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The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

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Discussion Topic

Analyzing Changez's reliability and strength of character in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Summary:

Changez's reliability and strength of character in The Reluctant Fundamentalist can be seen as complex and multifaceted. His narrative might be biased, as it is a personal recounting of events, which calls his reliability into question. However, his introspection and willingness to confront his own identity and beliefs showcase a strong character grappling with significant personal and political issues.

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Is Changez a reliable or unreliable character in The Reluctant Fundamentalist?

Changez strikes me as a fairly reliable narrator. The reason for this is that he is quite willing to say a number of things that would (and do) absolutely anger the American man he is speaking to. For example, he admits that when the attacks on September 11, 2001 took place, there was a part of him that was glad, not because thousands of innocent people died, but because America—full of people who previously thought of their country as invulnerable—learned that it, too, can be struck down or brought low. He knows that such a confession will not make him sympathetic to his audience, and he is willing to make it regardless.

He is also quite open about his relationship with Erica, including the sexual component of their relationship, and it also—at times—makes him look bad. When Changez describes how he encouraged Erica to pretend that he was her dead boyfriend, Chris, in order to sleep with her, it certainly seems as though he took advantage of her vulnerability, and the fact that he continued to try to pursue her even after she made it clear that their relationship was over also does not reflect well on him. In short, Changez is willing to share even the circumstances of his life that make him look bad, and this makes it seem as though he is quite honest and reliable.

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In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is Changez a weak or strong character?

I would argue that Changez is a strong character. He leaves his home to travel halfway around the world, alone and as a fairly young man. He gets into an ivy league school and earns top marks throughout his education, despite having to hold down jobs in order to earn money while he studies. After Changez is hired by the Underwood Samson firm, he learns quickly and begins to excel in his field.

However, as he begins to realize that he has some serious ethical qualms regarding America and American values—specifically regarding the country's interference with other countries abroad and its economic policies—he is not afraid to reevaluate his decisions. Further, he does not cower when he is faced with prejudice and racism but, instead, is prepared to defend himself and fight back. He returns to his own Pakistani identity to find himself and his priorities again, and he goes back to his home in order to lend his expertise and knowledge to his countrymen and women there. Even as he narrates his story, he is calm, despite the fact that his auditor—the American—is likely there to assassinate him (which we only realize as we put the clues together throughout the text). Changez is flawed and, at times, unlikable, but he is very strong.

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