The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia: Part 2, Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The night after the play's New York opening, Karim and the cast attend a lavish party in a tall apartment building. Karim watches Eleanor and wonders what he'd been thinking during their relationship. Dr. Bob, the man who runs the theatre, is an expert in "ethnic arts." He pulls Tracey and Karim to seats at the front of the room, shushes the crowd, and suddenly, a troupe of Haitian dancers perform what Karim terms a mating dance. Karim feels like a colonizer watching natives perform.
Though Karim is given front row seats because of his ethnicity, the experience shows Karim what it feels like to be a member of the colonizing group. The fact that this is an uncomfortable experience suggests that Karim is questioning how much he identifies with his English identity, as the English were undeniably colonizers.
Themes
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Later that night as Karim sits with most of the cast in a bedroom, Pyke begins a game that sets Karim on edge. He asks the actors which one of the people in the apartment they'd have sex with if they could. Karim tries to ask Eleanor to leave with him, but Pyke makes Karim stay. Pyke reads out the predictions he'd made at the beginning of rehearsals about who would sleep with whom. He reads that he predicted that Karim is bisexual and would fall for Eleanor, but that Eleanor would only have sex with Karim out of pity.
As Pyke confirms the clues that implied that Eleanor's interest in Karim wasn't genuine, it shows that both Eleanor and Pyke view people as objects to use and manipulate as they see fit—again, a product of their high class statuses. This also shuts down Karim's sense that the cast was a familial, safe, and trustworthy group.
Themes
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Hierarchy and Class 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. Eleanor tries to explain to that she'll be going home with Pyke. Karim tries to punch Pyke as he comes out of the bedroom, but he's too drunk. Karim hears an American say that the English are animals.
The comment by the American suggests that Dad is right, and the English are no longer the leading force in the western world. This calls white English superiority into question, as it's white superiority that kept England so powerful for so long.
Themes
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Racism, Success, and Identity 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. He settles Karim onto one of his sofas and Karim wakes there the next morning. He vomits several times before going upstairs with coffee and toast. Charlie kisses Karim and rambles about how great New York is. They spend the day walking around the city, and Karim learns how famous Charlie is in America.
Charlie is certainly taking advantage of the American penchant for English musicians that the Beatles started with their "American invasion" nearly two decades earlier. This reinforces the cultural exchange between England and America that Karim mentioned to Terry earlier.
Themes
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Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
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Karim explains that even though Charlie is still angry on stage, the image isn't as effective outside of England: America doesn't have the unemployment and strikes that made Charlie's music compelling in England. Charlie knows this and knows his music is subpar, but he insists that he can do good things in America.
For Charlie, getting out of England and the social structures that defined him there brings about his coming of age. In America, he can more easily fashion an identity that works for him by pulling what he wants from English culture, just as Dad and Karim did with Indian culture. 
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Charlie invites Karim to stay with him when Karim tells him about Eleanor. Karim is fascinated to see that Charlie is both embracing his English-ness and eager to learn whatever he can from his friends and girlfriends. Karim notes that in this way, fame and wealth agree with Charlie: he no longer has anyone to envy, and he can now concentrate on becoming human. One morning, Charlie tells Karim how he came to realize that money is his one true love, but Karim cautions him that money can make him self-centered.
When Karim cautions Charlie about the dangers of money, he sounds shockingly like Dad. This gives credence to Mum's drawing of Karim that resembled Dad and her assertion that Karim and Dad are more alike than they realize. It suggests that as Karim grows and develops, he will become more like his father the older he gets.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
The play only lasts a month 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. He thinks that Dad had always felt superior to the British and taught Karim that he could never experience failure in front of them. Karim feels ashamed that he's at such a low point mentally when, by Dad's standards, life is very good for Karim.
By following Dad's guidelines and not admitting how miserable he is, Karim shows that during their separation, he's becoming more loyal and understanding of Dad. However, realizing that they have these major differences indicates that Karim understands fundamentally that they're different people with different experiences.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty 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 truly knows how far Charlie has come. Further, Karim discovers that fame doesn't suit Charlie as well as he initially thought. Charlie begins to chafe under the public scrutiny, and becomes moody and angry.
Karim's suspicion about Charlie's reason for wanting Karim to stay reinforces the idea that coming of age happens in relation to other people. Though Charlie and Karim are both coming of age independently, they can reflect the other's coming of age for each other.
Themes
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One day, as Charlie and Karim walk home, a journalist runs up to Charlie and begs for an interview. Charlie ignores the man, but the journalist chases Charlie and grabs his arm. Charlie brutally beats the man. Another morning, Charlie confides to Karim that there are sexual things he wants to try, and invites Karim to join him. Later that night, a woman named Frankie appears at Charlie's door. Karim feels uptight as he asks Frankie what she does, and she explains she's interested in bondage and pain.
Charlie's negative reactions to fame suggest that reaching the true upper classes isn't all it's made out to be. It's isolating while also making him feel as though he's never alone. This suggests that Charlie is undergoing a similar thought process in regards to Eva as Karim is to Dad: both boys are experiencing success in their parents' eyes, but they struggle with the pressure.
Themes
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Hierarchy and Class 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 to have sex with each other, and Karim is shocked to see that Charlie is open and enthusiastic. He remembers Dad's first appearance when he and Charlie had sex, but Charlie had been closed then.
Charlie's attitude change towards sex with Karim implies that he'd been afraid to admit his interest as teenagers. However, the identity crisis he suffers as a result of fame means that he's now willing to revisit this and consider thinking of how he can relate to Karim.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Upstairs, Charlie lights candles in the bedroom. Charlie undresses and he and Frankie kiss. Karim asks uncomfortably if they really want him there, and Charlie snaps at Karim to stop acting so self-righteous, moral, and English. Karim settles himself in the corner. Frankie ties Charlie to the bed and puts a hood over his head. She grabs a candle and begins to drip wax on his body, and then puts clamps on his nipples. Karim realizes that he doesn't love, care for, or care about Charlie. He feels as though he's moved beyond and discovered himself by rejecting Charlie.
Though Karim is mortified at the point when Charlie snaps at him, Charlie's insistence that Karim is too English makes it clear in a very negative way that Karim's English identity is more obvious than his Indian roots. Further, the fact that this insult doesn't sit well with Karim shows that he understands he needs to recognize his Indian heritage.
Themes
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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 his agent calls and says he has an important audition scheduled. Charlie tries to bribe Karim to stay and says that England is a horrible place for anyone who isn't rich, but he agrees to buy Karim's ticket anyway.
Charlie refuses to recognize that Karim is still climbing the social ladder, and if the audition goes well, he will have money. Flying home for the audition also shows that Karim is developing a sense of responsibility, a marker of adulthood.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon