In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Changez claims he is a lover of America, but he hints at a more complex and conflicted relationship. What distinctions does he make?

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Changez arrives in the United States in the late twentieth century. He feels privileged to be accepted into an Ivy League university, and he succeeds on the terms that are established there. That success in turn earns him a corporate job, and he believes he is living the American dream to which all Americans aspire. The events of September 11, 2001 and the changes that he experiences in people’s attitudes toward him are a large part of what makes him re-evaluate the United States as a nation.

The author places Changez outside the United States when the attacks occur. One reason for this is to provide a vantage point for Changez to see other nations’ reactions and not just experience his own reaction from within the United States. It also allows a bit of time to pass so that when he returns, others have gotten past the initial terrible shock.

One of Changez’s immediate reactions upon hearing the news of the attacks is his feeling that the giant has been taught a lesson: it is not invincible. This in turn causes him to think about other negative thoughts that he has been harboring and repressing. He criticizes the new American attitude as “growing and self-righteous rage.”

He also experiences fear, both because he hears of physical attacks on dark-skinned people and because people yell at him. He comes to regard himself and others from his own and nearby countries as “collateral damage” of terrorism.

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An interesting pair of comparisons make it clear that Changez's feelings about America are conflicted, at best. When he describes the job recruitment process at Princeton, very early on in the story, he says,

Every fall, Princeton raised her skirt for the corporate recruiters who came onto campus and—as you say in American—showed them some skin . . . . I was a perfect breast, if you will—tan, succulent, seemingly defiant of gravity— and I was confident of getting any job I wanted.

Changez compares the university itself to an incredibly sexually forward woman, one who overtly invites a man to have sex with her, via a simile. Then, via a metaphor, he compares himself to a beautiful breast, a part of the body that has been totally sexualized. These comparisons work together to make the whole process seem somehow vulgar, sordid, and shallow. Being that Princeton is an Ivy-league school, representative of the best educational institutions in the country, it can be seen as a version of the country's ideals on a smaller scale: the fact that it ought to represent the peak and is here described in such a cringe-worthy way makes it clear that Changez's feelings about America are not altogether positive. He even calls so much of what is American "pragmatic and effective." While these are words with positive connotations, they fall short of other adjectives one might prefer: just, fair, moral, compassionate, and the like.

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Changez loves America because it has offered him opportunities he may not have had in his home country of Pakistan. Throughout the book he travels to America for university, and is hired as a businessman and becomes very successful. He has a great apartment and even meets and falls in love with a girl- Erica. Changez has a great life in America that is very different from the one he would have had if he had stayed in Pakistan. So, yes, Changez loves America.

This love is complicated, though. At the same time, America has offered Changez lots of opportunity, wealth, and friendship, he is viewed as an outsider and sometimes an enemy. This book is very much about the attitudes towards Muslim and Muslim-passing people in the United States after the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. Changez is a Pakistani man with dark skin and a beard- the very caricature of what most Americans thought "the enemy" looked like. Even though Changez has a successful life, he feels like an outsider and a threat because he knows he looks like what people think the enemy looks like. Amidst all the opportunity and wealth, which would normally foster happiness, he can't help but feel uncomfortable.

On another level, it is difficult for Changez to entirely embrace his life in America when his family remains in Pakistan. He isn't sure he should give himself so wholeheartedly to a country that is suspicious of him.

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