Please help  analyze the meaning of the following quote from Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist:  “Perhaps you misconstrue the significance of my beard" (61).

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the relevance or significance of the quote represents how Changez understands the difference in his physical appearance and its implications as a statement political affiliations.  The "significance" of Changez's beard is a direct statement on how men of the Muslim faith are viewed.  The beard has become a cultural icon regarding Muslim men, which, in turn, has become a direct image of the fundamentalist.  In contrast, the expectation of Muslim men who are "Americanized" is that they "look" Western.  Changez's reference to his beard bears significance because at one point in time, when he was such a part of the "American" notion of self, Changez was clean shaven, and nowhere near resembling the person he resembles at the time of his speaking with the American.  The beard has become a symbol of cultural identity, and given the culture being embraced, it has become politically significant.  When Changez makes the direct connection between the beard and it being misconstrued, it is a statement as to how Changez, himself, is seen differently by those who once saw him in a particular way or by those who see men like Changez in one way over another.


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