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The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Themes, Values and Ideas

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Christopher Troy

on 19 February 2014

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Transcript of The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Themes, Values and Ideas

The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Themes, Values and Ideas

Defined as: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers
Setting is important as it ties in with feelings of belonging and identity. In the novel, different places bring forth different aspects of Changez personality.
Defined as: strict maintenance of the doctrines of any religion, notably Islam, according to a strict, literal interpretation of scripture.
Defined as: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.
Erica wants to return to her time with Chris - living in the past and cannot feel much for the present.
Suggests she is not in touch with the 'real' world.'
Think about how Erica says that Changez feels like home to er. She maybe means the past - because he acts in a sort of old-fashioned way. Polite, respectful of elders etc.
Through Erica, nostalgia is shown as a kind of sickness of something unhealthy.
Erica cannot be in the real world. She ends up in an institution and eventually iy appears she has taken her own life.
Erica's nostalgia is like America's.
After 9/11, there were American flags everywhere, words such as 'duty' and 'honor' were used a lot.
Changez feels nostalgia for what Pakistan used to be.
Valpairaso also looks back to a wonderful past.
A strong sense of patriotism.
Rise in nationalistic and militaristic concerns.
Changez wants to return home to a place that fits his own values.
He no longer feels that he fits in in America. Doesn't feel that New York is as multi-cultural as it was.
In the novel, nostalgia is presented as something that is not really healthy - that it causes people to feel stuck in the past and they are not open to change.
Changez plays the role of host to the American and talks of being a guest in America.
The US plays 'host' to millions of immigrants - think about times when he feels like he doesn't belong - that he is only guest. Sometimes an unwelcome guest after 9/11.
In Lahore, the American is much more of a stranger - the food is unusual for him, he cannot understand the language.
In Ch12, Changez dreams of bringing Erica to Pakistan and imagines her learning the ways of his country.
He imagines that she would be happy to learn his culture.
Hospitality, in the novel, has a lot to do with feelings of power and lack of power. It also has a lot to do with feelings of belonging.
This is shown on page 195-196 where Changez fantasises about living with Erica in Pakistan.
He uses phrases such as 'we would have gone out for an inexpensive but delicious dinner in the open air, bathed by the moonlight beside the Royal Mosque.'
Changez deliberately makes the American feel like an outsider.
In may ways Changez feels like an outsider when with Americans, even when he is on holiday in Greece. He behaves differently to the other Americans, such as Chuck and Mike.
"Loyal" defined as: giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.
This involves being respectful and showing a sense of duty to people and values.
Changez's sense of belonging changes throughout the novel.
He feels loyal to Underwood Samson at first but you can see when he no longer cares.
Tension happens in the novel when there is conflict between his different loyalties - America, Erica, Pakistan, Underwood Samson, Jim
This makes Changez question which sense of duty really matters to him; which is the most important.
After 9/11 Changez becomes aware that he is questioning his own loyalties.
This can be seen in his growing lack of interest of concern for his work.
He meets Juan-Bautista in Chile who explains about the janissaries, p. 172
The janissaries had' fought to erase their own civilisations.' p. 172
His attraction for America is the same as his attraction for Erica.
It is about his own desire, not about any political reasons.
He desires what America can offer him - money, comfortability etc.
He desires Erica because he is strongly attracted to her.
When desire decreases he feels a sense of liberation, p. 179.
He feels guilty when he is not in Pakistan a time of political unrest and problems.
When he returns, eh feels a desire to serve his family and nation through education and political activism.
"America had to be stopped in the interest... of the rest of humanity," p. 190.
This quote shows how he feels that America is selfish and doesn't really care about the interests of the rest of the world.
Loyalty is also connected to the idea of a sense of belonging and identity.
Old Anarkali & Lahore
Can be understood to represent traditional forms of economic exchange, culture and a rich history.
New York
Described in the text as cosmopolitan, multi-cultural and different to the rest of America
The Americans Changez travel with seem to lack respect for the Greeks, and have a sense of cultural superiority.
The Philippines
Initially Changez identifies with working class Filippinos even though he is enjoying the luxuries of a wealthy traveler.
He feels guilt because of this.

Changez witnesses the collapse of the World Trade Center whilst in Manilla.
Valparaiso reminds Changez of Lahore. The culture and history reminds him of what he values and sees as important.
Like Lahore, it seems faded, compared to its former glory.
The rich cultural history is comparable to Lahore.
Princeton - New Jersey
Although only described through recollections, Princeton plays a key role in Changez's experience of the US.
Examples from the text:
p.2 Old Anarkali 'named... after a courtesan immured for loving a prince.'
Examples from the text:
p. 3 Describes as consisting of 'Gothic buildings-younger...than many of the mosques of [Lahore], but made... to look older.'

p. 3 'Princeton inspired... the feeling that [Changez's] life was a film in which [he] was the star and everything was possible.'
p. 36 Old Anarkali is the 'congested, maze-like, heart of [the] city.'
p. 36 Lahore is described as 'democratically urban.'
Examples from the text:
pp. 36-37 New York is compared with the older parts of Lahore, where the 'man on four wheels is forced to dismount.'
Descriptions given are of a cosmopolitan and extremely diverse city where anyone could feel at home.
Examples from the text:
p. 26 The Island of Rhodes is described as a 'fortified' city that was 'protected by ancient castles', which 'guarded against the Turks, much like the army and navy and air force of modern Greece.'
On p. 23, Greece is used to demonstrate the sense of entitlement held by American travelers. Changez describe the Americans' 'self-righteousness in dealing with those whom they had paid for service,' exemplifying this in the phrase '"but you told us," they would say to the Greek twice their age, before insisting things be done their way.'
Greece is used to demonstrate the way that the Americans '[conducted] themselves in the world as though they were its ruling class,' p. 24.
Examples from the text:
On p. 73 Manila is described as having 'its slums', which one saw 'on the drive from the airport: vast districts of men in dirty white undershirts lounging idly in front of auto-repair shops--like a poorer version of the 1950s America.
This is immediately contrasted with 'Manila's glittering skyline and walled enclaves for the ultra-rich.'
On p. 74, Changez describes his difficulty in accepting that Manila was wealthier than Lahore, which catalysed a change in his behaviour, wherein he 'attempted to act and speak... more like an American', due to the way that
'The Filipinos [they] worked with seemed to look up to [Changez's] American colleagues.'
Examples from the text:
p. 163 Valparaiso is described as 'powerfully atmospheric'. having 'a sense of melanchoy' throughout its boulevardes and hillsides.
Changez researches its history, discovering that 'it had been in decline for over a century.'
It had once been 'a great port fought over by rival because of its status as the last stop for vessels making their way from the Pacific to the Atlantic', however 'it had been bypassed and rendered peripheral by the Panama Canal.'
Valparaiso reminds Changez of Lahore, and he described both with the phrase 'the ruins proclaim the building was beautiful.'
p. 112 - 'Focus on the Fundamentals', refers to Underwood Samson's main principle; being driven by financial detail and wanting to make money.
Fundamentalism is understood today as sticking to a basic set of principles and often showing no tolerance for other views.
It is usually associated with religion - in TRF it refers more to economic and cultural aspects of society.
With hardly any mention of religion, the novel seems to suggest that the US is guilty of economic and political fundamentalism.
This economic fundamentalism is represented through Underwood Samson and its narrow-minded focus on financial gain.
Could interpret the novel as a criticism of free-market capitalism in the US, which exploits the world for financial gain.
Underwood Samson is a valuation company, whose job is to determine how much money a company is worth.
This raises questions around who decides what is of value.
As such, the reader realises that values can be culturally specific.

It is suggested that Underwood Samson and therefore America only see things in terms of their monetary value.

You might call Jim and Underwood Samson 'financial fundamentalist.'
Changez implies that the US is guilty of political fundamentalism.
There is military language use in the novel such as 'dressed in battle fatigues' (p. 43), 'the officer class of global business' (p. 74), 'the officers of the empire' (p. 173).

Changez criticises American military presence in other countries but is also critical of the fact that they are apparently friends of Pakistan, but nothing when India is threatening, suggesting that America is only interested when they have something to lose of gain.
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