What would you consider the thesis of The Reluctant Fundamentalist?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the central premises of Hamid's work is how perception shapes reality.

Hamid displays his thesis in a variety of contexts.  One is evident in social- political understanding.  This is addressed in whether Changez is a terrorist. Changez's actions can be seen in both frames of reference.  For example, when he reaches for something shiny in his pocket, is he reaching for a gun or for something else?  We can ask the same questions regarding the American. Is he an agent for a government organization sent to eliminate Changez or is he simply an American who wants to know more about Changez's story? Perception impacts the reality in how Changez and the American are viewed.  

Another instance of how perception shapes reality is seen in the actions of September 11.  For many in America, the September 11 attacks revealed an awareness that America has enemies who wish to harm it.  However, the novel shows that in others parts of the world, the September 11 attacks were not seen as unfair targeting.  Rather, they saw it as a case of retribution, or even, justice.  

This underscores the perception of America, itself.  To those who live in America, it represents unparalleled opportunity.  "The American Dream" embodies how someone from a place like India can come to America and make something of themselves.  However, to others, it represents exclusion, where judgments are made upon how an individual looks or from what culture they hail.  Changez shows how both perceptions impact his reality, an idea operating as the novel's thesis.

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