The Decline of the West

Topics: Western world, Short story, Narrator Pages: 4 (1221 words) Published: April 21, 2013
The Decline of the West
The shortstory The Decline of the West, written by Hanif Kureishi in 2010, is a critic of modern man and the capitalistic western society. It deals with themes such as family life, father/son-relationships, the environment of London’s suburbs, materialism and capitalism. The story is told with a restricted third person narrator, and we hear the story from the main character Mike’s point of view. Without hearing his specific thoughts, the story is permeated with his thoughts and his view of his wife, children and the world they all live in. Mike is an average middle-aged, hardworking man living in the “comfortable outskirts of London” (l.24) with his wife and two children aged 11 and 15. They live in a five floor house with an off-street parking, a garden with a shed and a deck, where they hold barbecues in the summertime. (ll. 18-23) All together, they are a normal and happy family from the higher middleclass – at least on the surface – and we quickly learn that Mike is very aware of his own appearance:

“[…] Mike knew it was important to appear generous.” (l. 139)

Usually Mike works 12 hours a day, but this particular day, on which the short story takes place, he leaves work early. Later on, the reader learns why; he has been fired. (l.16) After a desolate tube journey (l.1) Mike comes home and hopes to meet an understanding and loving family, but his wife passes by him carrying a gin and tonic and does not show further interest in his coming home. Likewise, the oldest child does not seem affected by his father’s presence until Mike asks him to turn off the violent videogame he is playing. Mike reaches out for compassion and understanding when he says:

“Let’s watch football or a comedy. I need to be cheered up tonight.” (l.55)

But all he gets in response is a rejection and a “leave me alone”. (l. 56) The relationship between Mike and his children seems rather tense and with a mutual lack of respect and trust. This is for...
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