The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid
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In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, why did Changez and Erica's relationship fail? How could it have been saved?

Changez and Erica's relationship fails because Erica cannot accept the death of her previous love, Chris, and because Changez has an inferiority complex regarding his culture compared to Erica's. Had these two characters gotten over these psychological problems, their relationship could have possibly been salvaged.

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Changez and Erica's relationship appears doomed from the start. Changez comes from a traditional Pakistani family, who probably would not take to having a non-Muslim woman for a daughter-in-law, and Erica is a traumatized person unable to move on from previous heartbreak. Regardless, the two like one another and start...

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Changez and Erica's relationship appears doomed from the start. Changez comes from a traditional Pakistani family, who probably would not take to having a non-Muslim woman for a daughter-in-law, and Erica is a traumatized person unable to move on from previous heartbreak. Regardless, the two like one another and start dating, with Changez drawn to Erica's poetic talent and beauty.

Changez hopes the relationship will be able to progress to something deeper, but Erica does not. Erica is still hurting over the loss of Chris, a previous boyfriend who passed away from cancer years ago. Changez tries to take Chris's place, but cannot. It gets to the point where Erica is unable to make love to Changez without imagining he is Chris. While Erica generally receives much of the blame for the dissolution of their romance, Changez's inferiority complex regarding modern American culture versus the more traditional Pakistani culture he comes from also prevents him from being truly open with Erica. Both characters cannot genuinely communicate with one another due to these psychological barriers.

The only way the relationship could have been salvaged is if Erica had been able to move on from her past and Changez had been able to feel confident as a Pakistani man in American society. Chris's memory is what stands between Changez and Erica—unfortunately for both of them, Erica is never able to exorcise her pain. This dynamic between Changez and Erica is often compared to relations between the United States and Pakistan. The two are unable to fully trust one another, especially the United States, which, like Erica, mourns its lost past and current vulnerability after 9/11.

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