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Is Changez an American?

One of the ideas that we talked about in class was that the narrator of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is difficult to characterize as either American or outsider because throughout the novel he accepts or rejects different aspects of what it means to be an American. He presents himself to the stranger as an outsider – a New Yorker rather than an American – but he cleaved so eagerly to the economic style of the United States. I would say that he rejects being an American more than he accepts it. Upon his first return home after graduating from Princeton and beginning to work at Underwood Samson, he is at first ashamed by the decrepit appearance that his home has assumed, then realizes that it was he rather than the house that had changed. He had adopted “that particular type of entitled and unsympathetic American” (124) point of view which is disposed to criticize – to find flaws rather than beauty. He decides to consciously alter his mentality back to that of his Pakistani heritage, focusing on the history of its art and carpets rather than the unreliable electricity and the cracks in the ceilings. The narrator notices a similar manifestation of this point of view in his companions on the trip to Greece. They, unlike him, consider their wealth and American citizenship more deserving of respect than the age and accompanying wisdom of the older Greeks who wait on them in restaurants. He is appalled by this sense of entitlement, which he seems to think of as an inherent part of being American, and is careful to distinguish himself from those who have it.

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