The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Summary 1

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   adopted country      Afghanistan      American      beard      disenchantment      English      entitled and unsympathetic      familiarity      form of protest      he      identity      janissary      Lahore      militarism      narrator      New York      patriotic      Princeton      redemption      reminder      secure      support      traitor      Underwood Samson   
Author: Moshin Hamid

"The Reluctant Fundamentalist" written in the wake of the attacks on September 11 2001, on the World Trade Centre in New York, Hamid’s novel for some is an intelligent and thought-provoking read.

Changez, the , speaks to a stranger in a café in the Pakistani city of Lahore. Bearded and dressed in traditional clothes, he speaks perfect . He has been educated at . As he tells his story, one of growing with all things American and Western, the real reason for the encounter in the café becomes apparent.

Changez was a Pakistani born in a town called . He was considered a middle class. Changez ancestors lost their wealth throughout the generations, and when the time arose for Changez to choose his college career, his family were not able to him. However, he was an intelligent young man who achieved the highest grades, and was offered an scholarship to Princeton. After graduating from Princeton. Changez was offered an elite job at , which was located in New York. Because of his outstanding personality and knowledge in his profession, they offered him a base salary of over $80,000. Changez developed an affection for Erica, who was also a Princeton graduate.

Changez was living his Dream. However, things started to change dramatically after the September 11th attack on the United States. Changez did not know which side to choose. He was confused and began to question the values that he had adopted in his new country. He was unsure about the origins of his ; whether he was an immigrant American or a loyal Pakistani. At first he tried to blend-in by helping Erica organize a fundraiser for the affected families from the September 11th attack.

Changez proceeded to accept job offerings in order to his position, as he knew that his life's direction and fulfillment in his was dependent on this job. However, with global events and its ensuing , a conflict between India and Pakistan was might evntuate, with India retaliating to terrorist attacks from Pakistan. Later, he watches the news and saw American troops had invaded his neighboring country of . At that point, Changez admits he is confused, his personal and cultural identity was in conflict; he became woried and he heard tales of the discrimination of Muslims were beginning to experience in the business world – stories of rescinded job offers and groundless dismissals – and he did not wish to have his position at Underwood Samson compromised. But Changez thought about his situation with Underwood Samson: he is ranked the "Number 1" analyst at the entering class. Changez could not fully enjoy the benefits of his promotion and the luxuries to which he had become accustomed. He begins to examine his conscience and feels guilty that there was a possibility that his homeland (where his familiy is domiciled) could soon be at war with India.He thought of going back to Pakistan to support his family at the time they most needed him.

When he arrived at home, he observed his house in a different way. He was struck by how shabby his house appeared, with cracks running through its ceilings and dry bubbles of paint flaking off where dampness had entered its walls. The electricity was gone that afternoon, giving the place a sense of gloom, but even in the dim light of the hissing gas heaters, the furniture appeared dated and in urgent need of re-upholstery and repair, he was saddened and somewhat ashamed of the place where he came from, and he initially identifies with its relative poverty. However, Changez gradually reacclimatized to his surroundings

The and predicatability of his surrondings returns and it occurred to him that the house had not change a bit in his absence. Instead had changed. He was looking at the house with the eyes of a foreigner, and not just any foreigner, but the particular perspective of an American.

A banquet was held by the family for Changez arrival. They asked him several questions about his life, and his career in New York. He felt awkward due to the feeling they might not understand the situation he was facing at that moment. However, while they were eating, Changez was able to hear the sounds of military helicopters flying low overhead. Changez felt powerless, and angry at their weakness, at their vulnerability to intimidation of this sort from Pakistan’s neighbor to the east. He knew soon he would leave his family and his home behind, this made him feel a to his country. He asks, “What sort of man abandons his people insuch circumstances? And what was I abandoning them for? A well-paying job and a woman whom I longed for but who refused even to see me?” These questions lingered in his head.

When Changez was back in , he managed to grow a , even though his mother told him to shave it. He felt that this beard was a on his part, a symbol of , or perhaps merely a of the reality he had just left behind. At this point, Changez had found motive, a way to show that he was different from Americans. He did not wish to blend in with the clean-shaven youngsters who were his co-workers, and deeply he felt he was angry.

While walking to his rental car in the parking lot, he was approached by a man he did not know. He made a series of unintelligible noises such as “akhala-malakhala” or maybe it was“khalapal-khalapala” and he pressed his face alarmingly close to Changez. This experience irritated Changez, and he was going to resolve it with violence. In addition, Changez was subjected to many verbal abuses when he traveled on the subway. The worst part for him was that many co-workers started to talk about him at Underwood Samson. His co-worker Wainwright offered him some friendly advice by saying, “Look, man, I don’t know what’s up with the beard, but I don’t think it’s making you Mister Popular around here.” Changez replied, “They are popular where I come from”. Wainright replied, “Jerk chicken is common where I come from but I don’t smear it all over my face. You need to be careful. This whole corporate collegiality veneer only goes so deep. Believe me”. This demonstates the depth to which Changez had lost "his" American Dream. By identifying more close with his country and his culture, he may have indeed felt some , for his prior lack of national judgement.

Changez picked up an assignment by Jim that stationed him in Chile, Valparaiso. He was not able to work because of the what is going on in Pakistan. Instead he spent all his time monitoring the news on his laptop during the presentations. Juan Bautista was the chief of the publishing companyand while they did not discuss anything concerning the project, Juan saw something unique in Changez. Juan asked him many questions and those questions revealed Changez' deeper conscience and cultural identification. Changez began to think of himself as a modern-day , a servant of the American empire at a time when it was invading a country with a kinship to his and was perhaps even colluding to ensure that his own country faced the threat of war. Following this, Changez refused to continue his work at Underwood Samson and as a consequence he lost his job and had his United States' visa revoked.

Eventually, Changez became a patriotic believer, feeling that American had conducted itself poorly in the world with its own ideological self-interest defined by capitalism; America’s constant interference in the affairs of others was insufferable and unsupportable.