Discuss the idea that many characters in this book are dangerously addicted to nostalgia.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the prevalence of the nostalgia and its addiction does impact many of the characters in Hamid's work.  It is not accidental that Changez's social love interest, America, and his emotional love interest, Erica, both engage in a dangerous love of nostalgia after the events of September 11.  Erica is unable to deal with the emotional carnage caused by the terrorist attacks.  In finding a way to cope, she revets to a nostalgic love of the relationship she had with her dead boyfriend, Chris.  In this fleeing into nostalgia, it becomes the way in which Erica uses the past to deal with an uncertain and complicated present and future.  This same type of retreat is what Changez perceives America as undergoing in its response to the September 11 Attacks.  Seeking to reclaim a nostalgic World War II vision of itself where it confidently walked into battle and claimed victory over inferior adversaries is the motivation for his political flight into nostalgia.  For Changez, his two main love interests, and thus important characters, prove to be dangerously addicted to nostalgia.

In a larger sense, one can make the argument that Changez is dangerously addicted to nostalgia.  He views America with a nostalgia of perfection, initially seeing it as a Bollywood type of drama where he is the hero.  He views America with a sense of perfection and absolutism, failing to account for its imperfections.  In much the same way, Changez views Erica, believing that he can overcome anything in this relationship, even asking her to pretend he is Chris when they make love.  In such a nostalgic and romantic view of reality, Changez is doomed to be unhappy.  When America and Erica turn their respective backs on him, Changez again reverts to a nostalgic vision of the anti- American world, one that he believes can provide meaning simply because it is poised against America.  Nostalgia is alluring to Changez because it prevents a real and open dialogue on how he can see himself in an uncertain and challenging condition.  Perhaps, it is deliberate that the protagonist of a novel where so many engage in nostalgia is, himself, susceptible to it.