The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia: Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rehearsals for The Jungle Book don't start until fall, so Karim moves back in with Mum until then. He watches her slowly transform herself and the house into her own space, not her family's space. Ted comes over and tends to the garden, and Karim has nightmares nearly every night.
As Mum develops her sense of independence, she experiences her own kind of coming of age. Again, she does so through her interaction with her home. By making it what she wants it to be, she makes herself into a happier person.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
When rehearsals begin, Karim moves back in with Dad and Eva. He loves the hard work of acting, and explains that Shadwell wants a very physical, mime-heavy version of The Jungle Book. Karim becomes friends with Terry, a handsome Welshman who plays Kaa, the snake. Karim decides to seduce Terry.
The movement and mime in the play mirror the kind of class mobility that Karim experiences: though it's true he's moving up, it's also very much an act.
Themes
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Karim and Shadwell begin arguing during the second week when Karim has his costume fitting. His costume turns out to be a tiny loincloth and dark brown makeup over his entire body. When Karim brings it up, Shadwell snaps that Karim will survive. Several weeks later, Shadwell asks Karim to do an "authentic" accent. Karim tries to refuse, but Shadwell insists that he cast Karim for "authenticity and not for experience." Karim is horrified and over the next few days he tries to avoid the subject of the accent.
Even if Karim was cast because he's half Indian, Shadwell's decisions make it clear to Karim that he's not Indian enough. Though this is a humiliating experience for Karim, it also suggests that Karim wasn't too far off in identifying more with his English side than his Indian side.
Themes
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Shadwell brings the accent up again in front of the entire cast, and Karim pleads that it's a political thing for him. None of the other actors stand up for Karim, even Terry who's an active Trotskyite. Shadwell reprimands Karim for holding back the cast, and Karim agrees to the accent but feels he never should've left South London. At the pub that night Karim sits alone. When Terry joins him, Terry insists that everything is "crap for actors." Karim questions Terry about the fate of directors like Shadwell after the revolution, but Terry isn't able to support his idea that men like Shadwell will work in factories after the revolution like everyone else.
This is one of the first experiences Karim has in London that shows him that London isn't necessarily the place of his dreams; he's still subject to racism and prejudice. When Terry insists that this is just another "crap for actors" incident, he minimizes Karim's experience and implies that Shadwell's racism is no different than any other unsavory request a director might make of actors.
Themes
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
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Karim explains that he likes Terry, but finds his views on the working class ridiculous. Terry doesn't understand that the working class people Karim know hate only the people below them on the social ladder. Despite this, Terry remains convinced that the working class will take down those higher up during the revolution to come. Terry also wants Karim to join the Party, which Karim agrees to do if Terry kisses him. Terry refuses. Though Terry's arguments of equality appeal to Karim, Karim realizes he wants to stand apart from others, not be just like everyone else. For this reason alone, Karim loves being Mowgli. He begins to make ridiculous demands of Shadwell to test his power.
As Karim picks apart the ways that Trotskyism doesn't actually work in practice, it shows that there's a major difference between the realities people faced in the seventies and the theories that people came up with to try to fix those realities. In Terry's case, this is indicative of his upper-middle class origins and shows that he's out of touch with the people he should be trying to engage with.
Themes
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Karim doesn't spend much time at home, but he notices that Eva isn't as interested in Indian culture as she once was. Rather, Eva is launching her "assault on London" and attending every dinner party she possibly can while cultivating an artistic persona. Karim observes that Eva is successful in climbing higher and higher, while Dad seems oblivious to it all. This leads to fights, as Eva insists that Dad needs to lay off on the mysticism.
Eva no longer needs to lean on Dad's Indian identity to climb the social ladder; she's now well known enough by herself and sees that for her, as a white Englishwoman, sticking with that identity is going to be the most profitable in the long run. Dad's obliviousness shows how little cares about the social climbing; he sets himself outside of that system.
Themes
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity 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 painted on his shirt. Eva is crying and pleading with Charlie to take off the swastika, but Charlie won't budge. As Charlie leaves, Eva screams that she won't support him anymore. Regardless, Karim takes Eva to Charlie's gig later that night. Charlie had become successful overnight by bullying his band into becoming a punk band and changing his name to Charlie Hero. Newspapers regularly interview Eva, and Charlie's first album is guaranteed to be an offensive success.
One of the hallmarks of the punk movement was purposefully offensive symbols and imagery like Charlie's swastika. It's meant to provoke reactions from older people like Eva. This scene reinforces how Charlie uses these youth movements to remain youthful and simultaneously make his mother look exceptionally old.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Though Charlie's set is perfectly angry, Karim giggles when he notices Charlie's perfect teeth—an indicator that the entire look is manufactured. When the club descends into a riot, The Fish gets Karim and Eva out. Karim and Eva walk through the streets, and Karim realizes that he can control his trajectory by working hard, which makes him feel strong and determined.
Again, British punk arose out of the high unemployment, something that the privileged Charlie hasn't really had to deal with. In this way, his teeth expose that he's not a true punk; he's just using the movement for his own gain.
Themes
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Karim invites Mum, Ted, and Jean to a preview of The Jungle Book, and Mum weeps with pride. They go dancing afterwards and Karim is thrilled at Mum's happiness. Karim invites Dad, Eva, Jamila, and Changez to the opening night, and nobody looks happy afterwards. Dad informs Karim that Mr. Kipling was horribly racist, and Jamila tells Karim that it was awful how he "pandered to prejudices."
The Jungle Book's logic assumes that Mowgli is naturally superior to the animals because he's human, which mirrors how the English viewed themselves in relation to colonized Indians. However, Karim's success as Mowgli comes from his Indian heritage, which shows that his heritage is something he can use to his advantage.
Themes
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Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Despite the mixed reactions from family, The Jungle Book does well in the eyes of the masses. Shadwell offers Karim a part in his next play, and Terry encourages Karim to accept. Terry cryptically tells Karim that he has work lined up too, but he's waiting for a call.
The play's success is indicative of ingrained racism in white Londoners. As Karim continues to see success as a result of being a part of this play, he sees that putting up with the racism is profitable.
Themes
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Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
One night, the box office manager rings backstage to tell the actors that the director Matthew Pyke had booked a ticket. Within moments, the room reaches a fever pitch. Karim has no idea who Pyke is and asks Terry to explain. Terry says that Pyke has taught and directed all over the western world, and attracts very important people to his shows.
Pyke is characterized as a leader and a builder of culture; he's part of the same experimental desire to move forward and discover new ways of doing things that Charlie discovers in the punk music scene.
Themes
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Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
The Jungle Book is the best ever that night, and the actors rush off to the pub afterwards. Terry impatiently waits for Karim to wash his makeup off, and Karim tries to convince Terry to hang out backstage and kiss instead of going to the pub. Terry insists that this is his call and they must go. At the pub, Karim watches several actors approach Pyke and be unceremoniously brushed off.
Though Karim is certainly trying to annoy Terry, his suggestion to not meet Pyke at all is indicative of his youth. It suggests he hasn't fully grasped that he needs to actually try and put himself out there to experience success in the London theatre scene.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Terry tells Karim that critics call Pyke's work puritanical because he likes bare stages and no props, but his personal life isn't so austere. Terry refuses to elaborate and Pyke approaches Terry and Karim's table. He coolly greets Terry and then invites Karim to have a drink at the bar. Terry looks distraught. Pyke asks Karim to talk about himself, and Karim begins to ramble about his parents' divorce. The other actors watch from Terry's table. As he rambles Karim realizes he neglected Mum by leaving her at Jean's, and Pyke offers Karim a part in his next production. Pyke cannot answer any questions about what kind of show or part it'll be.
Again, Karim's racially charged role as Mowgli is getting him places. This impresses upon Karim yet again that his Indian identity is something he can use to his advantage, assuming he's willing to put up with the injustice of the brown body paint and being forced to speak with an exaggerated, offensive accent. When Karim realizes he did abandon Mum, it shows his views on loyalty are changing and he's realizing that he, too, has to be loyal to his parents.
Themes
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
When Karim suggests that he might not want to work in such a vague way, Pyke declares that the play will be about class, the only available subject. Pyke and Karim part ways, and Karim hurries out of the pub. Terry chases Karim into the parking lot and interrogates him about his conversation with Pyke. Terry is incensed that Karim got a job and he didn't.
Pyke's desire to interrogate class relations in England is, again, reflective of the very fraught politics of the time period and situates him as a powerful voice in the conversation. His power suggests that he will be able to dictate how Karim portrays class in a way that might not be good.
Themes
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Karim waits several days to tell Shadwell about the job. Finally, right before one of the final performances of The Jungle Book begins, Karim tells Shadwell about the job. Shadwell is initially gentle, but soon raises his voice and bellows that Karim isn't experienced enough to deal with Pyke. He's loud enough the audience can hear. Shadwell insists that Pyke is elitist, paranoid, and frightened.
Shadwell betrays here that he was banking on Karim's immaturity and lack of experience to keep him employed by his production company, which shows that Karim's immaturity and youth is absolutely apparent. His willingness to make such a fuss shows, however, that he's also immature and selfish.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon