How can you chart the development of the father-son conflict in "My Son, the Fanatic"?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In a line graph or chart of the father-son conflict in "My Son, the Fanatic," the father and son would start off closely aligned, then show dramatic separation. Interestingly enough, I think that the story's conclusion would feature both lines coming together.   

The development of the father-son conflict would have to begin at a point where father and son were relatively aligned in their goals and outlook on life. Parvez bursts out in the company of other cabbies that "We were not father and son—we were brothers." It is clear that at one point, both were very close.  This is reflected in how Parvez bought his son a computer and saw to his schooling in the "English way," something that Ali embraced.

From this point, the chart of their conflict emerges in how Ali rejects the life that his father provides for him.  The cleaning out of his room is one such place where the conflict begins to emerge.  The pictures are removed from the walls, and the computer disks are thrown away.  When asked about him no longer playing the guitar, Ali contemptuously responds that there "are more important things to be done."  The conflict's roots can be found here.

Plotting the further escalation of conflict would include the dinner in which father and son reveal themselves to be diametrically opposed to one another.  It ends with Ali pretty much telling his father that he is going to hell and Parvez ready to physically assault his son in public.  The height of the conflict between both is evident in the treatment of Bettina in the cab.  It is at this point where the conflict reaches its maximum breaking point.  The disrespect Bettina has to endure is as much about Parvez as it is about her.  Ali uses it as a way to mock and denigrate his father's value system. At this point, it is clear that their relationship is irretrievable.  Any chart would have to show this moment at the greatest separation between father and son and the height of conflict between them.

I want to suggest that the ending is a convergence.  Ali's intolerance is matched by his father's when Parvez beats the boy.  Both are the same. Neither believe in flexibility and understanding.  Ali is dead set in his ways and as Parvez beats him ferociously, he is set in his.  Charting this out in a visual manner would have both coming together.  In the strangest way, I think that this is where their conflict is resolved.  Both of them have become their own "fanatics," incapable of tolerance of one another.

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