The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid
Start Free Trial

Within The Reluctant Fundamentalist, how does Mohsin Hamid present us with a world forever changed as a result of terrorism?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mohsin Hamid uses the character of Changez to focus the theme of permanent alteration. Although Changez knew that working in the United States would have an effect on his identity, he could not have anticipates the deep transformations that he would undergo. Despite having no responsibility for the horrific acts...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Mohsin Hamid uses the character of Changez to focus the theme of permanent alteration. Although Changez knew that working in the United States would have an effect on his identity, he could not have anticipates the deep transformations that he would undergo. Despite having no responsibility for the horrific acts terror attacks on 9/11, he cannot escape the all-enveloping climate of suspicion of foreigners that resulted from it, not least of which was suspicion of Middle Eastern men and Muslims.

The calls for isolationism and protection in the United States automatically exclude him as people long to restore the illusion of security: a sense of the world before the attacks. An impenetrable wall seems to be erected overnight. After Changez leaves the United States, he becomes even more aware that attitudes toward certain people (especially young men who look like him) have changed in other countries as well. Trust seems like a luxury. While the world as a whole is a less secure place, his hopes for finding sanctuary are permanently dimmed.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think that the vision of the world shown in Hamid's work is one in which the fear of terrorism has altered diplomatic and personal relations.  It is terrorism that has become a reality infiltrating much in the world.  The nostalgia that Changez detests in America following the September 11 attacks is one that seeks to reclaim a time that no longer exists.  The security and confidence of the past is gone and in its place is a war where the enemy could be "anywhere."  This changes the world as it provides the basis for continual suspicion, high levels of alert, and vigilance that precludes any form of trust or real understanding.

The world that Hamid depicts is one of perpetual antagonism.  The ending of the novel is not one that openly embraces differences, but rather presents itself as one where there is mistrust in the world.  The American does not fully know Changez's intent.  Changez has judged the American in a manner that might not be fully accurate.  Even this misereading of people applies to the personal realm.  Erica cannot see Changez for what he is, but rather for what could be in the past.  Even Changez is willing to subjugate his own identity for Erica in sex, but realizes that a world in which continual mistrust of one's identity is not sustainable.  It is here in which the world that Hamid shows in the wake of September 11 is one where individuals cannot see one another for what they are, but rather for what they represent.  It is in this element where the world has changed.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team