The literary analysis of themes in The Reluctant Fundamentalist will explore the underlying aspects within the novel.
About the Author
Mohsin Hamid is a Pakistani- British author who has written famous novels like Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Hamid has studied Bachelor of Arts at Princeton University where he attended a workshop under Toni Morrison.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist was written in 2007, which is said to be the metafictional novel. The novel is a type of dramatic monologue.
The literary themes present in the novel are Racism, Patriotism, and Imperialism.
Literary analysis of themes in The Reluctant Fundamentalist
The beginning of the novel clearly shows that how people are judging each other on the basis of their appearances. The characters declares opinion on the color of skin, clothes they wear, and other aspects.
The protagonist of the novel, Changez observe all of this during his stay in United States. Changez’ friends are always respectful towards him and aware that he is a foreign student. At the point, when Changez and his friends visit Greece, they express their ‘mild racism’ towards him. Erica feels attraction towards him because he seems to be different. Changez is approving these feelings initially because he is not acquainted with himself. Another reason is that he want others to accept him so that he could be a part of them and Erica’s life.
The stern racism comes into view when the incident of 9/11 occurs. Changez experiences that how everyone is judging him by the way of his looks. Some mistake him from being Arab, th0ugh, he was a Pakistani. His office mates starts whispering about him and avoid being with him. They think that is just another extremist because he was a Muslim.
The racism at the airport was also very heart breaking for Changez. The security officer interrogated him in the most vicious way also by stripping him in the name of security.
All of this unfair behavior by his adopted country of United States pushes him to become critical of the country. He changes his appearance as a way of protest. Though, throughout the novel, it is still unable to conclude that whether the stranger was some American agent or Changez is an extremist. Both characters looks skeptic of each other and Mohsin Hamid has left it over the readers to decide.
The author has also sort of experimented with the mindset of readers that what do they think of a stereotype beard person and of anyone who looks like American.
When Changez gets to see beyond his American Dream, he realizes that from which vision of US he actually belongs to. For instance, it reveals over Changez that America has two version of itself in front of world. One is hard and one is soft. In the hard version, it wants to be a Super Power and rule with its military force. On the ‘soft image’, US motivates the foreign talented students to attend its universities and embrace the American customs.
Changez understands the entire procedure when he became part of this corporate world. Since, he was there on scholarship, the firm’s partner knows his potential. When he goes for an evaluation purpose of a publishing firm in South America, its President Juan- Batista gives him the example of janissaries of Ottoman Empire. These janissars were kidnapped and were given all the facilities in order to go against its own country. Changez feels as if he is the janissar who has become part of this process. He has a shiny job and it will keep the country to grow through his continuous hard work.
As far as the hard powers are concerned, the American intervention in Middle East and Pakistan is visible after 9/11. Changez thinks of his family in Pakistan and how he still feels like an outsider in US, he comes back to his homeland. However, he comes back to his country, but he misses Erica whom he started loving. He also thinks about the opportunities that US offers him, but the behavior of its citizens reverses his heart. Changez resolves to come back to Pakistan. The novel portrays him as a teacher here and also the one who is behind organizing anti- American protests. It was all because of his experiences in America.
The entire scenario also depicts the fact that maybe that The Stranger was the agent who was sent to assassinate Changez. Though, it is unclear, but if this is the case, then it is the perfect example of American Imperialism.
When Changez lives in America, he gets to observe that Americans do not really follow any pattern of patriotism. However, during his studies in Princeton, he was being trained secretly to serve Amercia and he was not even conscious of it.
Changez felt the wave of patriotism in all over United States after the 9/11 incident. Every American came on one page after the attack and foreigners like Changez were feeling aliens.
It is not that that Changez was hating the country or anything rather he had love for the land which provided him with the opportunities. In return, the country did not love him back.
These are some of the themes of patriotism, racism, and American Imperialism, which can be tracked in The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.
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