Discuss the meaning of quote from The Reluctant Fundamentalist:  “I wanted to dress as I imagined they would be dressed… I took advantage of the ethnic exception clause.”

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The meaning behind this quote goes to what the experience of Changez was in his embrace of "the American Dream" as a hyphenated American.  Setting off to meet Erica's parents, Changez is plagued with how to dress.  For someone who is not of another culture, this is not that big of a deal.  Yet, for Changez, it is anything but.  He recognizes the dilemma at hand in dressing.  If he tries to shed his own identity and purely blend in with how they dress, he will stick out.  If he embraces his own identity and dresses the way of culture, he will stick out.  He is trapped with not knowing if the right path is to "be himself" or represent the image of what they think, thereby putting the parents at ease in being able to cast Changez into an easy cultural stereotype.  In the end, Changez chooses this option and dresses how they think he should be dressed, subjugating his own sense of identity for how those in the position of authority should think of him.  In taking advantage of "the ethnic exception clause," Changez embraces his own cultural identity to advance his stock in the eyes of another.  It is something that helps to move him in the direction he does by the end of the novel, and something that is jarring when he sees Erica has only dressed up in a T- shirt, something that makes him recognize part of the fundamental element of difference that he will always be battling in America.