The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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Themes and Colors
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Class Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Buddha of Suburbia, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Coming of Age

The Buddha of Suburbia is a bildungsroman, or a coming of age novel. It follows 17-year-old Karim Amir as he grows up and comes of age, beginning in the early 1970s and ending on the eve of the 1979 election in which Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. Over those ten years, Karim watches his parents divorce, Dad enter into a passionate relationship with Eva (a sexy social climber), and her son, Charlie, become a…

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Family, Love, and Loyalty

At its heart, The Buddha of Suburbia is a classic family drama. As Karim grows up and comes of age, he watches his parents divorce and his best childhood friend enter into a sexless marriage. Throughout the novel, Karim questions constantly what family truly means and how loyalty functions within a family unit. Though his conclusions at the end are somewhat tenuous, Karim comes to understand that loyalty doesn't always mean the same thing throughout…

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Hierarchy and Class

As Karim comes of age, he becomes interested in the English class system, noticing and ruminating on the class signifiers that differentiate London proper from his childhood home in the south London suburbs. Though Karim begins the novel with a simplified view of class (in which one is either suburban and lower class, or urban and upper class), he develops a more nuanced view of class as he learns that Londoners come from all classes…

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Racism, Success, and Identity

Karim begins his narration by introducing himself as, "an Englishman born and bred, almost." His "almost" refers to the fact that his father, Haroon, emigrated from India twenty years earlier and married an Englishwoman. Because of his Indian heritage, Karim often finds that he's unable to fully embrace his English identity while he's simultaneously forced to confront uncomfortable aspects of Indian culture—or what others believe to be Indian culture.

Karim characterizes where his family…

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Social and Political Discontent

The 1970s were a decade of intense social and political change in England. Over the course of the decade, the liberalism that characterized the 1960s experienced in a sharp swing towards conservatism with the 1979 election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister. As Karim comes of age over the course of the novel, he remains interested and involved in the political movements that sprung up in response to the British government's continued failures to serve…

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