“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?
In Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 thriller novel ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ we’re told the story of a young scholar, Changez, and his troubles as a Pakistani during his time before and after the 9/11 terror attacks in America. This turmoil is allegorically simplified by Changez’s own personal relationship with his love interest, Erica, evident given that her name is a contraction from (Am)Erica. Changez originally feels welcome as an American in New York although quickly draws a difference between the two due to the multicultural nature of the ‘Big Apple’, this realization affects his identity in America leading to his assertion whereby he “was never an American” but “immediately a New Yorker”. Hamid’s novel opens with a conversation between ‘The American’ and Changez which takes place some years after Changez’s fall out with America and is constantly referenced throughout the novel as each chapter begins and ends with the café conversation. During the Lahore based conversation Changez’s identity is evident through the recounted stories he presents to the American from his time in America although the result of the conversation is left ambiguous. Before the attacks on the World Trade Center however, Changez had little trouble in his environment as a “janissary” of the religion which was American business fundamentalism as the embers that he and the American population had not yet been ‘prodded’ or ‘set alight’ the cause of such a flare would be the 9/11 attacks. Once the embers had been set alight by the events of September 11th 2001 not only did such events propel Changez towards his eventual identity but so too did the Americans’ “determination to look back” in reference to the heavy discrimination Changez was subjected to after 9/11.
The ‘frame’ of Hamid’s novel, the conversation between the American and Changez, shows Changez...
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