Describe the character of Parvez in "My Son, the Fanatic."

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

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Parvez is an interesting character in Kurieshi's story because he displays behaviors typically reflective of a culturally liberal perspective, but employs a traditionalist parenting style.

Parvez is a cultural liberal.  He believes in the assimilationist ways of modern England.  This means that, as an immigrant, he believes that it is his job to blend in and not stand out.  He embraces all that England has to offer, shedding his own cultural and spiritual background.  To Ali's desdain, his enjoyment of pork pies, bacon, whiskey and gambling is reflective of this tendency.  

His liberalism extends to his inter- and intra- personal choices.  He has no problem befriending Bettina, as he believes that her insights are quite valuable.  He shares his problems with her more than he would with his own wife. Parvez believes that his role is to provide for his family, make money in the opportunities that England affords him, as well as ensure that his son follows in the English way of doing things.  Parvez provides for the boy's studies the best way he can so that Ali can serve as the next generation to model the "good English values" of studying at university, procuring a position at a prestigious accounting firm, and continuing the same materialist process but to a higher degree than Parvez has come to embody.

Yet Parvez is a traditionalist in terms of his parenting.  He fundamentally believes that his son owes it to him to follow the path that Parvez feels is acceptable.  Parvez is not liberal enough to say that it is ok for his son to embrace spiritualism.  Rather, he speaks as if Ali owes it to him to do his father's bidding:

Yet Parvez felt his son's eccentricity an injustice. He had always been aware of the pitfalls that other men's sons had fallen into in England. And so, for Ali, he had worked long hours and spent alot of money paying for his education as an accountant. He had bought him good suits, all the books he required and a computer. And now the boy was throwing his possessions out!

Parvez demonstrates his conservative parenting tendencies in his outrage.  He feels personally slighted that his son would choose such a different path and reject all that he has provided for the boy.  He sees it as an "injustice" that Ali would make such a choice.  In this light, Parvez embraces a vision of parenting where children are to do what their parents insist and not question their authority through their choices.  This outrage is furthered when Parvez tells Bettina that "what I object to...is being told by my own son that I am going to hell!"  Parvez is so traditional in his approach to parenting that he finds his son's questioning approach to be unacceptable. He tries to balance this approach with a liberal understanding one that seeks to empathize with his son, one that seeks to comprehend why the changes in him have taken place.  However, this balance is tilted towards the conservative side when Bettina is mistreated.  The ending of the story where Parvez's conservative tendency in parenting is displayed to its fullest extent is thus not too surprising.  It is the logical consequence of a parenting paradigm that has failed to provide effective answers to complex questions of growth and maturation.

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