Themes, Setting and Plot of Gabriel’s Gift by Hanif Kureishi Short Summary

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The themes, setting and plot are important elements of a literary work. This paper proved this condition as it reviewed the book Gabriel’s Gift by Hanif Kureishi. By doing such, the paper explored on the concepts of maturity, domestic conflict as well as psychological-related states of hallucination and imagination. Ultimately, the paper analyzed that through a book’s themes, setting and plot, one’s artistic talent or gift is realized and that life realities are accepted.

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Themes, Setting and Plot of Gabriel’s Gift by Hanif Kureishi

            It is always fascinating and rewarding to use a young character as the center of a literary work. This is because it is surprising that remarkable and significant ideas, principles, and practices emerge out of the simplicity of such kind of personality. It is worthy not to undermine the influence of a plot concerning a young man and his endeavors are likely to create. This is due to the fact that several psychological concepts such as maturity as well as the difference between creativeness and misconception tend to be illustrated in literary works with an adolescent protagonist. Additionally, other themes like the artistic talent of the youth and serious conflicts within the family that are featured in a story which revolves around the character of teenager are a valuable material. Hence, it can be inferred that a tale which is set and narrated based on the life and works of a young man definitely has a social relevance. This is because it is from such plot that important themes and lessons concerning adults’ failures as well as adolescents’ artistic gifts and power of imagination are ultimately portrayed. Therefore, In Hanif Kureishi’s “Gabriel’s Gift,” themes like conflict and artistic talent or gift as well as the plot about a young man’s maturity are reflective of life realities and one’s power to resolve problems.


            Hanif Kureishi (2001) effectively exemplified the cited situations in the novel “Gabriel’s Gift.” In fact, it is apparent that the book provides its readers with significant themes. This is because the author signified that ideas such as the maturity of 15-year old

Gabriel Bunch and most importantly, his innate talent and gift in arts are valuable concepts to explore. In short, “Gabriel’s Gift” illustrates the idea that one’s artistry is a powerful tool that paves the way for people’s healing and even reconciliation (Kureishi, 2001).

            Several themes are presented in the novel. These include the mysterious link between Gabriel and his deceased younger brother Archie. It is through such kind of unusual connection that the book’s young character was able to display his remarkable talent in drawing or art which, in turn, became his undeniable gift. Using his skill in creating real-like objects and illustrations, Gabriel put an artist’s touch on the things that he and his brother shared during their precious encounters (Kureishi, 2001).

            In presenting themes involving the personality of Gabriel, the book relatively shows other concepts to the readers such as the very common domestic conflict between a husband and wife. The author succeeded in portraying that it was the conflict between the father and mother of Gabriel which made the latter resort to having unlikely conversations with his brother and which eventually enhanced his artistic gift. In effect, more concrete themes like artistic talent and creativity were established (Kureishi, 2001).

            To determine and further understand the themes of “Gabriel’s Gift,” other literary elements such as conflict and characterization were analyzed. Upon doing so, it was determined that the novel features psychologically related themes. In particular, Tiono (2004) stated that an evaluation of Kureishi’s “Gabriel’s Gift” would reveal that “the psychological concepts of hallucination, imagination and maturity” assisted him when he analyzed the character of Gabriel (p. 8).

            Tiono (2004) adds that Gabriel’s maturity may also be an outcome of the process

where the young character’s hallucination and imagination were turned into artistic gift. The author, however, clarified that to manifest such gift, the young protagonist experienced obstacles and conflicts in his life. These involve Gabriel’s struggles with his parents and with his own life. Ultimately, it was by overcoming the many problems, conflicts, and confusions in Gabriel’s life that he was able to manifest signs of maturity. These conditions support the premise of the study that Kureishi’s “Gabriel’s Gift” indeed shows several themes such as a young characters’ maturity as well as the concepts concerning Gabriel’s delusion, imagination, and confusion (Tiono, 2004).

            In his review, Murray (2002) also identified another theme: Gabriel’s evident aspiration to be more than a visual artist by becoming a movie maker. The author added that the literal theme of the novel is about the painting which rock singer Lester Jones gave to Gabriel as a gift. Such is the literal meaning of Gabriel’s gift. Based on the twists and conflicts within the book, however, the book “Gabriel’s Gift” has other underlying themes such as the artistic talent itself of Gabriel. This is because Gabriel’s arts or drawing actually brought out several life realities like domestic and personal conflicts (Murray, 2002).

Plot and Setting

            Kureishi’s “Gabriel’s Gift” tells the story of Gabriel, a 15-year old adolescent whose natural artistic gift or talent paved the way for the resolution of his own and that of his family’s problems. Set in a London-area grunge, the novel pictures the life and works of Gabriel who, with his parents, lives in North London in the contemporary setting. Despite the modern environment however, the story is generally attributed to the life of Gabriel’s father,

Rex, way back as a guitarist in the 1960s until he became a member of a rock group in the 1970s. This is due to the fact that the past work background of Gabriel’s father affected the latter’s life especially when the father and son tandem met with Lester Jones, causing their lives to eventually change. The story’s setting and plot center on domestic struggles among the father, mother, and Gabriel, as well as the latter’s conflict with his own illusion, confusion, and artistic gift (Kureishi, 2001).

            “Gabriel’s Gift” features the Bunch family composed of Rex (father), Christine (mother), Archie (deceased brother), and Gabriel. The story progresses as the mother finally decides to get rid of Rex due to his irregular income and bungled music career. This situation instigates the problems and conflicts experience by Gabriel, who resorts to his artistic talent or gift as well as his unusual communication with Archie to resolve his situation.

            Kureishi’s book further narrates how Gabriel’s artistic gift leads him to realize several important life concepts. The novel effectively presents a modern tale of a young man from London whose artistic talent or gift reflects not only his natural art skill but also his ability to share his life with his parents and even his already dead brother Archie.

            In particular, the plot of “Gabriel’s Gift” shows the life and works as well as the principles and practices of Gabriel. As the story progresses, so do the conflicts experienced by Gabriel. Such situations hold true as the narrative proves how Gabriel, in all his youth, struggled and fought against his confusion and problems when he relied on his hallucination

and imagination. In doing so, his battle became a redeeming factor since the plot of the book was able to successfully illustrate how even a young character could gain maturity early in his life (Tiono, 2004).

As Murray (2002) noted, the plot itself of “Gabriel’s Gift” is apparently complicated. This is because it is unexpected for a family to fight with each other. Yet, such condition happened within the Bunch family as the couple argued for so many reasons and Gabriel also battled it out with his parents over the painting which was given by Lester Jones as a gift to Gabriel. The complexity of the plot is also evident in the way the conflict within the family ironically enabled Gabriel to discover his vocation and most importantly, his talent in art or drawing. Relatively, Gabriel used his gift and maintained an unlikely communication with his already dead brother. It was through the said two acts that Gabriel was able to obtain solace and satisfaction. It can therefore be inferred that the book’s plot and setting, however complicated, are valuable elements of the novel. This is because it is through such kind of story and background that the life and artistic works of Gabriel became valuable narrative materials.


            Kureishi’s “Gabriel’s Gift” effectively achieved its goal and essence, for it was able to provide the readers with socially relevant themes, plot, and setting. It is for this reason that the said novel was acclaimed and used as a tool for discussing its essential concepts. Ultimately, it was notable that the narrative imparts important life concepts, principles, and practices to the readers and helps them to realize that one’s gift or talent could be used as a means to solve conflicts and accept life’s realities.


Kureishi, H. (2001). Gabriel’s Gift. New York: Scribner Paper Fiction.

Murray, S. (2002, December 13). A delight-filled, upbeat coming of age novel [Review of the    book Gabriel’s Gift]. Retrieved from            review/Gabriel_s_Gift_by_Hanif_Kureishi/content_83637145220.

Tiono, H. (2004). A Study on the Process of Maturity in Hanif Kureishi’s Gabriel’s gift.     Retrieved June 3, 2009, from     mode=extended&knokat=1398.


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