In what way does the relationship between Erica and Changez symbolize the relationship between the United States and Pakistan?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way in which the relationship between Erica and Changez can symbolize the relationship between the United States and Pakistan can be in the spirit of decay that exists in both.  Once their relationship starts, Erica and Changez are in a state of decay.  There is little either can do to offset the inevitable decay that defines their relationship.  Neither one is capable of being what the other needs.  In many respects, this is representative of the relationship between America and Pakistan.  Prior to the events of September 11, America and Pakistan emerged as actors in a play, a relationship that lacked the basic core of sustainability.  After the events of September 11, this was enhanced as neither could provide what the other needed.  Pakistan, like Changez, was incapable of helping the wounded America/ Erica.  In this setting, both were immersed in a sense of decay as their relationship reached a particular end where both essentially abandoned one another.  

Another way in which Erica and Changez can symbolize the relationship between the United States and Pakistan would be in the lack of trust present.  Erica is never able to trust Changez enough to be the person she could embrace as a soul mate and Changez is incapable of placing his full trust in her so that he could escape his feelings of inferiority.  In much the same way, this lack of trust is evident in the relationship between Pakistan and America, as both are incapable of trusting the other.  In the lack of trust, another symbolic construction helps to enhance the connection between Erica and Changez and America and Pakistan.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It becomes clear that Erica is still in love with Chris, her boyfriend of some time who passed away from cancer before Erica ever met Changez. She is unable to make love with Changez because, it seems to him, her body rejects him, and so the next time they try, he tells her to imagine that he is Chris. She simply cannot move on from the past. Something similar happens to America after the events that took place on 9/11: America could not seem to grasp the changing nature of the world and continued to see itself as a superpower who could not and would never be injured or "brought to its knees" as Changez says. America wanted to continue to be the America of the past, before the tragedy took place, and so it went rampaging through the world, causing a ton of damage in an attempt to reclaim its former image and glory. Just as Erica is stuck and cannot seem to move on, cannot change with the times (as Jim tells Changez is so necessary to life), Changez is able to conceptualize the new state of the world and to accept its changes. Erica disappears, like the America that existed before 9/11, while Changez learns to appreciate the way Pakistan blends the old with the new to become something more vibrant and vital.