What is the purpose of the deliberately ambiguous and highly interpretative conclusion of The Reluctant Fundamentalist? What exactly is Hamid trying to achieve? 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One potential purpose for the ending of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is to generate discussion.  Hamid offers an ending where nothing is clear.  The only level of clarity that is present lies in Changez's last words:  “You should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins.”   In such an ending, Hamid wishes to provide a domain where individual opinions are evident, and where discussion can ensue.  For example, what does it mean if a person believes that the American is there to kill Changez?  What does it mean if the ending is one where the reader perceives Changez as involved in some covert activity?  The ambiguous and highly interpretative ending is one in which Hamid forces the reader to confront their own views and reflect upon them.  Hamid himself indicates that the individual's construction of reality is something that he enjoys probing in his work:  "I don't believe in 'reality' as such. What we call 'real' is something our minds create. So the whole notion of 'realism' is an interesting one."  The ending of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is one into which the reader superimposes their own mind's creation.

The end purpose of this is to facilitate dialogue.  Hamid believes that dialogue is essential to understanding "the other" in the worldwide "war on terror."  The fact that the structure of the novel is told through a narrative and an expanded dialogue between both the American and Changez is one way in which Hamid emphasizes the need for dialogue.  Hamid's ending is ambiguous so that we, as the reader, can engage in a dialogue about our own preconceptions and the reality that "our minds create."  This becomes of essential importance to Hamid and is a reason why the ending is structured in the way it is.

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