Identity, Unchained

We are only as strong as our weakest link. In Kamila Shamsie’s novel Home Fire (2017), she explores the way in which a fragmented and broken identity can wreak havoc on ones self and their relationships with others. One of the main characters in the novel, Parvaiz, delves into his Muslim Identity, although he is British and considers him self a Muslim and a Londoner, the exploration of his islamic identity and his understanding of the islamic state brings him closer to his father, affords him a sense of freedom from the doubts he has never confronted, but tears him away from his family. He looses the sense of security he once felt with the duality of his identity and allows his Muslim identity to overtake his British identity, leading him to make life altering decisions.

As Parvaiz builds a bond with Farooq, a member of an extremist group he begins to feel closer to his father and gain an understanding of the significance of his Muslim identity. Upon entering Farooq’s apartment Parvaiz finds himself chained and waterboarded, as a means to simulate the torture his father had to endure. After Farooq frees him form he chains and lets Parvaiz leave he feels a sense of peace and solace despite the physical pain he has endured. He feels closer too his father, and feels a yearning to pursue a career in the Islamic state for it gives him a sense of connection to his father, and gives him the feeling of brotherhood and security. On his return home he notices the sound of a “wedding ring against a yellow hand rail” which Shamsie likens to “chains unlinking.” In likening the sound to “chains unlinking” Shamsie highlights the impact of the ordeal Parvaiz has endured, but simultaneously uses the imagery created by the disassembly of chain links to connote the sense of freedom Parvaiz has gained. He feels free from doubt as he has come to understand more about his father, but he also feels free from uncertainty about his identity. He embraces the muslim identity he had kept locked away out of fear, and he had suppressed his faith with his British identity, as he had never explored his connection to Islam because of his father and because of the way in which he felt persecuted in British society. Whilst this metaphor signifies a significant revelation for Parvaiz, it also symbolizes the close bond between him and his sisters being broken. As his revelation and the breaking of chains foreshadows his disassociation from his siblings when he leaves England to join the extremist group his father was a part of.

Shamsie’s use of this metaphor in conjunction with the use of foreshadowing highlights the way in which Parvaiz’s identity takes him from a whole man, to a fragmented and broken man. Like a chain, it is only as strong as its links. In the convergence of his two conflicting identities, his newfound understanding for his islamic identity breaks him apart from his British identity, and separates him from his sisters who embrace both identities as one, rather than two conflicting halves. Shamsie demonstrates the impact of conflicting identities throughout the development of Parvaiz’s character, and uses her craft to highlight the detrimental impact of conflicting identities.


By Caroline Berezin

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

Blog Post #3

2 thoughts on “Identity, Unchained

  1. I also focused on Parvaiz in my blog post. I think it’s very interesting that you focused on the idea of a chain unlinking as both a metaphor for freedom and coming apart. I chose to look at a different part of Parvaiz’s relationship with Farooq, when Farooq questions Parvaiz’s British identity and undermines it through interrogation. Farooq does not only seek to strengthen Parvaiz’s connection to a particular form of Islam (the kind that ISIS espouses), he also seeks to “unlink” Parvaiz from Britain. What I see missing in Farooq and Parvaiz’s understandings of identity is a sense of ambiguity or unresolved contradictions. Isma and Aneeka both also understand and oppose Britain’s treatment of Muslim people, but they negotiate their identities in gray areas to continue to live in Britain and have British citizenship and also be Muslim. Parvaiz is taken in by a black and white understanding of identity in which he can only be one thing.

  2. I like the focus of “chains unlinking” as connected to Parvaiz’s newfound sense of freedom upon joining a new movement he thinks is going to give him a sense of purpose and connection to his father. I couldn’t help acknowledge the fact, however, that while after the waterboarding incident he felt free, the chains he felt unlinking inside him immediately led him to a different set of chains: one that would chain him as an enemy to England and burden his sisters. His feeling of being freed connects to his immaturity and naiveté, because in this instant he genuinely believes that he is escaping his stagnant life in England for a better one.

Comments are closed.