The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 2, Chapter 15 : In the City | Summary



As rehearsals for the play ramp up, Karim Amir is suspicious of Matthew Pyke while at the same time admiring of his gifts as a director. Karim also discovers that his part is central to the play, and Pyke, understanding that Karim is the least experienced of the cast, is kind and attentive. He helpfully exhorts Karim to be himself. As previews begin, Karim finds his stage presence and pleases the audience with his role as a wretched and comic character. He employs everything he knows about the sexual ambition and humiliation of an Indian in England. Also, he finds in theater circles a set of rivalries and prejudices born of social and political difference that have the same avidity as the race wars in suburbia, but in the theater it manifests only as vocal violence.

Karim visits Changez in his new situation and finds his friend is thriving, except that he is determined to leave since Jamila has taken a lover, Simon, the only other male in the commune. Before he can make his getaway, Changez is mistaken for a Paki by roving thugs from the National Front and beaten. Jamila and her friends, concerned by the Nationalist Front gangs planning assaults in the Asian neighborhood, counter by planning a rally in response to a fascist rally at the Town Hall. Karim promises to attend.

Karim has become bored by Eleanor's parties and invites her to the rally. On the day he plans to meet Jamila for the rally, Eleanor begs off. Karim, instead of going to the rally, sets up surveillance at Pyke's house and catches Eleanor meeting the director there. They have become lovers. His first love affair is over, and he thinks about Gene and his suicide. He thinks about English hatred of blacks and the responses of black men who take England's "roses"—white women—as their lovers in retaliation. He wonders about the bitterness and resentment that are part of the lives of minorities in England while knowing full well that to be truly free he has to free himself of the bitterness and resentment that are "generated afresh every day."

The play opens to a huge London audience, and Karim is widely appreciated. In the audience he finds all the important people of his life: Haroon Amir and Eva Kay, Jeremy Shadwell, Terry, his mother, Uncle Ted and Auntie Jean, Jamila, and Changez. Jamila is pregnant, and Changez, acknowledging the child is Jamila and her lover's, also reveals how happy he is, a member of a family well connected. Terry extracts a promise from Karim; now that he is well connected Terry demands that Karim ask Pyke for a large donation to the cause of social equity. Karim leaves the theater to take a walk along the river and clear his head.

There Karim meets Hilary, who has been following him to express her admiration. They encounter an aggressive Heater and stand their ground before attacking him. Heater, a working-class thug, has the gear of a typical street fighter, razor blades sewn to his lapels. Karim and Hillary win the fight and run away bloodied, pausing only to kiss.


This chapter wraps up loose ends in the plot. Karim has his wished-for success. He recognizes in Haroon's expression that his father still loves his mother. Terry has found success in the theater and is active in causes for political change. Changez is happy in the commune family, having found a life probably not much different from that of extended families coexisting in one household in India. He has the best part of his old life, including acceptance that mitigates racism on the outside. Jamila has found an outlet in her commitment to radical politics. In her loyalty to Changez she has found support, and, in her love of Simon, she has the prospects for a new family. Karim, in his chance meeting with Hillary, appears to accept a promising future that includes independence of choice and an ability to fight his own battles—perhaps the beginning of a life free of "bitterness and resentment."

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