What kinds of post–9/11 political, social, and cultural developments does the novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist depict?

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In the Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid's 2007 book The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the protagonist, who is telling his story to an unnamed American, is caught up in the tumult of the post–9/11 world. Initially, he seems like the ideal immigrant and his story a classic immigrant experience. As he says on the first page, "I am a lover of America." A native of Pakistan, he has come to America for school and is one of two Pakistanis at Princeton, where he excels, graduates with good grades, finds a good job in New York City, and then begins dating a beautiful American girl.

After the Twin Tower attacks, however, he finds people looking at him with suspicion, and when he arrives at the airport, returning to America from a trip, he is immediately detained. When he's asked why he's traveling to America, he responds curtly "I live here" (75). He soon finds himself surrounded by signs of patriotism and American might, which makes him uncomfortable: "Your country's flag invaded New York after the attacks; it was everywhere ... the mightiest civilization the world has ever known; you have slighted us; beware our wrath" (79).

Even though he is Pakistani and Pakistan is an ostensible ally of America, he, like anyone of Middle Eastern decent, is lumped in with the enemies of America. His once friendly co-workers are suddenly skeptical and hostile. His boss reproaches him for his beard, and he is even insulted as a "fucking Arab," even though, as he is quick to point out, he is not Arab. What he finds in the post–9/11 world is a world that is altogether more dangerous and more uncertain. The world has become a battlefield, and he, simply because of his heritage, has become an enemy.

Note: I'm using the Harcourt hardcover.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 13, 2020
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