The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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Charlie Character Analysis

Charlie is Eva's son and Karim's crush and idol as a teen. Charlie is a year older than Karim and is described as being exceptionally handsome. However, Karim soon learns that despite Charlie's charm and good looks, he's cruel. He never returns Karim's affections, even after their sexual experience together, and he throws Karim into his drum set and makes him bleed. As Dad and Eva's relationship strengthens, Charlie drops out of school. Karim begins to realize that Charlie is charming but not necessarily a good musician. As Charlie spirals from his lack of success, he steals from Eva and from Karim. Eva ignores his thefts, but Karim resents Charlie for stealing all of his shirts. When Charlie and Karim go to a pub and see a punk band perform, Charlie has an epiphany. Though he and Karim mock the punks at first, Charlie wholeheartedly embraces the aesthetic and sentiment of the punks and very quickly becomes famous. His first album is very successful, and Karim even hears Matthew Pyke's son playing it five years after its release. The press often asks Eva for interviews about Charlie. Near the end of the novel, Charlie moves to New York. He finds New York refreshing and thinks that London is dirty and stagnated. In New York, Charlie also comes to the realization that he's not a great musician. He realizes he's good, but he doesn't have the innovation necessary to be truly great. Despite this, Charlie lives a wealthy life in New York and employs Karim for a while. Karim realizes he doesn't love or care about Charlie anymore when Charlie hires a dominatrix to humiliate him and invites Karim to participate. Karim watches with interest, but returns to London days later and doesn't look back.

Charlie Quotes in The Buddha of Suburbia

The The Buddha of Suburbia quotes below are all either spoken by Charlie or refer to Charlie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Buddha of Suburbia published in 1991.
Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

I wonder if Charlie really knew this, felt this, or whether his life as he lived it from day to day was as fucked-up and perplexed as everyone else's.

Related Characters: Karim (speaker), Charlie
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 10 Quotes

It was a wonderful trick and disguise. The one flaw, I giggled to myself, was his milky and healthy white teeth, which, to me, betrayed everything else.

Related Characters: Karim (speaker), Eva, Charlie
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 17 Quotes

"Well then, can't you stop standing there and looking so English?"

"What d'you mean, English?"

"So shocked, so self-righteous and moral, so loveless and incapable of dancing. They are narrow, the English. It is a Kingdom of Prejudice over there. Don't be like it!"

Related Characters: Karim (speaker), Charlie (speaker), Frankie
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Buddha of Suburbia LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Buddha of Suburbia PDF

Charlie Character Timeline in The Buddha of Suburbia

The timeline below shows where the character Charlie appears in The Buddha of Suburbia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Karim feels he's being watched and looks up the stairs to see Charlie, Eva's son, sitting at the top. He explains that both men and women find Charlie... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
...can talk to. He says that she's always good-tempered and does outrageous things like bring Charlie and his girlfriend breakfast in bed. She picks Dad up regularly for their writer's group... (full context)
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
...drinking wine. One man in a corduroy suit (Shadwell) sits against the wall, nervously smoking. Charlie suggests to Karim that they go upstairs and listen to something other than the Bach... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Karim curses, but Charlie tells Karim to watch. Dad leads the group in a few yoga poses and then... (full context)
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
As Charlie rolls a joint, he asks Karim if he meditates every morning with chanting. Karim lies... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
...in the kitchen and introduces himself as Shadwell, but Karim avoids him and returns to Charlie upstairs. (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Charlie is lying on his back and invites Karim to lie next to him. Karim complies... (full context)
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Suddenly, Karim hears something and turns around to see Dad's head poking through the trapdoor. Charlie zips his pants back up as both Dad and Eva enter the attic. Eva reprimands... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
...if there's anything true in what Dad is doing, since Dad was able to convince Charlie he's the real thing. Karim thinks that Dad is now God, but he still has... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
...Karim reaches out and pinches one of Helen's ears (which is warmish), but thinks of Charlie instead. Karim realizes he came tonight hoping to see Charlie, even though Charlie hasn't shown... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
...girl seems bored to death. She notices Karim and Karim finally realizes the boy is Charlie. (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Charlie notices Karim and greets him. Karim is fascinated as Charlie talks about his future success.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
...and he thinks that, though he doesn't believe in monogamy, his mind is fully on Charlie. Karim admits to the reader that he likes having sex with both boys and girls,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
...of the meeting, Karim leaves school to find Helen waiting for him. She kisses him. Charlie is hanging around, and he and Helen somehow know each other. Karim interrupts their flirtations... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Suddenly, a car turns onto the street blasting music extremely loudly. The Fish, Charlie's band manager, is driving. Charlie offers Helen a ride, but she refuses. After Charlie leaves,... (full context)
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
...before finally stopping in at a bar. Jamila drinks silently, but Helen rambles on about Charlie and his new record deal. Karim wonders if Charlie's life is as perplexing as his... (full context)
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
...They have sex in a nearby park, and Karim wonders if they're both thinking of Charlie. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
When they get to Eva's house, Eva sends Karim upstairs to see Charlie. Karim is annoyed, but he sees Eva and Dad groping at each other as they... (full context)
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Charlie embraces Karim, and Karim grabs Charlie's buttocks. When Charlie jumps, Karim grabs between his legs.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
...people, Eva says that it's their fault they're ugly. Karim thinks that this is where Charlie gets his cruelty. (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...his parents' empty house, and Changez and Jamila's flat. He drops out of school when Charlie stops going, and Eva sets Karim up to go to college. Karim attends classes with... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
...to dinner parties. When they go out, Karim wanders around the house, sometimes lying in Charlie's attic wondering what he's up to. When Dad and Eva return, Karim listens to them... (full context)
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
...attend. She arranges for Dad to have an interview with a paper that once got Charlie on the front page, and Dad revels in his newfound fame. (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
...want her to be alone. Karim also realizes that Eva wants to be close to Charlie, who only rarely visits. He lives a transient life and occasionally appears in the kitchen... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
As Dad and Karim pack Charlie's attic, they discuss that Charlie's problem is that his band doesn't have an original sound.... (full context)
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Karim harbors a desire to play rhythm guitar with Charlie's band, Mustn't Grumble. When he brings it up to Charlie, Charlie laughs but gives Karim... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
...sad. The walls are covered in paintings that mysteriously disappear, and Eva finally admits that Charlie is stealing them. Karim sleeps on the couch and Charlie sleeps on the floor when... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
One night, Charlie invites Karim out to the bar with him. Charlie doesn't seem to really want to... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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Karim leans Charlie against a wall to steady him and looks around the room. Karim looks around and... (full context)
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Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
As Karim starts to move Charlie out of the bar, the band takes the stage. Karim watches as the crowd screams... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Charlie is excited as he and Karim walk. He insists that the sixties are over now,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
One night, Karim comes home to find Charlie in Eva and Dad's bedroom, dressed in black and safety pins. He has a swastika... (full context)
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
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Though Charlie's set is perfectly angry, Karim giggles when he notices Charlie's perfect teeth—an indicator that the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
...then need to somehow write into a play. Pyke dissuades Karim from choosing to portray Charlie, insisting that the play needs somebody black. Karim decides to portray Anwar and bikes to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
...son walks into the living room. Pyke nonchalantly mentions to his son that Karim is Charlie Hero's stepbrother, and the moody boy is suddenly excited and alert. Karim answers the boy's... (full context)
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...mind to carry him back to the night of Dad's first appearance. He thinks of Charlie and how Charlie is now famous, and how Karim himself is now a successful actor,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 17
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Karim leaves the room and tries to call Charlie, who's living in New York, and he asks Eleanor to leave the party with him.... (full context)
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Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Karim comes to in a cab with Charlie. Charlie had come to the party late and found Karim passed out under a piano.... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Karim explains that even though Charlie is still angry on stage, the image isn't as effective outside of England: America doesn't... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Charlie invites Karim to stay with him when Karim tells him about Eleanor. Karim is fascinated... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...before the cast goes their separate ways. Karim remains in New York and works for Charlie, but his depression worsens. Karim wonders why he doesn't hurt himself and thinks of Dad.... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
After six months, Karim decides it's time to go home. Charlie resists, and Karim wonders if it's because Karim is the one person in America who... (full context)
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One day, as Charlie and Karim walk home, a journalist runs up to Charlie and begs for an interview.... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Karim tries to catch Charlie's eye, but Charlie is intent on Frankie. Frankie suggests that Karim and Charlie might like... (full context)
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Upstairs, Charlie lights candles in the bedroom. Charlie undresses and he and Frankie kiss. Karim asks uncomfortably... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Karim moves around the bed to watch Frankie on top of Charlie. He later thinks that it was an excellent evening, but decides to fly home when... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 18
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
...and a woman are unloading photography equipment. The man yells and asks Karim if he's Charlie's manager. (full context)
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
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...they must be enabled to grow. The photographer whispers to the woman to ask about Charlie, but Eva insists she won't comment on him. (full context)