I Was Never an American

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“I was never an American. I was immediately a New Yorker.” How is Changez’s sense of identity altered over the course of the novel?

Identity is as much about public perception as it is self-perception. In Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist the reader is confronted with this fact in a bid to understand what it means to be American and Pakistani. The narrator Changez is unsure of who he is, and whilst certain personality traits remain, his sense of identity is changed significantly by the novel’s conclusion. Through the use of a dramatic monologue Changez is able to explore how he sees himself as he attempts to clarify his experiences in America. The use of allegory further enhances the story as Hamid also questions the identity of America and Pakistan as nations and provides a controversial ending to trap the reader in their own perceptions.

Hamid depicts Changez’s identity as being fluid and constantly changing. As the novel is a dramatic monologue, Changez provides the American with a detailed account of his shifting identity. Hamid uses this to show identity is as much a conscious decision as it is unpredictable. At first, Changez is friendly and plays up this element of his personality for both his American guest, by “offering [his] services”, and his companions in Greece, as he could “not prevent myself from carrying her backpack.” Indeed, it is this facet that attracts both Erica and gives the reader some reason to empathize with him. Changez presents himself as a respectful, thoughtful person, someone who Erica comments “feels solid.” Despite this, he is clearly out of his element and confused by the environment he is in, Underwood Samson “had the potential to transform my life… making my concerns about money and status things of the distant past.” This ignorance is contrasted with his keen observational sense as well; noting The American sits ”with [his] back so close to the wall.” He has the opportunity to shape the reader’s...
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