In reference to the power of nostalgia arising from Chapter 8 of Hamid's work, how is the contrast to Erica’s mental state since September 11 parallel to America’s own identity?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In both Changez's understanding of Erica and America, it becomes clear that nostalgia is how both deal with the pain of doubt and insecurity in the present.  Changez makes it clear that both the women he loves and the country in which he lives suffers from an inability to examine the present tense in an honest and sober light.  It lacks the ability to "look life in the face," to quote Virginia Woolf.  Rather, both Erica and America plunge into nostalgia.  This nostalgia is one in which Changez notes that Erica was "disappearing into a powerful nostalgia, one from which only she could choose whether or not to return."  The element of choice is significant.  Changez believes that Erica chooses to descend into the past because it is a comfort to her.  The relationship she shared with Chris is in the past and little can change it.  Her donning of this past condition is a direct response to the uncertainty of the present.  For Changez, she chooses to go to the past in avoidance of the challenging dynamics of the present.  In much the same way, America, for Changez, enters into its own nostalgia in that it invades Afghanistan and approaches the post- 9.11 world with the force of a nostalgic identity from World War II.  This nostalgia is one in which America stands clear in its mission, without any reflection as to why the events of September 11 happened in the first place.  As it marches on towards the present and the future steeped in the past, Changez makes it clear that it is like Erica in its inability to understand the dynamics of the present through its slipping into a nostalgia of the past.  Both America and Erica preferred their identity in the past nostalgia to the present condition of insecurity and doubt, and this helps to trigger both the fact that their nostalgia is seductively easy in which to slip and that it is a conscious choice as to why they embrace the nostalgia they do.