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The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

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What are the differences between The Reluctant Fundamentalist novel and movie?

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The movie The Reluctant Fundamentalist is based on the novel by Mohsin Hamid, but it is really quite different in characterization and even in its plot. Let's take a look at some of the primary differences.

In the novel, the protagonist, Changez, narrates in the first person. This is not feasible in the movie, so we see Changez more from the outside instead of hearing his perspective directly. Changez is a more ambiguous character in the book than in the movie as well.

The movie also shows a different version of Changez's love interest, Erica. She is a visual artist instead of a novelist, and in the book, she has deep psychological issues that do not appear as strongly in the movie. The book suggests that she commits suicide, but in the movie, she and Changez merely split over an argument about a piece of art.

The movie adds a great deal of detail to the unnamed American we see in the novel. In the novel, Changez talks to the man in a cafe and explains his time in the U.S. In the movie, this American has a name and a back story all his own and plays a much greater role in the plot as a secret agent out to find a kidnapped professor.

Finally, the movie shows a great deal more violence and prejudice than is described in the novel. In the novel, for instance, we hear of Changez's difficulties after the September 11th attacks, but in the movie, these are dramatized much more vividly.

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How is the novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist different from the movie?

The principal difference between Mohsin Hamid's 2007 novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist and the 2012 film version directed by Mira Nair is the amount of detail and background given in the film that does not appear in the book. The American to whom Changez tells his story is a good example. In the book he is unnamed and his role in the frame narrative is not clear. In the film, he is given a name, Bobby Lincoln, as well as a backstory, a definite profession, and a larger role.

Erica's role is also altered in the film. In the book she disappears mysteriously and may have committed suicide. In the film, Changez feels betrayed that she has revealed details about their relationship in an art project, and breaks up with her.

Finally, the ending of the book is much more open-ended than that of the film. In the film, it is revealed that Changez was telling the truth, and Lincoln's suspicions were unfounded. In the book, the reader cannot be sure either of Lincoln's identity or the motives and future actions of Changez.

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