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"[Jim's] grip was firm and seemed to communicate to me, in that moment, that Underwood...

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thebookworm1995 | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted September 15, 2013 at 6:17 AM via web

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"[Jim's] grip was firm and seemed to communicate to me, in that moment, that Underwood Samson had the potential to transform my life as surely as it had transformed his, making my concerns about money and status a thing of the distant past."

Is the way in which America transforms Jim in The Reluctant Fundamentalist different to the way it transforms Changez? If so, why? 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 15, 2013 at 8:23 AM (Answer #1)

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It is interesting that, to a certain extent, Jim and Changez are paralleled in this novel. Ostensibly at least, this link between the two characters is rather bizarre: Jim is, after all, a white American male, whereas Changez is from Pakistan and brown-skinned. However, what unites them is a shared history of poverty and a desire to escape that. This is the reason why both of them view Underwood Samson as a place of transformation. However, this potential for transformation is not complete. Just as Changez finds it impossible to become American completely, so too Jim confesses to Changez that he is unable to feel wholly a part of the world he has entered. Note, for example, what he says to Changez:

“You're a watchful guy. you know where that comes from?" I shook my head. "It comes from feeling out of place," he said. "Believe me. I know.”

Later on in the novel, it is suggested that this is due to Jim's homosexuality, whereas with Changez his inability to fit in comes from his ethnicity, but both characters are similar in the way that they become transformed through their work at Underwood Samson, but are not able to shed their background and identity completely. Indeed, both find that in certain ways their new lives in America only seem to accentuate their differences. This is something that creates a special bond between Jim and Changez, even though Jim shows that he is able to live with that difference, whereas Changez finds it so intolerable that he allows his standard of work to slip so that Jim has no option but to fire him. 

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