuffers from his son’s intolerance towards him.
So Parvez even cries “Parvezeyes filled with tears” and tries everything to please his son so that theywill be “brothers” again “Parvez told Bettina he was willing to pray, if thatwas 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 tonotice it. So Parvez feels that he has lost his son “I feel as if I’ve lost myson”.
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 hishand.” I would interpret this situation as follows: Parvez is at his lowestpoint 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 theyare really apart from each other, is when Parvez and Bettina drive around withthe taxi. They meet Ali and take him with them.
In this situation it even seemsthat Bettina has a closer relationship to Parvez than Ali has because he getsinto the back seat where passengers normally sit, while Bettina sits in thefront, beside Parvez.In addiction, I think it is notonly the religious aspect which makes Parvez and Ali understand each other sobadly. I would also interpret their situation as generation conflict becausethey often have different attitudes towards life. Parvez for example says: “Wasit asking to much for Ali to get a good job, marry the right girl, and start afamily” or “While I am here on earth Iwant to make the best of it. And I want you to as well”. So Parvez wants hisson to make “the best” of his life but this life is for sure not the life Aliwants.
For example Parvez works long hours for Ali to spend a lot of money onAli’s education as an accountant, but this is not what Ali wants. Ali wants togive up his studies in accounting and he is going to work in prison with poorMuslims. And there are many more examples of these contrary attitudes: WhileParvez thinks he has lived a decent life, Ali does not think so because in hisopinion his father has broken countless rules of the Koran. Or while Parvezthinks that they have to fit in in England, Ali thinks that Parvez is “tooimplicated” in Western civilization.Because of this generationconflict and their bad situation resulting from Ali’s religious behaviour thesituation escalates. Parvez who feels that he has lost his son loses his temperand hits the boy “Parvez kicked him over. Then he dragged the boy up by thefront of his shirt and hit him.
The boy fell back. Parvez hit him again. Theboy’s face was bloody.”Although the story ends at thispoint, you can figure out that by this act Parvez and Ali have “lost” each otherforever.DataAnalysis:Theory: Inrelation to the structure of personality, Freud propounded his theory about thecomponents that comprise a personality. He stated that two important elementsof human beings include what he termed unconscious and consciousness. Theformer is considered to be the reservoir of sexual instincts and of desires andfeelings which are regarded as unacceptable by the conscious.
The termconscious denotes the part of human’s mind which is aware to external stimulationand internal impulse. In other words, it is the awareness part of mind. The twoelements interacted the aspects of unconscious.
What lie in the unconsciousmust be controlled, suppressed, or even eliminated from the conscious. On theother hand, these aspects of unconscious continually try to gain satisfactionor release and need expression. The results can take the forms of indirect orthwarted expressions. In a similar manner, desires are also repressed and thisresults in an energy that is directed towards conscious representation. Theconflict between these instincts and desires and the suppressions enforced bythe ego will result in the distortions or displacement of unconscious forcessince these urge expressions.
As a consequence, neurotic symptoms or dreamswill appear.Other concept thatfreud proposed is identification. He stated that ‘a little boy will exhibit aspecial 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 aprocess of identification, an ambivalence occurs. Identification contains boththe sense of being similar to as well as being against a father figure. Freudhypothesized that the reason for such a split due to the boy’s notion that the fatherstands in the way in the boy’s relationship with hin mother. The father becomesa hindrance to the boy’s cathexis towards the mother.Conclusion: Both Parvez and Ali are in situations where newidentities are searched and formulated.
Parvez is pulled between his past andpresent. His past is religious life in Pakistan and his present is a moreliberal life in England. His wife who is ordered to cook pork represents thepast while Bettina, the prostitute, is his present. His attempts to obliterate thetraces of past is seemingly successful by breaking religious laws and betrayinghis marriage. Yet, there is a part of him that is till attached a bit to thepast. However, his dream about successful immigrant is the dearest thing in hislife. He finally defends his dreams against his son’s rebellion in a furiousway.
Meanwhile, Ali is also torn between the daily Western culture that heexperiences and the Muslim values that he recently understands; both of whichare in contradiction. The problem with Ali in embracing and practicing Islamicteachings is that he learns the religious norms, yet he has unsolved problemswith his father. So, when he feels that there are some religious prohibitionsare violated by his father, he becomes so obsessive that he demonizes hisfather and despises him. He considers his father the Devil who resists God’sregulations and does not deserve any attention. On the other hand, he has nopower to defeat his father. He has been plunged into a kind of interpretationon religious teachings that everything against religious norms should be foughtagainst instead of being changed in a gradual fashion. In other words, hedeviates even from the religious principle in his method of making his fatherunderstand about his new religious belief.
He mistakenly represents Islam and deservesto be called “fundamentalist”. Then, however, he is still insistent that he isthe right one and he cannot understand his father’s knocking him over. What isconveyed through the story is that, when Oedipal conflict between a father andhis son takes place, there is a chance for the son to win. However, the sonwill experience an ambivalent attitude towards his father under such acircumstance because, on the one hand, he wants to rival his father in hisunderstanding about life, he is not capable of carrying the role since he realizeshis own weakness under familial relationship, on the other.
So, when the son goesout of control, the father will do anything to punish him, even with violentacts.SecondaryLiterature,1. http://www.islam.
http://www.al-islam.org/beliefs/index.html5. Microsoft ENCARTA 98 ENZYCLOPÄDIE6.http://www.emory.edu/English/Bahri/Kureishi.html