The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

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Discuss Changez's quote that “I was never an American. I was immediately a New Yorker.”

Changez's quote that "I was immediately a New Yorker" shows that he thinks of America as a fantasy and not reality, and this makes it easier for him to accept the attacks on his home country as an attack on his dream.

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Changez never really acknowledges the reality of America until after the attacks on September 11, 2001. When he first arrives at Princeton, he imagines that he is the star of his own Hollywood movie. For a long time, his experience here feels like a fairy tale rather than a reality, and Changez's feeling that he is a New Yorker as opposed to an American seems to underscore this. His "America" is the stuff of dreams, the stuff of movies and stars and high rises and Statues of Liberty; it isn't the heartland, the everyday, or the mundane. He buys into the dream of America rather than the reality of it, and so he has that much further to fall when this dream is revealed to be only that.

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I think that the basic idea of the quote reflects how Changez immediately immersed himself in the reality of New York before anything else.  Changez immediately embraces New York because it represents all of the cliches and images of what America should be.  The vitality, energy in which individuals can use freedom to define their own sense of being, as well as the idea that there is an unlimited sense to what can be done are all part of New York and Changez's impressions of it.  The statement also brings out how Changez immediately embraces the reality of the American Dream.  While he claims to "never" be an American, the embrace of New York in such an immediate and passionate manner is a reflection of how he does accept the American Dream and all that comes along with it.  The urban location of New York as a part of it is representative of both how Changez sees his own sense of self, but also a part of the myopia that is present in his narration and how he conceives his own identity throughout his recollections.  It is in this idea that while he might claim to be distant from America, he really embraced what it offered through the promises and possibilities of New York.

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