The short story written by Hanif Kureishi portrays a typical love story, but with complex aspects. Hanif Kureishi is an English author, novelist and short-story writer. “Girl” was written in 1999. It revolves about a young woman, Nicole, who is in a relationship with an older man, Majid. A classic cliche, young girl falls in love with older experienced man, and with that some questions and problems naturally will arise. They are together, despite of Majid’s age and his role as a husband and father, which he gave up to be with the much younger Nicole.
She is in a place in her life, where she has just begun to discover herself and the many opportunities of life, while Majid is midway in his life and serene. He is ready for a serious relationship, while Nicole hesitates. She refers to him as her “older lover” (p. 1 l. 2) instead of using the term “boyfriend,” which she finds very banal. Nicole might as well feel insecure about her relationship and Majid’s feelings towards her. He left his wife and children to stay with a “girl”. In Nicole he sees a girl, and not a grown up woman.
Majid has the desire to control some of her actions and he is completely aware of the strong influence he has on his young lover. This fits perfectly with the fact that she might have the need of a father figure, which she lacked in her childhood. He is well educated and very informed on literature. Majid comments on Nicole’s higher education “You’ve been to university, but things must have changes since my day” (p. 1 l. 27). A confrontation based on Nicole’s lack of knowledge. Nicole has not had an easy time growing up.
Her father committed suicide when she was only ten, and ever since her mother has been unstable, drinking and having men rushing in and out of her life. Majid persuades her to visit her mother to “reconnect” with her, and he assures her that it will be easier facing her mother, because Nicole is stronger now that she is together with him. Nicole is afraid that after the visit at her mother’s house, Majid might doubt in his love to her. Her mother and their past is something that she is embarrassed about, and it does not fit in the context with Majid and his perfection.
She admires him a lot and their relationship could almost be interpreted as the relation between a master and his pet. Nicole wishes to please her lover, and she is terrified of losing him to another woman. “She dressed for him, too, and couldn’t go into a shop without wondering what would please him”. (p. 1 ll. 24-25) The young and inexperienced Nicole is a muse for the intellectual middle aged man, who needs a new and refreshing chapter in his life. She is aware that his admiration for her might only be due to her “fresh” beauty and not her intelligence or personality.
The thought of commitment makes her nervous, and she is doubtful about her love for him. He already left a woman behind, so why would he not do that to her, she wonders. In addition to this, she feels kind of indebted to him, he left his former life for her sake and she feels unable to “repay” this. Her mother makes her even more insecure and vulnerable, when she points out how smart and good looking Majid is compared to Nicole, or what women from their social class normally mix with. Instead of being happy for her daughter’s newfound happiness, she slates her down by telling her how Nicole will not be able to keep him interested. He’s well off and brainy, he can have anyone. D’you know what he sees in you, apart from sex” (p. 2 ll. 108-109). She suggests that Nicole should give Majid some children, because that would be the only way to satisfy him. The mother’s bitterness and negativism affects her daughter. Even though Nicole has come far and has boosted her self-esteem, her mother’s words make her doubt in herself. The mother-daughter relationship is strained. Nicole has clearly felt neglected by her mother, and has not received the attention she deserved.
The mother is very aware of this, but knows that it is too late to make it up. She asks Majid if he will look after her. Obviously she is embarrassed about her lack of presence in Nicole’s life, and she wants to assure herself that someone else cares about her. There is a tension between the two women, a lot of piled up feelings which distance them. Nicole has her reasons to be angry and disappointed, but she also feels pity for her mother, who has suffered from some serious down trips in her life. Nicole is afraid of what Majid’s reaction will be when he confronts her mother.
Her fear is that he might see some familiar resemblances and features. Nicole is terrified to end up like her mother, and for Majid to leave her as well. Nicole’s mother is probably jealous on how well her daughter is doing despite her absence and care. Her daughter has turned out great and from the text we can assume that she is not going to take after the pattern her mother is caught in. She has been to university in London, and she chose not to hang around in the environment she was raised in. Another interesting aspect in the story is the cultural difference between the two key figures.
Majid is not an Englishman, his name reveals another nationality. He has another view on culture and its remaining presence than Nicole has. His way of thinking seems somehow more innovative than Nicole and the surroundings they meet outside of London; ”Majid said that passing through the outskirts of London reminded him what an old country Britain was, and how manifestly dilapidated” (p. 1l. 21-22) By that statement Majid criticizes the British culture and values, and emphasizes that he knows of a country where things are very different from in the Old Empire of England.
To Majid culture is a celebration of life and about showing the love of things. Majid cannot understand how anonymous and bare the house of Nicole’s mother is. He expresses this to Nicole, who feels uncomfortable about criticism of her mother or her cultural background, but at the same time she feels convinced by his intelligent superiority, and she does not dare to contradict him. Majid’s acquisitiveness towards Nicole can be a cultural difference too, maybe he is used to women being more submissive and having ess to say in a relationship. Mutual for both of them is the fear of being alone. Majid left his family, and he is afraid of the young and free Nicole leaving him, because there is nothing that ties them together expect from their mutual fascination and love. But that is definitely not a guarantee. Majid begs for Nicole’s hand, but she ignores the question when he brings it up. Their love is complex, but their admiration can be everlasting; ”(.. ) They would go over everything, knowing they would wake up with one another”. (P. 3 ll. 40-41)