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Friend or enemy?

Friend or enemy?

One of the aspects of the novel that we discussed in class the other day was the importance of the tension between Changez the narrator and his interlocutor the American that creates a great suspense and a sense of insecurity. Are they just two random guys having tea in the Old Anarkali? Or is one of them a killer?

In this situation fear and suspicion unite them. Indeed, throughout the entire story, we wonder who the potential assassin is, and who the potential victim is.

Changez’s cordiality seems sometimes too exaggerated to be sincere, and he constantly tries to keep his guest as if he had some plan in the back of his head. Even the way Changez approached him, attracted by his “Americaness” can make us see him as a target. On the other hand the “American” appears as a frightening figure too; he might be carrying a gun, he is showing angry facial expressions and he seems to have some information about Changez like the fact that he knew that Changez attended Princeton.

To cut a long story short the author give us several hints to make us feel that both men are potential killers and this feeling of suspicion increases through the development of the narrative with the gradual darkening of the day and the growing solitude that surrounds them.

We reach the climax of this anxiety at the end of the novel when Changez says:” Ah, we are about to arrive at the gates of your hotel. It is here that you and I shall at last part company. Perhaps pour waiter wants to say goodbye as well, for he is rapidly closing in. Yes, he is waving at me to detain you. I know you have found some of my views offensive; I hope you will not resist my attempt to shake you by the hand. But why are you reaching into your jacket, sir? I detect a glint of metal. Given that you and I are now bound by a certain shared intimacy, I trust it is from the holder of your business cards.”

The omnipresence of the underlying threat makes the story very gripping, but it is also a really good way of conveying the social and political tension that existed between America and the Muslim world after 9/11. It shows the complexity of the situation where victims and aggressors can be on either side. We can say that that form and content match in The Reluctant Fundamentalist.


2 Responses to “Friend or enemy?”

  1. Olivia says:

    Charlotte, the attention you give in this post to the suspenseful characteristics of the novel, particularly in your description of the shared sinister potential of the characters. This is particularly important, I think, because so much time is given to Changez’s narrative, both in class discussion and in the book itself. Yet, it is the simple reality of the two men sitting in the café that is the so tense and skillfully done.

  2. Charlotte: I, too, agree that “Changez’s cordiality seems sometimes too exaggerated to be sincere” and that the tension in the novel conveys “the social and political tension that existed between America and the Muslim world after 9/11.”

    Thanks so much for this post.