The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid
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What is the thesis of The Reluctant Fundamentalist?

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In the novel, Changez comes to America ready to love and embrace every aspect of the country: he's a bright-eyed optimist ready to live the American Dream. However, as he witnesses the country's commercial exploitation of other countries around the world, as he witnesses Americans' rude and disrespectful behavior toward people all over the world, his feelings slowly begin to change. He was not raised to hate America or Americans, and, even in the end, he does not seem to. Instead, he takes issue with America for the same reason that he has to quit his job at Underwood Sampson (a company whose initials are, not coincidentally, US): he cannot condone the cutthroat materialism and focus on the bottom line or the American exceptionalism that he witnesses daily. When he becomes the recipient of hatred from Americans as a result of his appearance, specifically after he grows a beard, his fundamentalism is born. The "thesis" of the book, then, seems to be that Americans should be more concerned about the way their country is perceived by other countries, that Americans should open their eyes to the behavior of America in the military conflicts and economies around the world. He revels when 9/11 happens, not because he rejoices in the innocent lives lost, but because someone has finally shown the "sleeping giant" that it is not invulnerable. America is much less different from other countries than many Americans would believe.

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