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In the title of the novel, Changez is characterized as a "reluctant fundamentalist" because he believed in American society and even in its exploitative corporate values for a certain amount of time. Throughout the first part of his story, Changez says how much he loved being part of the valuating team at Underwood Samson. He introduces himself as "a lover of America", although, of course, after we hear his story, we may wonder if this statement as well as others in the course of his narrative are not paradoxical and deliberately ironic. In spite of Changez's possible irony in his hyperbolic praise of American institutions (see, for example, his admiration for the Princeton system of education "so pragmatic and effective, like so much else in America", p. 4 Penguin books paperback edition), in the first half of the books, he comes to represent the American myth of social mobility. Yet, America's racism after the 9/11 attacks and its foreign policy make Changez turn against the land he says he had loved so much.
Changez's story shows that his "reluctance" to become a "fundamentalist" is actually a slow process of coming to grips with his heritage as a Pakistani. A key term that might help understand Changez's dilemma is when Juan-Bautista describes him as a "jannisary." Like the Christian Turkish soldiers who, having renounced their Christian heritage, were the "most loyal fighters of all," Changez also has traded his Pakistani heritage for a place in the American financial empire. Unlike the Janissaries, however, Changez still has strong ties to Pakistan; his relationship with Erica ironically highlights his difference even while she is one of his strongest ties to life in New York. One way to think about his story is that it is his grappling with Erica's mental illness, and his desire to form a connection with her (a bond that he ultimately is denied) that causes him to understand the difference between American and Pakistani societies, and to finally decide where his allegiance lies. In that sense, his "reluctance" has to do with a reluctance to abandon the dream of being Erica's lover, even though her rejection of him causes him to fully understand himself as Pakistani.
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