The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

Start Free Trial

Analyse the character Jim and his influences towards Changez in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Include important quotes and scenes.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jim is a managing director at Underwood Samson and is the first contact Changez has with the valuation firm as he is the person who gives him the job. The scene of the job interview is the first time we encounter the character. At first Changez is intimidated by him, but later in the interview he comes to respect Jim's ability to see "through [him] in a few minutes more clearly than had many people who had known [him] for years" (p.10 Penguin books paperback edition). Jim sympathises with Changez's desire to succeed and relates to his lack of financial means to go to college as Jim himself comes from a disadvantaged economic background:

I was the first guy from my family to go to college. I worked night shift in Trenton to pay my way, far enough from campus that people wouldn't find out. So I get where you're coming from, Changez. You're hungry, and that's a good thing in my book (p.10)

Jim embodies the successful upwardly-mobile American self-made man, a staunch believer in meritocracy. He immediately likes Changez and he seems immune to the pervasive racist hysteria that takes hold of the narrative after the 9/11 attacks. He is constantly understanding of Changez and repeatedly asks him about his worries after the attacks and about his family when the war between Pakistan and India seems inevitable. He says he can understand how Changez feels because he is used to feeling out of place himself (see, for example, passages on pages 48, 80 and 109). 

Yet, in the course of the novel, I cannot help but feel that there is also a darker side to him: his fortune is made up by exploiting the failure of others (the companies he valuates) and, tellingly, when Changez goes to a party at Jim's house, the managing director's "magnificent property" in tha Hamptons made him think of The Great Gatsby. This may be an allusion that Jim's dealings like those of Fitzgerald's character are not completely clean (p. 48). This is also hinted at when Jim describes himself (and Changez too) as a "shark" (p.80). In addition, Jim makes Changez Pakistaniness disappear (p. 82), something the character is happy about at first, but comes to problematize in the course of the novel. He embodies the values of corporate capitalism and imperialism that Changez will increasignly become suspicious about. One is also left to wonder whether Jim's attitude towards Changez is not also dictated by sexual attraction as he is constantly making physical contact with him. Reading between the lines we can understand that he is gay. His four-thousand-square-foot loft is described as conveying the sense

of attaching great value to design. Not that it was cluttered, or indeed feminine in any way, . . . it was a minimalist affair . . . and the walls featured . . . a not insignificant number of male nudes (p. 136).

In the course of the same scene when Changez asks him about wife and children, Jim is "visibly amused" and says he has no wife or children.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team