The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia: Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dad, yelling, asks Karim how he managed to fail all his exams. Karim insists it's easy when you don't show up, and tells Dad that he's too disturbed by the divorce to study. After their fight, Dad ignores Karim, though Karim remains at Dad and Eva's house so he can avoid Changez. He doesn't understand why Dad takes his failing so personally, and he thinks that Dad sees him as an extension of himself.
Though Karim's failure is undeniably immature and foolish, his insight into how Dad thinks of their relationship is significantly more mature. It suggests that both Karim and Dad will have to learn to see others as individual people as they grow and mature over the rest of the novel.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
One day, Karim opens the door to Ted, tools in hand. Eva had heard from Dad that Ted was a builder, and made him an offer to remodel her house. Ted jumped at the opportunity to be close to Dad and Eva, though Jean is incensed about it. She agreed to let Ted work for Eva on the condition that Ted tells her everything at the end of the day. Karim is relieved to have hard labor to distract him, and he finds working with Eva and Ted refreshing. They often have to wait for Eva to meditate on the exact shape of a room, and they do yoga during lunch.
Jean's fear and anger is ironic given that between her and Ted, she's the one who has cheated. Her negative interest in Dad's affair continues to paint her as self-centered and intent on upholding some semblance of the status quo, particularly given that her desire to hear everything at the end of the day is another way of demanding Ted's loyalty. Like Karim, she still values loyalty above all else.
Themes
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Finally, Ted finishes the house. Karim often wonders what Ted tells Jean at the end of each night, and wonders how Ted talks about all the fun they have and the romance between Dad and Eva. He says that they often don't get to see too much of the romance as Dad and Eva tend to go out at night to see plays. Shadwell, Eva's old friend, is beginning to make it big, and he invites Eva and Dad 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 recount gossip and discuss the play.
As a whole, the houses that Eva and Ted remodel tend to symbolize class mobility and the way that access and privilege influence whether class mobility is even possible. Though Ted and Eva work hard to remodel these houses, they also have capital and standing to begin with, which they seldom acknowledge. In this way, the novel pokes holes in the Thatcherite beliefs in personal responsibility and hard work, as Eva and Ted's success is made possible by their privilege at the start.
Themes
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Karim says that Ted must've talked about money, a subject that bothers even him. Eva buys things with little regard for whether or not she can afford them. She tells Karim that she'll draw money to her when they need it, though Karim thinks they're in dire need of it now. Dad agrees with Eva but begins doing "guru gigs" again, which Eva now charges people to 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.
When Eva thinks of money as though it's inconsequential and almost unnecessary, she's trying to act more upper class than she actually is. Having this kind of mindset in regards to money is something that Karim attributes to those of the actual upper classes. Here then, Eva's flirtation with the mindset shows just how hard she's trying to climb the social ladder.
Themes
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
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Karim watches the romance between Dad and Eva grow. When he watches them speak, he realizes the words themselves don't matter; they're just verbal caresses. He begins developing his own theories on love, namely that their love seems selfish as it came at the expense of Mum. Karim can't fathom how Dad was able to do it, but takes heart that Dad seems to regret his choice. Once Dad tells Eva he feels like a criminal, and Eva flies into a wounded rage.
Karim's belief that love has a responsibility to other people plays into his ideas of loyalty while also dismantling Dad's God persona in Karim's mind. By not allowing Dad to mourn or regret his decision, Eva maintains her power over Dad and ensures that he remains loyal to her.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Eva decides to sell her house and move to London, and Karim suspects she wants to try to distract Dad from his misery about Mum. It's a futile attempt; Karim recounts being in the car with them one day and watching Dad burst into tears because he thought he saw Mum go into a shop alone, and he doesn't 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 in the morning. Dad and Eva go to all his gigs.
Through these passages, Karim implies that Dad's God persona is well and truly gone, as he's fully at the mercy of Eva's power and control. His emotions, regret, and loyalty mean little next to Eva's desire to draw everyone close to her and demand their loyalty, which is what she's also trying to do with Charlie.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class 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. Though Eva insists that Charlie is pure talent, Karim believes that Charlie only has potential—his music is horrible—and can charm people into appreciating him for his potential. Karim wonders how this magical charm even works, as Charlie can get people to agree to things without even asking. He begins to understand that Charlie does this by making people marvel at themselves, and Karim takes notes.
Karim's thoughts on Charlie's charm come about in part because Karim never suggests that Charlie ever really turned that charm on him—Karim has watched the charm from the sidelines, he hasn't experienced it firsthand. This continues to show how wholly uninterested in Karim Charlie is, which in turn makes it clear that Karim will never truly get what he wants from Charlie.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
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 a job ferrying equipment to and from gigs. One night, as Karim loads the van, Charlie walks past with a girl, insults Karim, and instructs him to bring acid to his dressing room. Karim turns on Charlie and asks what the hurry is, since Charlie isn't going anywhere with his band or as an individual. Charlie is disconcerted, and Karim continues to tell Charlie that he's not talented, just pretty. Charlie thinks for a moment and then admits he's breaking up the band, and what Karim said isn't relevant.
Just as Eva uses Dad and his guru gigs to finance the move to London, Charlie uses Karim to make his band function. He doesn't show Karim any kindness or loyalty, like giving him a place to play rhythm guitar would symbolize. This shows that the new family unit that Dad and Eva are creating isn't nearly as loyal as Karim would like it to be. However, it's also worth noting that Karim isn't necessarily helping this—insulting Charlie, whether Karim is correct or not, is denying Charlie familial loyalty.
Themes
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
At night, Karim fantasizes about London and thinks about the particular sound of London. He realizes he wants to attend the parties, do all the drugs on offer, and have sex as much as he can. Karim tells the reader he's twenty and ready for anything.
Karim's fantasies show that he idealizes both coming of age and London itself. This in turn sets him up to have these illusions shattered, a necessary aspect of growing up and coming of age.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon