Discuss the possible interpretation of this quote from The Reluctant Fundamentalist:  "You stand there with your hand in your jacket.”

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamid's text can be read as Changez speaking to an American tourist or a military agent.  In this respect, the narrative is revealing about how fundamentalism, culture differences, and our perception in an age of terrorism is shaped.  The work does not seek to provide definitive answers on any of these, but rather bring them out in a discourse and dialogue where more questions are generated than anything else.  It is here where I think that the quote of what Changez says to the American during a power outage has significance.  The power outage hits the cafe, just as Changez has finished discussing an aspect of his past wth Erica.  The sudden nature of the power outage is noticed by the American, something that Changez has simply accepted as part of what it is to be in Lahore.  He tells the American that there is little need to worry, that such events are commonplace.  He goes through the actions the American demonstrates during this power outage.  One such action is when Changez says to the American that he does not need to "stand there" with "hand in your jacket."  Changez's outward dialogue that follows is that his wallet is safe and that such crimes are not as present in Lahore as one would think.  Yet, there is an undercurrent that the reader immediately recognizes given the dual manner in how this text is read.  We never know for certain if the American has his hand in his jacket for his wallet or for a weapon or some other device.  The interpretation in each reading differs.  It's more harmless, more trivial, if the American is reaching to protect his wallet, yet it becomes an entirely different read if he is there for some other reason, a military one.  In this, a simple statement by Changez acquires greater meaning and significance, perhaps deliberately reflective of the world we now live in due to fundamentalism and the fears associated with it.