The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid
Start Free Trial

How does The Reluctant Fundamentalist stress the neccessity for people to understand differences in their lives?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the final analysis, Hamid's work stresses that individuals cannot find happiness in a globalized world if they do not seek to understand and appreciate differences in their lives.  Changez fails to understand differences in his own life.  He simply looks at the differences presented in the form of rejection.  He lives in a setting in which nuanced differences are not understood as much as binary opposition.  Whether he is in love with American culture or repulsed by it, he fails to see that there are valences of differences in which more nuanced approaches to being exist.  His failure to understand differences causes him to make blanket acceptances and rejections without understanding the full implications of his actions.  It is for this reason he can only be a "reluctant fundamentalist," reflecting that there is still some level of unease about the binary opposed path he has chosen.  Changez's inability to understand differences constructs barriers between he and everyone else in his world.  Erica, Jim, and even the American at the end of the novel are all kept at a distance from Changez because he cannot understand the subtleties of differences. In being unable to fully understand the implications of differences, Changez lives a live where happiness is absent.  Changez might have embraced a new philosophy, and learned to spout off a new set of linguistic associations that move him rhetorically closer to fundamentalism.  Yet, he still is fundamentally unhappy.  He is still a reluctant fundamentalist.  He is this because he cannot understand differences.

This is not merely Changez's condition.  There is a lack of emotional affect between any of the main characters in the narrative because they cannot understand differences and appreciate them in the modern setting.  Erica fails to understand differences, rather choosing to retreat to a nostalgic condition where there are no differences.  Jim cannot understand the cultural challenges that Changez endures, seeking to sublimate such differences through work and focusing on work.  The people in which Changez interacts are like him in that they fail to understand and acknowledge differences.  The American at the end might be seen as an individual who seeks to understand such differences in listening to Changez's narrative.  Yet, in not knowing his real purpose, one is left wondering if the American is there to understand differences or eliminate them.  The only constant that emerges here is Hamid's suggestion that a way to avoid the condition of what is seen in the narrative is to not push differences to the margin.  Rather, individuals should feel compelled to bring them to center in seeking to understand them.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team