"At the counter was a diminished Erica, not the vivid, confident woman I knew but a pale, nervous creature who could almost have been a stranger."
How does Hamid use the deterioration of Erica as a commentary on the deterioration of the American Empire?
The language that Hamid uses in the description of Erica can serve as a commentary on the deterioration of the American empire. Consider the adjective "diminished." Hamid uses the events of September 11 as a way to show how America was also "diminished." Both Erica and America have difficulty understanding who they are after tragedy in contrast to who they were. The way in which both live life after sadness and devastation is "diminished." There is no reflection and no discourse in either. There is little in way of "vivid" and "confident" approaches that open dialogue and seek to better understand what is in the light of what was and what might be. Rather, there is a "diminished" capacity, one in which "pale" and "nervous" has become the modes by which the present is appropriated. The use of language helps to reflect the fundamental shift that Hamid sees America experience in the period that followed the events of September 11.
The image of "a stranger" is another instance where Hamid's commentary on the deterioration of the American Empire is evident. The opposite of a "stranger" can be seen as someone or something welcoming and inclusive. To avoid the condition of being a "stranger," one extends bonds and establishes the context of inclusivity. Erica used to be this and then she reverts to a condition of someone "who could almost have been a stranger." America becomes this for Changez, as well. A nation that believed in asserting and extending bonds became "a stranger" in the following of September 11. Its hands withdrew, and its condition of inclusivity withered in place of a condition where being "a stranger" was more desirable than extending connection. The fragmented condition of being a stranger from one who was welcoming is a statement on the nature of America in the events that followed September 11.