Discuss the significance of Jean Bautista, the man Changez meets in South America in The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

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lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jean-Bautista is fundamental in bringing about Changez's decision to resign his job within corporate America and become, although reluctantly, an Islamic fundamentalist. As Changez says:

Jean-Bautista added considerable momentum to my inflective journey, a journey that continues to this day . . . (p. 166, Penguin books paperback edition)

Changez meets Jean-Bautista when he is sent to Chile to evaluate a publisher in Vaparaiso. Significantly, Chile is a country for which the date September 11th means something different from the US: a 1973 CIA-orchestrated coup d'etat that killed the democratically-elected socialist President Salvador Allende (born in Valparaiso).

Jean-Bautista is the chief of the publishing company Changez's team is commissioned to evaluate and reminds Changez of his maternal grandfather. This immediately establishes a bond between the two which is further reinforced when the Chilean tells Changez that he has read some of his paternal uncle's poetry translated in Spanish. Changez feels this particular bond with all the country, particularly in the house of Chilean poet Neruda, a supporter of Allende, perceiving the same spirit of Pakistan in Chile although geographically in a different continent.

Changez's realization that he is fighting his own people comes during a conversation with Jean-Bautista when the Chilean asks him if he is troubled to make his living by "disrupting the lives of others". When Changez tries to give the standard corporate answer ("We just value"), Jean-Bautista persists and invites Changez to compare himself to a modern-day jannissary in reverse. While jannissaries "were Christian boys . . . captured by the Ottomans and trained to be soldiers in a Muslim army" (p. 172), Changez is a Muslim who is fighting against his own values in the army of Western corporate capitalism. After this conversation Changez resigns from his job and begins to become fully aware of American economic and political imperialism.

Further Reading:

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