The Reluctant Fundamentalist, ch. 8/9

Chapter eight starts with Changez noticing the uneasiness of the American around their waiter. Changez himself acknowledged that the waiter was indeed intimidating but explains that it is only due to his origins; the waiter comes from the mountainous northwest, where life was difficult. In addition to this, his tribe had been attacked by American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Further into the chapter, Changez continues on the topic of Erica where he dropped off in the previous chapter. Erica’s condition had come back, and it was at its peak. Erica’s mother wanted stability for her daughter. She told Changez that Erica did not need a boyfriend, but a friend, and Changez is alarmed; not by the words themselves but alarmed by the desperation that went uninterrupted from her eyes to her voice. She told him that Erica was a “sick girl at the moment”, and that emotional upheavals could be unhealthy for her. He partly understood her concern as he, in the following paragraphs, was talking to Erica, and she was unable to obtain a conversation. In addition to this, the medication Erica was taking seemed to be counterproductive; Erica does not manage to move past the memories of Chris, but dwells on them. Erica was profoundly lost in the past, too in love with Chris, to be reachable for Changez. Previously, Changez seemed to become comfortable with aspects of America, and, up until now, when there were features of New York Changez was uncomfortable with, he turned to Erica.  This is the chapter in which Changez realizes he cannot turn to Erica for comfort any longer, which leaves him feeing out of place alongside her, as well as in America. Before leaving, Changez promised Erica’s mother to stay away until Erica contacted him herself, and he keeps the promise.

Despite both Erica and America staving off Changez, he does not give up on the United States as a whole. Changez decided to put all energy into his career at Underwood Samson. Unfortunately, Changez starts to worry about losing his job, due to his Pakistani background. His co-workers are whispering behind his back, and he suspects an underlying discriminating and racist tone to their whispers. His feelings of being discriminated against intensify as he is faced with racism on the street by degradingly cursing. Changez reacts by thinking of physical violence, but luckily manages to restrain.

Changez found working hard to be a stress-reliever as his mind anywhere else was occupied by thinking of the possibilities of Pakistan going to war with India soon. The thought of war alone is what convinces Changez to fly back to Pakistan to see his parents. With the extra money Changez got from a bonus at Underwood Samson, he was able to afford flying back home. Changez was shocked to learn how changed his home country was, as his family was preparing for the predictable violence that would come their way as the war begins. Changez wanted to stay in Pakistan but was unable to protest when his parents tell him to return to America and his job. He felt powerless, unable to protect his family and home country. Changez seems ashamed to leave everything behind and flee to America. Despite Changez insisting on staying, he was soon departing Pakistan. Whilst on the plane, he took note of the many young men leaving their home. Just like Changez, these were the men that were expected to stay and fight for their country but were instead leaving a nation soon at war instead of staying to defend it.

 

I believe these chapters show how far Changez and Erica are drifting apart as the time goes by. Their relationship/friendship is going through a rough-patch, where there seem to be a minimum of glistering, heart-warming moments between them. Erica seems to think personal space for the both of them is the best option, whilst Changez on the other side longs for physical contact. Erica is caught up in the past, thinking of Chris, and Changez is left worrying for Pakistan and the uprising war. Erica takes a step back and clings on to the past, whist Changez is thinking about the future. The two of them are craving two entirely different things and are beginning to walk in complete separate directions. Erica begins to shut out Changez and does not allow him to get up-close like before. Her mental health is exacerbating as her obsessive nostalgia for Chris develops further.

As of right now, I do not see a positive ending when it comes to the two of them having a normal and healthy relationship. Before they can love and accept each other for what they are and how they are, they need to work themselves out. Maybe spending time together would have had positive effects, but we are left unknown as they keep their distance.

 

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