Table of Contents
2 Lower Middle Class in Britain and its Portrayal in the Buddha of Suburbia
3 The Depiction of Class
3.2 Housing and Appearance
3.3 The Role of Education
3.4 Jobs and Everyday Life
4 London: The Chance to Invent a New Self
4.1 The Depiction of London
4.2 London: A Masquerade Ball?
4.3 Being Oneself
6 Works Cited
Being one of Hanif Kureishi’s most famous works, The Buddha of Suburbia has been discussed numerously in academic writing. Up to now, most scholars have, unfortunately, only focussed on the most apparent topics of hybridity and racial as well as migrational identity. Although fairly striking, only few have paid attention to the British class system that is portrayed in the novel, and if they have, only in passing.
This paper is not intended to be added to this long list. I rather want to concentrate on how diverse and comprehensively the topic of class is approached by Kureishi, how class is depicted. For this reason, I want start with some more general facts about lower middle class, but will try to directly compare them to the contents of The Buddha of Suburbia.
Secondly, I aim to show how, especially, class is depicted and to describe what makes someone belong to a certain class. How is affiliation expressed and how can one distinguish from other social groups? What does influence our thoughts and beliefs, and why do people want to break out? In regard to this, I will pay special attention to how the suburbs are presented in the novel and to what extent they differ from London.
Finally, I want to examine in how far London offers a chance to flee suburbia and lower middle class influences. Does the anonymity of England’s capital provide the basis for a new self, to create something new, and leave the past behind? Do people have to surrender, not to say sacrifice, their old identities in order to make it in London? What is the price for climbing the social ladder, and can one find a new, but genuine, self after having left the old behind?
My paper shall answer these questions, it seeks to unfold some of the complexity of Kureishi’s début novel and to offer a new approach for interpreting The Buddha of Suburbia.
2 Lower Middle Class in Britain and its Portrayal in the Buddha of Suburbia
In order to understand the Buddha of Suburbia to its full extend, it is indispensable to completely comprehend the British class system as »the term ›social class‹ has a good deal of currency among the [British] population at large and that they are prepared to use it of themselves.«1 Its importance, even still today, derives from the belief that a person’s class-belonging affects one’s opportunities in society.2 When reading Kureishi’s novel, the recipient will become aware that topics concerned with the British class system arise constantly - especially subjects dealing with lower and upper middle class.
Lower middle class does not enjoy much prestige in academic writing. It is said to be »the social class with the lowest reputation in the entire history of class theory […], the class for whom it seems hardest […] to claim pride of membership«.3 Furthermore, it is seen as a rather negative identity, »a category usually applied from outside, by those of higher social status, or retrospectively, by those who once belonged to the lower middle class and have since moved beyond it.«4 If it is not perceived in this dismissive way, at least, lower middle classness is understood as a non-identity.5 Looking for an identity of their own, Karim and Charlie would prove this judgement in The Buddha of Suburbia as both of them endeavor to belong to another social group: The latter attempts to join the newly founded and morbid punk movement, whereas Karim, in contrast, aims to raise his social status by becoming an actor.
Social mobility enables the protagonists to perform this migration of status and prestige, and signifies that class is not a fixed construct. Two varieties of social mobility are commonly acknowledged: intra-generational and inter-generational mobility.6 Both of them are represented to us in Kureishi’s novel. Haroon and - as the name implies already - Princess Jeeta, for example, were born into a high caste back in India. After they had gone to England, their social status had declined dramatically. The social development from the lower middle class »English« Haroon to his upper middle class son Karim, in contrast, marks an inter-generational one.
When in Britain increasingly more labour was needed to be done in offices, some men started taking jobs as clerks and secretaries. Working in these positions was acceptable for most of the men, but they did not consider it appropriate for their sons to have a similar occupation. That is why only very few boys whose fathers were occupied in a non-manual profession entered this kind of job themselves.7 Haroon, too, does not want his son to be a clerk working in an office as he does, but rather to pursue the aim of being a doctor.8 It was more often women taking on jobs with ›feminine‹ tasks such as customer care.9 Working as a sales assistant in a shoe shop, even Margaret, Karim’s mother, fits into that pattern perfectly fine. Thus, there cannot be any doubt that the Amirs constitute a typical lower middle class family.
Nevertheless, it is not only white-collar workers that account for the whole lower middle class. Usually, the petit bourgeois belongs to this social group, too, and includes »[…] shopkeepers, garages, builders [and] other service businesses […].«10 These small businesses are mostly dominated by men. Over four-fifths of the self-employed are male.11 This resembles exactly what is portrayed in The Buddha of Suburbia: The only two people belonging to the petit bourgeois we become acquainted with are Anwar and Karim’s uncle, Ted. The former is the proprietor of a small grocer’s shop (cf. BoS 26), the latter runs a central heating business (cf. BoS 33). Being predominantly male, the self-employed also »pride themselves on masculine values such as competitiveness, independence and individualism.«12 In the Buddha this becomes apparent by the parties Ted and Jean had given in the heydays of »Peter’s Heaters« because they were »a little king and queen in those days - rich, powerful, influential« (BoS 42), and their guests were the »most important builders, bank managers, accountants, local politicians and businessmen […] with their wives and tarts.« (BoS 41) Ted was definitely more successful with his business than Anwar although both of them have a »work-centred lifestyle: they work long ours, and homes are usually workplaces«.13 This is even more true for Anwar: He works very close to where he lives and spends most of his time in his shop. If Ted did the same before he stopped working, we can only guess. From his former success, however, we can infer that he must have been fairly industrious.
There is also another point about the petit bourgeois in Kureishi’s novel that portrays British life very precisely because in »terms of ethnic mix, the self-employed are less dominated by whites than any other class. Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are overrepresented […]. Britain’s ethnic minorities have transformed the restaurant trade, and have also made a major impact in retailing.«14 Anwar is a perfect example for this influence of the »black« on British society. Being usually not discriminated like other immigrants, Indians and Pakistanis can be seen as assimilated into British culture.15 This is the main reason why I will not focus on racial discrimination or racial identity in my paper, but rather deal with Karim and his family as British citizens. Besides, »Kureishi's London, with its »thousands of blacks«, is internally influenced by the culture of minorities as well as by emergent cultural groups like the punk movement.«16 Therefore, Karim must not be seen as a foreigner, but as British, especially since he was born in the United Kingdom and has never been to India. Of course, the rule of living in a diverse metropolis does not prove right for all the time of his life. Having grown up in the London suburb of Bromley, Karim had to face narrow-mindedness at first and was, indeed, rather an exception in his neighbourhood as far as skin colour is concerned.17
3 The Depiction of Class
The situation of living in a London suburb is a very distinctive one; it is »as close to the green belts of the Black Country and rural Kent as [it is] to the metropolitan centre«.18 However, being so close to the British capital, the suburbs hold a obvious disadvantage: they will never be anything but peripheral compared to it.19 Therefore, there is always the lure for something greater, the temptation of the city. The suburbs do not offer anything, whereas the city seems to have everything a young person is longing for: freedom, dozens of shops and »parties where girls and boys you didn’t know took you upstairs and fucked you; there were all the drugs you could use.« (BoS 121)
Karim’s expectations are very opposing to his opinion about the suburbs where, according to him, »people rarely dream of striking out for happiness« (BoS 8), so that, in the end, their lives are dominated by »dullness« (BoS 8). Bearing that in mind, it is not surprising that Karim’s life is characterised by a »claustrophobic anxiety […] to be ›always somewhere else‹«.20 For him, Bromley is nothing but a point of departure on his way to the city, »a leaving place, the start of a life.«21 He was looking for something only London could offer him; he just did not fit into this boring narrow-minded way of living. If he had wanted to fit in, he would have had to play according to certain rules, which was impossible to him.
The very fact alone that he »wanted to sleep with boys as well as with girls« and that to him it would have been »heart-breaking to have to choose one or the other« (BoS 55) made him an outsider where he had lived. This sexual difference, his skin colour, »along with his refusal of fixed identity categories, is often associated with urban cosmopolitanism and seen as a challenge to suburban sameness.«22 Even though Bromley belongs to Greater London, it is not comparable to the inner city. Bromley is missing everything metropolitan: adventure, discovery, excitement, consumption, indulgence, and from that point of view the outer suburbs cannot be considered »London«.23 Karim himself makes this clear to the reader when introducing London to us: »In London the kids looked fabulous; they dressed and walked and talked like little gods. We could have been from Bombay. We'd never catch up.« (BoS 127 f.) This scene reveals how different both worlds are; Karim appears to be intimidated by the Londoners although he has lived in only a few miles distance from the »real London« for years. He should be familiar with this kind of fashion and their language, and, in fact, one would suspect him not to be different to that at all.
Kureishi, however, goes further than that to create a strong contrast. Not only is it fashion that distinguishes both of Karim’s dwelling places, but rather that the suburbs
 Ivan Reid, Class in Britain (Malden, Mass.: Polity Press, 1998), 32.
 Cf. Reid, Class in Britain, 33.
 John Hartley, Popular Reality: Journalism, Modernity, Popular Culture (London: Arnold, 1996), 161.
 Rita Felski, »Nothing to Declare: Identity, Shame, and the Lower Middle Class.« Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 115.1 (2000): 41.
 Felski, »Nothing to Declare«, 34.
 Cf. Reid, Class in Britain, 111.
 Kenneth Roberts, Class in Modern Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), 130.
 Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia (London: Faber and Faber, 1990), 23. In the following abbreviated as BoS. All subsequent quotations of the Buddha are taken from this edition.
 Roberts, Class in Modern Britain, 132.
 Roberts, Class in Modern Britain, 135.
 Roberts, Class in Modern Britain, 136.
 Roberts, Class in Modern Britain, 136.
 Roberts, Class in Modern Britain, 138.
 Roberts, Class in Modern Britain, 136.
 Roberts, Class in Modern Britain, 211.
 Anthony Ilona, »Hanif Kureishi's Buddha of Suburbia: »A New Way of Being British««, Contemporary British fiction, ed. Richard Lane et al (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), 101.
 Cf. BoS 64: »[T]here were so few Asians in our part of London […].«
 James Procter, Dwelling Places: Postwar Black British Writing ( Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 2003), 128.
 Procter, Dwelling Places, 128.
 Procter, Dwelling Places, 62.
 BoS 117; also cf. Procter, Dwelling Places, 150.
 Susan Brook, »Hedgemony?: Suburban Space in The Buddha of Suburbia,« British fiction of the 1990s, ed. Nick Bentley (London: Routledge, 2005), 214 f.
 John Clement Ball, »The Semi-Detached Metropolis: Hanif Kureishi's London«, ARIEL (A Review of International English Literature) 27.4 (1996): 21.
“Even though my family moved to the United States a decade ago, I feel my belonging to China and its traditions.”
It can be a line from another cultural identity essay. It is similar to the reflective paper. If you have never faced a need to write this type of academic assignment, a cultural identity essay example and some useful tips discussed in this article will help.
After reading this informative post, if you still feel like having no idea how to organize your homework assignment on a specific topic, contact professional online writers and editors to lend a helping hand.
HELP WITH MY HOMEWORK
Cultural Identity Essay: Definition & Goals
Define the term before writing the paper. A cultural identity essay is a type of creative or academic writing that expresses the feeling of belonging to a particular culture attributed to the growing up and becoming a separate person with its personality. It provides a human with the sense of identification with the certain nationality, customs, and traditions. An essay about cultural identity should focus on several elements:
An essay of this type has a structure similar to other common types of academic essays. The difference is in the topic. Unlike the basic types of academic assignments such as argumentative or persuasive essays, a student should use the 1st person when writing. A teacher will not ask for any sources in most cases – the paper is about describing personal experience, feelings, emotions, skills, and knowledge of the student. No extra research is required unless a student lacks specific skills like writing or formatting.
The format is MLA in most cases because an essay about cultural identity is the part of English Language & Literature class, which follows the formatting guidelines offered by The Modern Language Association.
A student may include some in-text citations to illustrate his native land. A teacher will appreciate the usage of any sources of famous writers describing the culture & traditions of the discussed land. However, including any citations along with references is optional.
Cultural Essay: Example of Ideas to Discuss
The topic of assignment may seem narrow. In fact, there are 5 things a student can choose from when working on an essay on cultural identity:
- A real-life experience
- The product of author’s imagination
- A location connected to the author’s memories or specific object
- An influential figure
- A place that matters
- A most memorable tradition
A student can describe how he/she gained community appreciation after running some campaign aimed to protect the rights of rare local animals. Another good idea is to share experience after visiting a national holiday. You can describe a location where you have learned everything about the domestic dishes including the ways to cook them and lay the table. Talking about something a person used to fail is a good idea. The worst experience may turn out the most valuable life lesson if the writer presents it in a positive light. One more nice idea is to describe the important person from the native land who has shown the importance of obeying customs & traditions of the native land.
Minor facts such as outdoor activities a writer were involved in being little child matter in the cultural identity essay. The thought process behind developing a powerful paper of this type is called a cultural identity theory, which means identifying one with the group of humans he/she used to grow with.
After selecting the topic and creating an outline, come up with a title.
GIVE ME CULTURAL IDENTITY ESSAY
How to Start an Essay on Cultural Identity
To begin with, select a good topic for an essay. Experts recommend choosing a topic, which is conversant with to help with following the content and presenting the ideas in a clear manner. If the teacher tells to pretend a student is someone else and write the story based on the life of another person of a different nationality, the research will come in handy. In other situations, skip the research step.
“Organize the ideas after deciding on the topic. Start with the brainstorming with other students and parents – the aged people possess the widest knowledge of customs & traditions. Write down the most interesting ideas on a separate paper. After introducing the topic to the target audience, finish the introduction with the powerful thesis statement, which is the main argument of the whole writing.
A thesis statement can be broad in the cultural identity essay example. Example:
“Cultural identity determines every new aspect of an individual inwards and outwards.”
The body should focus on exploring the meaning of this thesis.”
Monica Brainy, an academic writer at WriteMyPaper4Me
Developing Body Paragraphs
Make it a standard 5-paragraph essay. While some of the paragraphs can be lengthy, others can be short – ensure switching between the sentences of different size to make it easier to read. The paragraphs should be of the near the same length. A planning stage which results in the essay outline will help to follow the logic and include every necessary thought retrieved during the process of brainstorming. Keep in mind the following:
- Start each body paragraph with a cohesive argument
- Provide some evidence based on real-life examples or sources
- Connect the ideas into one whole using transitions
Did you get stuck in the middle of the writing process? Learn what mistakes to avoid in essay writing here.
Cultural Identity Essay Example Extract
“I was born in rural California, but my family moved to New York City before I reached the age of 10. My mother is 100% Albanian and comes from a Mormon family that identifies powerfully with the culture and traditions of Albania – a land, which is full of mystery and secrets to the US citizens. My dad is a British guy, who was adopted by the poor American family. Our family lived in a nice middle-sized private house in a suburb of Los Angeles. I am the single child in a family, but I wish I had some brothers or sisters as I used to feel lonely until the age of 7. While my dad is atheist despite most of the British people obey Orthodox religion, my mother is 100% Mormon, and she raised me following the strict rules and mal principles.”
Thanks to the essay example, a student may realize how to handle a paper of this type. From one side, every student can describe his childhood. Form the other side; it is not that easy to focus on the main problem. If you wish someone to write a brilliant essay about cultural identity, reach a professional academic writing service offered by the people of different nations who know everything about writing a good reflection paper for your English Composition class.