The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

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Assess how nostalgia is a destructive force in the novel.

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Hamid shows nostalgia to be a pursuit that is regressive and destructive.  It is shown to be something where the life in the present is continually rooted in the grasping of the past.  The more there is failure in replicating this process, the greater the toll it takes on the individual and the greater destruction results from it.  Nostalgia is shown to be as a narcotic, an opiate dulling the senses and causing more destruction with each intake.

Changez sees America's pursuit of nostalgia in the wake of the September 11 attacks as destructive.  It is a pursuit that causes destruction to nations like Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Nostalgia is what causes America to pursue a social and foreign policy of exclusion.  The belief of what it was during World War II and the confidence it exuded are in stark contrast the helplessness it felt in seeing itself as the victim of attack.  Nostalgia is what America absorbs to dull the pain of terror and to prevent open reflection on what happened and how it could have been avoided.  

In much the same way, Erica's nostalgia of her past is one in which there is personal destruction.  Her love of Chris is nostalgic and her gradual mental breakdown is the result of this nostalgia.  Changez notices how she is "lost" in this nostalgic world, a vision that cannot replicate the past and in its failure to do so, seems to be more inclined to wish it so.  Nostalgia in both Erica and America are shown to be destruction because they seek to recreate the past.  Each inevitable failure to do so causes even more nostalgia, creating a regressive cycle where destruction to self and others is the only end result.

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