The Reluctant Fundamentalist Questions and Answers
by Mohsin Hamid

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Please examine how the use of stereotypes in The Reluctant Fundamentalist reveals insights into the wariness and suspicion that underscores the interactions between Western and Middle Eastern societies. 

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The way that stereotypes are used and played with in this powerful text that does so much to explore relations between the US and the Middle Eastern world is shown through Changez's mention of stereotypes as he speaks to his anonymous American listener whom he reveals his story to. He, at numerous points in the narrative, tells him not to be worried about the various men that he sees who seem to threaten them. At one point, he deliberately points out the fallacy of believing in such stereotypes through pointing out to his American audience that Pakistanis have stereotypes of Americans, too:

It seems an obvious thing to say, but you should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins.

The way in which the importance of stereotypes is foregrounded is shown in through Changez's reference to how stereotypes cut both ways: just as Americans seem to assume any beared Middle-Eastern male is a terrorist, so too Pakistanis make assumptions about white-skinned American males. Changez is shown to deliberately challenge such stereotypes after 9/11 through his decision to grow a beard, even though this causes him even more problems, both with his job and in his attempts to settle into the US. This novel therefore highlights the way that stereotypes are so damaging and have such a negative impact, but also it seeks to explore how stereotypes are formed by both sides. With reference to the mainly Western audience of this novel, this is indeed a salutory message to take heed of. 

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