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Throughout The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, the main character Changez is often confronted with his own identity. Is he American because he lives in America, or does he just live there as a Pakistani man? After I finished the book, I was ulitimately frustrated along with him, but although my frustration was connected to his, I was angry about something very different. For me, it seemed that through his struggle to fit in in America, he was forced to lose the Pakistani in┬áhim. I have grown up seeing America as this place that had no culture, so we could be culturally diverse. However, if this is true, why did he have to give up his culture to fit in…

“I attempted to act and speak, as much as my dignity would permit, more like an American. The Filipinos we worked with seemed to look up to my American colleagues, accepted them almost instinctively as members of the officer class of global business – and I wanted my share of that respect as well. So I learned to tell executives my father’s age, ‘I need it now‘; I learned to cut to the front of lines with an extraterritorial smile; and I learned to answer, when asked where I was from, that I was from New York.”

– Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Page 65).

In addition, this idea of being embarresed of your cultural identity is also shown through Wainwright. After 9/11 occurs, and Changez starts shifting further from America and more toward his Pakistani side again, Wainwright approached him about his beard.

“Wainwright tried to offer me some friendly advice. ‘Look, man,’ he said ‘I don’t know what’s up with the beard, but I don’t think it’s making you mister popular around here.’ ‘They are common where I come from,’ I told him. ‘Jerk chicken is common where I come from,’ he replied, ‘but I don’t smear it all over my face. You need to be careful”

– Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Pages 130-131)

Wainwright makes this statement, because although he is from Barbados, like Changez prior to 9/11, all he wants to do is be American. When people call him an African-American, he does not deny and stand up for his culture. He simply lets it slide, which I think is awful. If being American means that you are not allowed to be culturally diverse, then what is the culture of America. What does it mean to be an American and can you be an American if you were not born here?

Although Changez sees this flaw with America post-9/11, that does not really help his self identity crisis still. He does protest against the flaws he sees with America, but I think his time here will forever stay with him. That America is an infection, and he will forever be changed. The question is: Is the change good, or bad?

 

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