From The Reluctant Fundamentalist, discuss how this quote relates to the characterization of Erica: “She frequently became introspective; it was as though their presence allowed her to withdraw.”
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This particular description of Erica is an interesting one. Like so much with Hamid's work, it can exist on two levels. The first one is that it is a fairly open and honest assessment in how Erica interacts with the world. She is "alone in a crowd," distinct and detached from any social setting. Changez sees Erica as one who needs to be surrounded by people simply to be able to be lost within them. His description of her as "introspective" is indicative of how she is able to evade pure emotional contact with other people because of their presence. In surrounding herself with others, she can retreat emotionally into her own citadel that prevents any real and substantive communication with others. Like so much in the novel, this seemingly apolitical element can be seen in a political light, as well. Erica is similar to what Changez sees as the fundamental flaw in America. Over the course of his narrative, Changez understands that both elements, one of love and one of politics, are similar in that there is not a significant and substantive connection between they and the outside world. Just as Erica operates in a vacuum in which she is surrounded by others and can evade responsibility to then, America is able to operate in much the same capacity. It is through this contradictory element in which both the woman and the nation operates that enables Changez to develop a fundamental position of dislike towards both. In this, the description of Erica becomes to represent how Changez will later describe America.
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