The Reluctant Fundamentalist
How does Hamid employ symbolism throughout the novel? Is his use of symbolism effective? What is lost and gained through the use of symbolism? The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a novel in which an American immigrant Changez is living a dream with a great job, money, and the “regal” Erica by his side. However after the 9/11 attacks Changez’s perception on America shifted, he was forced to question where his allegence lies and this developed into contempt for America.
If you read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, and fail to dig below to the surface of the text then the novel will hold an entirely different meaning to you.
Hamid used heavy sybolism to convey meanings and themes that are better not said outright, and overall altered the impression the novel leaft. While reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist it became apperant that Changez’s love interest Erica symbolized America. Besides the obvious that Erica is the last five letters of America, there were multiple parallels in the story Hamid built for Erica and the way he portrayed America.
When Changez first met Erica he says, “She had a presence …a naturalist would likely have compared her to a lioness: strong, sleek, and invariably surrounded by her pride”(22). Changez also comments of the pride America shows with, “stickers of flags adorned windshields and windows; large flags fluttered from buildings. They all seemed to proclaim: We are America…the mightiest civilization the world has ever known. ”(79). Akin to America after 9/11, Erica seemed to be, “utterly detached, lost in a world of her own… she was struggling against a current that pulled her within herself”(86).
Similarly after 9/11 Changez felt that America, “retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority”(168). The grief that Erica felt over the loss of Chris was representative of the grief America felt after 9/11 and how that prevented both Erica and America from moving on and accepting Changez. When Changez goes to see Erica at her clinic he is told by a nurse that, “It did not matter that the person Erica was in love with was deceased; for Erica he was alive enough, and that was the problem. ”(133) America, too, was increasingly giving itself over to a dangerous nostalgia,” he claimed that he, “had always thought of America as a nation that looked forward; for the first time I was stuck by its determination to look back. ”(115) The grief that Erica felt over the loss of Chris was representative of the grief America felt after 9/11 and how that prevented both Erica and America from moving on and accepting Changez. When Changez goes to see Erica at her clinic he is told by a nurse that, “It did not matter that the person Erica was in love with was deceased; for Erica he was alive enough, and that was the problem. (133) If Erica represents America and their inability to move on from their grief, then Chris is a symbol for 9/11. When Changez goes to visit Erica in the clinic,the nurse he meets when he first enters tells him that, “It did not matter that the person Erica was in love with was This was included to show Cahngez’s changing relationship with America and an alternative way to show how America is broken and how because of America’s tendency to look back, and hold on to the past prevented America fro building relationships with outher countries
If you did not connect that Erica was America you might hink that this was about a Pakistany that came to American and wound up hating and criticisming it until he left. In reality it was about a man, or boy rather, that had big dreams of his life in America, ones that seemed to be coming true. But just as Erica could not let go of the past, America couldn’t let go of the hatred and fear they held for those who seemed un-American.