The Reluctant Fundamentalist

  • Right now, my international English class is working with the novel “The reluctant fundamentalist” written by Mohsin Hamid, published in 2007. The book is about a young Pakistani man called Changez who meets an American in his hometown, and to which he tells his “successful” US story to. The book is set in a café in the capital of Pakistan, Lahore. This is a novel in the subject of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.trf.jpg

– So far, I have mixed feelings about the novel. At the very beginning I was struggling to get the hang of what was going on, but I rapidly found a rather great fondness of the structure and composition. Although I do enjoy the story, I still find it weird how we only see the responses of Changez when there are conversations between him and the American.

I love the uncertainty of the main character, Changez. The story is considerably unpredictable, and most of the time I am left with my own assumptions as to whether Changez is a normal but oversharing guy, or an extremist. I appreciate the diversity of the chapters, and the increasing amount of details that appear in each chapter. I furthermore believe that underlying symbols are a part of this story, and I am intrigued to read more!

– My thoughts on the company Underwood Samson is, like the story as a whole, also mixed. Sherman, one of Underwood Samson’s vice presidents, explains to Changes and the other recruits that the company is a meritocracy. A meritocracy is by definition “A social system, society, or organization in which people have power because of their abilities, not because of their money or social position” (Cambridge university). At first glance Underwood Samson sounds like the American dream written down; hard work, talent and determination will be rewarded, anything but the best will not be tolerated. I fear an underlying racism from his co-employees, but only further reading will show if it is just a feeling or a reality.

– After Changez succeeds in being employed under Underwood Samson, he declares “I was never an American, I was immediately a New Yorker”. I believe the quote is Changez feelings as he immerses himself in the American dream. Although Changez claims to be distant to America, he is so immersed in his new job that he embraces the possibilities opportunities New York has to offer. New York is so far (five chapters in) treating Changez with a welcoming spirit, and we even read about Changez not being uncomfortable wearing his traditional clothes amongst others. Changez has gained himself a great life in America, and his materialistic and personal situation has visibly improved from what he is used to back in Pakistan. We see further proof of his fondness of New York in the quote “My voice is rising? You are right; I tend to become sentimental when I think of that city. It still occupies a place of great fondness in my heart”.  

– Erica is one of Changez’ classmates. She is portrayed predominantly positively throughout the chapters. Changez develops strong feelings towards her from the very beginning, and we read about his growing fondness for her. She is described using words such as regal. out of reach and is even compared to a lioness. Another thing worthy of mentioning, is that Erica is seemingly still clinging on to her boyfriend Chris, who died from lung cancer a year prior,  in form of physical memories such as shirts and drawings.

  • She attracted people to her; she had prescience, an uncommon magnetism”. 

We rapidly learn Erica does not like being alone, and she is seemingly never so. Anywhere Changez went with her, she was surrounded by people who seemed to thoroughly enjoy her presence. Additionally, despite her friendly nature, something in Erica seems to be “broken”, and lost in thoughts unsaid.  Regardless of my last statement, she is portrayed as someone beautiful inside-out.

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