My Son The Fanatic Characterization
How would you characterize Parvez's, Ali's, and Bettina's perspectives on life in My Son the Fanatic?
Parvez is Ali's father. He is a hard-working cab driver who has worked long hours to afford his son the best education his money can buy. His stance on religion and life are closely intertwined. A painful experience at the hands of his religious teachers during his youth has sworn Parvez off organized religion.
He is content to enjoy the freedom his adopted England accords him and to live a quiet life. Parvez believes a good man should be able to enjoy an occasional alcoholic drink or some bacon despite it being forbidden in the Islamic faith. He reasons that 'life is for living,' basically that such treats, taken well within reason and moderation, should not implicate one's moral character. Parvez also believes that one should improve upon all the opportunities that life affords. To that end, he is disappointed and grieved that Ali has failed to take full advantage of all the options available to him by way of his education.
According to the story, Ali is a sincere and idealistic young man who has been seduced by radical voices. He finds it hard to relate to his father's relaxed attitudes about life and religion. Although he is a trained accountant, he hungers for something more meaningful in his life than the daily grind. He believes that many Muslims are oppressed around the world and is irritated that his father does not acknowledge this fact. He wishes to do his part to contribute to better lives and opportunities for his people. Ali differs with his father in his religious outlook: he views the restrictions in Islam as a necessary tool to preserve morality rather than as an oppressive religious mechanism to control the populace, as his father believes.
Bettina is a prostitute who is a good friend of Parvez's. She is a good listener and is supportive of Parvez's attempts to communicate with Ali. Although we do not know if Bettina is religious, her outlook on life is closer to that of Parvez's than Ali's. This comes out clearly in the exchange she has with Ali. While she addresses Ali as if he were a relative she cares about, Ali is contemptuous of her profession as a prostitute and refuses to engage in any meaningful conversation with her. It is Bettina who encourages Parvez to communicate to Ali that there are other philosophies in life worth exploring besides that accorded by religion. She begs Parvez to be patient with Ali.
Bettina understands that young people are often impulsive and impetuous; to that end, she believes that Parvez's parental love and support will help Ali sort out the often confusing messages promulgated by 'cults and superstitious groups.'
Parvez, a Pakistani immigrant, doesn't romanticize life in his country of origin. He is glad to have gotten away from Pakistan and appreciates having had the opportunity to build a good life for himself and his family in England. He doesn't believe in the afterlife, so he wants to enjoy his existence in the here and now. To him that means taking advantage of the freedoms and pleasures the West has to offer which are forbidden by Islam: alcohol, pork, and a friendship with a prostitute. He hopes his son will do even better than he has. Parvez has worked hard as a cab driver so Ali can go to college and become a white-collar worker.
Ali has spent his entire life in England. Rather than appreciate all its material benefits, he feels despised by white Britons. He is attracted to what he understands as the purity of fundamentalist Islam. He gives away the expensive computer and other material goods his father bought for him. He looks down on his father for drinking (and arguably Parvez drinks too much), eating pork, and participating in a culture that Ali believes is decadent. Ali wants to sacrifice for Islam.
Bettina, the prostitute who Parvez cares about, is a warm, personable woman who tries to act as a mediator between father and son. She likes for people to get along, and like Parvez, she is adapted to Western culture.