The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia: Part 2, Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On Saturday, Karim and Eleanor dress up and take the train to Pyke's house. Karim studies the house and thinks of what Terry had told him about Pyke. Terry recently landed a gig playing a policeman in a TV drama, an ideologically uncomfortable role given that he believes the police are fascist. Terry had asked Karim to publically ask Pyke's son what school he goes to, insisting that it'll be expensive, exclusive, and proof that Pyke is a class enemy.
The fact that Terry took the job playing a policeman shows that he's unwilling or unable to practice what he preaches, which continues to undermine his ideologically charming ideas. Further, since Terry's apparent distaste for Pyke only surfaced after Pyke neglected to cast him, it suggests that Terry is far more self-centered than his beliefs would lead one to believe.
Themes
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
A servant girl lets Karim and Eleanor in, seats them in the living room, and explains that Pyke and Marlene are "dressing." Eleanor wonders why Pyke invited them over and haughtily tells Karim that they shouldn't deny each other experiences. Karim feels nervous, as he has no idea what "experiences" Eleanor is referring to. He asks her why they don't talk about Gene, but she cries and runs to the bathroom after insisting that Karim is too self-centered to understand.
Throughout this evening at Pyke's house, Karim has very little agency. Eleanor sets him off balance from the get go by denying him any display of loyalty or affection, and it's important to remember that though Karim admits he's curious about this experience, Pyke also coerced him into it.
Themes
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Karim pretends to be a "class detective" and looks around the living room. He thinks that Terry must have underestimated Pyke's wealth, as the furnishings are extremely expensive. Eleanor returns as Pyke and Marlene make their way down the stairs. Karim thinks that Marlene is undeniably sexual, but definitely not young. They all sit and eat turkey salad in the living room and barely make conversation. After dinner, Marlene brings out some marijuana.
The lack of conversation during dinner suggests that Pyke and Marlene aren't interested in learning about others through any mundane interactions. This shows that they value excitement and sex over people's expressed thoughts and feelings, and reinforces that they don't think of their sex partners as full individuals.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
As they smoke, Pyke's sullen teenage 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 questions, and asks him what school he goes to. The boy, as Terry predicted, attends a very prestigious school. Karim notices that Marlene and Pyke look bored to death.
The revelation that Pyke's son attends a prestigious school casts Pyke alongside Eleanor in that he's interested in class (as evidenced by the subject matter of his play), but he doesn't truly understand it. Following Karim's logic, Pyke will never be able to fully understand the lower classes because he only knows his upper class lifestyle.
Themes
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
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Suddenly, Pyke stands and opens the doors to the backyard. Eleanor stands and follows him out, leaving Marlene inside with Karim. Marlene gets herself another drink and comes to sit beside Karim. He pretends she's not touching him. As Karim begins to feel the marijuana, he asks Marlene to tell him what happened to Gene. Marlene sympathetically explains that Gene was a talented, sensitive black actor, but he never got the work he deserved. Instead, he played criminals and a nurse and was often picked up by the police for no reason. He overdosed one day after getting rejected by a big theatre company, and Eleanor came home to find him dead.
What happened to Gene shows that Pyke's desire to flatten "black" people into one homogenous group is flawed beyond belief. Even though Karim certainly experiences racism, he also experiences success through leading roles in the performing world because he's Indian, while Gene was driven to suicide because the performing world refused to recognize his talent because of his skin color.
Themes
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Karim and Marlene sit for a while, and then Marlene asks Karim for a kiss. He panics, but lets her kiss him. After, Marlene jumps up, pulls off her dress, and seems to celebrate. Karim is scared but finds he likes feeling that way. He and Marlene have sex and he allows his 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, but he fixates on Mum's pain and Gene's death.
Because this sexual experience is one in which Karim turns inward instead of towards Marlene, it reinforces that he's not here for the same reasons Marlene, Pyke, or Eleanor are. By conflating Mum's pain and Gene's death, Karim considers how racism hurts everyone--after all, it's the casual racism of the suburbanites that catapulted Dad to fame and enabled him to leave Mum.
Themes
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
When Karim sits up he has to think of where he is. Though he barely recognizes them, he watches Pyke and Eleanor touch each other across the room. Karim looks up later to see Pyke coming to him. Pyke puts his penis in Karim's mouth, and Karim thinks that he doesn't like it even though Pyke is famous. He bites Pyke just hard enough to make him stop, and Pyke returns his attention to Eleanor. Karim watches them kiss and listens to Eleanor tell Pyke that she's always wanted to have sex with him.
When considered in terms of power, Pyke has it all in this situation. He's having sex with Karim's lover and has the power to sexually bully Karim. When Karim's attempt to take some of his power back by biting Pyke doesn't have much of an effect, it shows that Pyke is comfortable and secure with the power he has: Karim simply isn't a threat.
Themes
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Marlene walks around Pyke and Eleanor, exclaiming about what a beautiful couple they are. Pyke snaps at her to stop. Dreamily, Eleanor removes Pyke's fingers from her vagina and puts them in Karim's mouth. Pyke moodily tells Karim and Marlene to touch each other. Marlene drunkenly falls onto the couch and cries that there's a full night of pleasure ahead of them.
The way that Pyke treats Marlene suggests that though they both seem to be okay with the way their marriage is arranged, they're not necessarily particularly loyal to or in love with each other. This shows again that relationships can exist without love or loyalty, but it exposes the cracks that result.
Themes
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon