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“But surely it is the gist that matters; I am, after all, telling you a history, and in history, as I suspect you–an American–will agree, it is the thrust of one’s narrative that counts, not the accuracy of one’s details. Still I can assure you that everything I have told you thus far happened, for all intents and purposes more or less as I have described” (118).

This passage, from The Reluctant Fundamentalist, first jumped out to me because Changez is touching on a subject that I’ve already seen discussed in other literature, such as The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. There is happening truth, and then there is story truth. Like Changez states, it is the “narrative that counts.” It doesn’t always matter what actually happened, but the emotions and morals behind what is being told that counts. People tell stories for a reason. They do it to get a point across–to make the listener or reader think about something.

The problem I am having at the moment, though,  is that I still don’t understand exactly why Changez is telling this story. I don’t yet see the thrust of his narrative. Based on his words, it is obvious that there must be a reason. He especially wouldn’t have said the phrase “for all intents and purposes” if there wasn’t a reason. But what are those intents and purposes? Based on the fact that Changez knows the American’s mission, what is the point of spilling his story? Either Changez or the American are going to die in the end, it would seem, so what is the point? There are many things that Changez says which would cause one to think of things differently, but I want to know his motives while he speaks to this American. Perhaps, however, I am thinking of it all too literally. Maybe he is speaking to America in general. The American, who is given all of these stereotypes, could represent America itself.

Maybe, though, Changez is spilling his soul to the American because he knows that he is going to die at the end of the night, and his story is all he has left. Tim O’Brien wrote in The Things They Carried that “Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” Perhaps Changez knows that his story is all that he has left to give and that maybe some of it will make some sort of impact on this American. “Stories are for eternity.” They live on in the tiny impacts they make on others.

2 Responses to ““Stories are for eternity””

  1. Marta says:

    Great post, Nina. I’ve been thinking along similar lines…that perhaps Changez has accepted his fate and is attempting to ensure that his story will have a chance to live on in a way that he will not. In a way, I feel like this kind of nuanced personal narrative transcends the more sort of black-and-white global or historical narrative to which conflicts like these are often reduced.
    It’s also occurred to me that Changez could even be interpreted as a political martyr of sorts, which endows this gesture with a different sort of importance.

  2. A wonderful post here, Nina. I agree that the form of the novel compels us to ask why Changez would tell this story to a stranger, especially those aspects of the story that are so intimate, and your answer is a persuasive one: that he “is spilling his soul to the American because he knows that he is going to die at the end of the night, and his story is all he has left.”

    But is it possible that he also intends to incite the anger of the American by confessing that he has, in essence, violated Erica? Is it possible that his confession a sort of suicide mission intent upon harming another before he is killed?

    Just a question…