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The Decline of the West

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‘The Decline of the West’ is a short story written by Hanif Kureishi in 2010. It deals with themodern western capitalistic society and the affection it has on family life. The text questionsthe ethic aspects of the capitalism.In the short story, the materialistic values conquer personal relations. We are introduced toMike who comes home from work where he has been fired. He is used to working late andtherefore has a complicated relationship to his family whom he rarely sees. Mike has a debt ofalmost two years’ income which makes the firing a severe blow. The family wants to improvetheir material things, and that makes a high income an important factor. With no income, Mikeknows the family will not be able to keep up appearances, and eventually they will have tomove out of their five floor house on the outskirts of London. His two sons, Tom and Billy,already want to live somewhere else because most of their classmates live in bigger places.They are used to the upper class lifestyle with their parents working all the time and the aupair being the most regular person in their home. This creates an unhealthy and complicatedrelationship between the family members.The children are used to getting anything they want, but they have never understood why andhow that is possible. They do not respect their father, particularly the oldest son, Tom,because he does not think his father has done anything for him. What he does not understandis that if Mike does not work, they would not have been able to buy all the material things theboys want. But the feeling of being neglected by your parent is still something the boys feel,even though they do not understand the reason for it, and it is what makes the basis for thecomplicated relationship.Some of the consequences of capitalism are shown in this short story. After a row with hisoldest son, Mike is in the kitchen when suddenly all the lights go out. It is a break from thematerial world he lives in, all electronic devices stop, and reality hits him. He slips on thestairs to the basement where the fuses are, and for a very short moment he is thinking of justletting himself fall down the stairs and hopefully die. When the lights come on again, it isexactly the same material world as before, everything continues as though nothing hashappened. In a capitalistic society, you have to work you way up the carrier ladder, but if youare not careful and spend your money well, you can fall harder than you ever dreamed of. Thisis what happens to Mike, he spends a lot more than he actually has, and therefore his worldcollapses without an income. That happens all the time and all over the world to many, manypeople, companies, and countries. He is used to only having his job to concentrate on, now heis forced to relate to the situation on the home front. In the basement, he sees a light, eventhough he actually sees the dark. He does not have a revelation but the opposite thing, he seesa way to escape all his problems, not solve them.With capitalism comes materialism; with materialism comes vanity and greed. Mikeunderstands that when he looks at a £20 note, but he is not completely aware that he is avictim of capitalism. He does not understand what world capitalism has to do with his littlefamily. He knows the world finance has an influence, but he does not understand how much ofhis everyday life connects with the capitalistic society. It is everything from average income,market store prices, house prices, unemployment, to interest on loans. And all of this is whathas brought Mike in this situation in the first place, so he would be able to buy anything hewants for himself and his family.Mike’s wife, Imogen, is not affected by the capitalistic society in the same way as Mike. Shevalues charity, even for a low payment, and it shows she cares more about people than money.The boys, Bill and Tom, listen to their mother in a whole other way than with Mike. She caresfor them, helps them out with their homework, and she shows understanding towards theirfrustrations with their father. In that matter, she is on the boys’ side, and she does not want tohelp Mike out with the boys. The small family of Imogen, Tom, and Billy have their own livestogether as well as separately, but they communicate every day. Whereas Mike has only hadhis job to focus on, he has neglected being a role model for his sons and failed to really takeany interest in what they are doing. He wants things his way as in his office. In the family, he isjust the money-maker, nothing else, and that makes it difficult to change habits when Mike issuddenly forced to stay home.…...

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