The Reluctant Fundamentalist describes a Pakistani man telling his experiences of being a Pakistani man at the time 9/11 struck, and the fallout of those events in his life. One theme that stood out in the narrator’s statements was that of anti-American sentiment. This response will elaborate upon this theme and how the author brought out these feelings’ resultant of the events of September 11, 2001.
The narrator, Changez, within Mohsin Hamid’s novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is a Pakistani-born male that was living in New York City at the time the terrorist attack of 9/11. It is apparent that Changez suffers from an identity crisis. Some might argue that Changez’s ability to change to suit his environment isn’t a sign of inner turmoil. Claudia Marin, for instance, views Changez as being comfortable with all the roles he played, and moreover, instead of conforming completely with American standards, he keeps part of his identity. Yet, Changez felt the need to act differently than his Pakistani self within each of his roles. He is conflicted over his Pakistani roots while attempting to fit in with Western society, according to Greta Olsen (8).
As the story develops, Changez moves through a process of self-identity in which he goes from successfully blending in with the American culture to identifying with his home country of Pakistan, the catalyst for this change being 9/11 and the pervasive attitudes of Americans after the event (“Conversations: Mohsin Hamid’s....” par. 1). His identity development seems to force Changez to choose between his heritage and the American culture he admired but also criticized, as a student and an intern in his American company (Olsson par. 6) and his childhood roots.
It seems that his personal conflict with his identities had disappeared for several reasons, and could easily be interpreted as the development of the anti-American theme, thereby changing readers' perceptions as to why the United States became enemy one. When the World Trade Center fell to the ground, Changez smiled and appreciated the symbolic gesture of rendering the fall of America (Hamid 82). This seems to convey an underlying resentment towards America and the fact that instead of appreciating the fact that many people died that day, he appreciates the symbolism of the entire event that makes him smile, and associates his feelings for his comradery with his home’s neighboring countries. Other events inspire Chavez to express anti-American sentiments. For instance, he realizes he was angered when the U. S. invaded Afghanistan, viewing Afghanistan as a neighbor with which Pakistan was on good relations and a comrade Muslim country (Hamid 114).
What seemed to deepen Changez’s feelings was Americans’ increasing bigoted treatment of him, pushing him towards further alienation from the American culture and a stronger identity towards his own (Moretti par. 9). It does not help that Americans automatically associate Changez with terrorists because of the color of his skin, according to Olsen (12). It is easy to see why he feels compelled to choose one side over another. He was completely surrounded by this polarizing sentiment. It seems he didn’t want to feel at odds with his nationality and grew a beard out of protest. Eventually, he completely resolves his conflict by moving back to his homeland.
This book was very interesting in its treatment of the theme of the anti-American theme. One could not help but feel that what Changez experienced was a natural result of the events of 9/11, while the feelings of the American people were also a natural development of what occurred. The reader is left feeling sad that the protagonist’s alignment with his own culture came about because of the mistreatment he received at the hands of the Americans he admired, and also sad for the American people that the events of 9/11 left its inhabitants with fear and mistrust in their hearts, and with an indelible scar upon the great melting pot.
Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. London: Penguin, 2007.
“Conversations: Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”. WordPress, 25 May 2011. http://litdaily.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/conversations-mohsin-hamid%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cthe-reluctant-fundamentalist%E2%80%9D/
Marin, Claudia. “Home and Homeland in Hamid's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist"” 2012. TS. University Ca Foscari Venezia, Venezia. Academia.edu. http://www.academia.edu/2254341/Home_and_homeland_in_Hamids_The_Reluctant_Fundamentalist_.
Moretti, Anthony. “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”. 27 February 2011. http://ajmbroadcasteducator.blogspot.com/2011/02/reluctant-fundamentalist.html
Olsson, Karen. “I Pledge Allegiance.” 22 April 2007. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/books/review/Olsson.t.html?_r=0
Olsen, Greta. "Identity and Identification in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist." Justus Liebig University Giessen, Summer 2011. http://www.greta-olson.com/docs/Termpaper_VerenaBlum.pdf>.