Critical Review on “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”

Published: 2021/11/08
Number of words: 1621

Executive summary

The study is a critical review of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a novel written by Mohsin Hamid. It discusses how the narrator’s point of view shapes or limits one’s understanding of the events that unfold in the story. Based on the narrator’s point of view, one can develop a deeper understanding of the issues discussed or, on the contrary, a limitation. It considers the perspectives available or unavailable in the novel, the reliability of the narrator whether the narrator can be relied upon or not, and examines if the use of perception complicates or reinforces the national or the ethical stereotype. Finally, a conclusion is made regarding the novel and whether there is convincing evidence to support the narrator’s point of view or provides room for the reader to develop thereon the end of understanding of the issue discussed.

1.0 Introduction

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, written by Mohsin Hamid, is a metafictional novel that displays Changez’s view towards American society in general. The story was published in the year 2007. Hamid is a Pakistan writer who has written four novels, namely Exit West, Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. A fundamentalist is a person who is very radical of their belief towards a particular issue. The narrative perspective refers to how the story is presented from the narrator’s position based on his or her character and personality. Ethical stereotype refers to a belief based on characteristics of persons that belong to a particular ethnic group. The novel depicts Changez as a reluctant to fundamentalist in his opinions towards America and the character of its citizens.“You should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins.” (Hamid). This statement states is brought about by how the Pakistanis are treated in America, whereby they may be seen as potential terrorists. In contrast, the Americans in Pakistan may be seen as undercover assassins. Both parties are called upon to treat each other well.

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2.0 How the use of point of view shapes or limits our understanding of events from the novel

The novel is a monologue between Changez and a foreigner who is an American. Using the narrator’s point of view from the given story, we are in a better position to understand the events that unfold. The narration is quite convincing regarding the problems encountered by Changez in America up to a point where he decides to go back home by giving a clear and persuasive picture. The narrator and Changez come from Pakistan, went to Princeton University, and experienced American culture. The narrator points out challenges faced by Changez in the foreign country which open our mind about the American culture and help us develop a particular opinion on the subject matter based on various aspects.

From the narrator’s point of view, we can understand that Changez’s dislike of the American culture is not based on his Islamic religion but the bad experiences in America. His first encounter comes from the fact that he is of a different skin color, which would make him stand out among the Americans. Things fall out of hand because he falls a victim of racial discrimination, and this creates the drive for the anti-American move, yet he was very excited leaving his country to come to America for purposes of education and his profession. This point of view of the narrator shapes our understanding of racial discrimination faced by Changez.

Changez falls in love with Erica, an American, which makes him warm up a little bit because he has felt something beautiful in America. His interaction with Erica’s father is not a pleasant one. He is angered by the attitude her father has towards the Pakistanis, especially on a political basis, and creates the possibility of interracial relationships that may not always work of the experience Changez faced. However, things changed after the relationship with Erica didn’t work out as she was mourning the death of her ex-boyfriend who succumbed to cancer, which greatly affected her. Her ex-boyfriend’s loss made her drift away from Changez and propelled his anti-American move as he is very bitter as things didn’t turn out well.

3.0 The perspectives we do and do not have in the novel

The novel creates a negative view of American culture based on the experiences of Changez. An attack on America, which occurs while Changez is in Chile, carried out on September 11th, makes him face discrimination from the public based on his appearance that is his skin color, which would make him a suspect. He, however, gets lucky because of his high position in society. He receives a different treatment form the Americans and would be a potential terrorist. There is no positive attitude created towards the Americans. Changez is perceived to be a fundamentalist (Perner).

The perception of America is left out in the story as the story is only one-sided. It should have been included for a better understanding of the novel and avoid biasness on one side of the story without considering the other aspect. The perception of how the book unfolds is entirely based on what assumptions one makes of the two countries that are Pakistan and America (Bellot).

4.0 Reliability of narrator

The narrator is reliable and has provided adequate information that supports Changez’s anti-American move. One can rely on his word on how events unfolded in the novel as enough evidence is provided, which one would still make one judgment based on. The narrator has provided a detailed flow of events, which causes it to be unquestionable for reliability purposes.

The narrator, however, leaves one in a dilemma as the story comes to an end. Changez talks with the American about his experience in the United States and the American having very little to say about the entire situation. The American suspects that Changez would harm him in conjunction with the waiter at the café, and he is quite restless. On the other hand, Changez finds it quite peculiar that the American is on phone messaging and suspects him to be an undercover assassin who came to trace him. The suspense makes it quite unclear about the events that unfolded next, making it quite perplexing in determining the intentions of both Changez and the American. He might have been given orders to track Changez down as the circumstances that made him flee from America were not pleasant, and people feared that something would happen to him because of his firm belief in the American culture. He was able to get a strong following from his students who supported his anti-American view, and they would demonstrate in that regard.

The narrator is loud and clear on what side of the story he is inclined too, and this would offer one the ability to decide what part of the story to follow.

5.0 Use of perspective complicates or reinforces national or ethnic stereotypes

The use of a narrative perspective reinforces the national or ethical stereotype because the perspective portrays a negative view of American Culture. Changez comes up with an anti-American move, which he faces excellent support from his students, which could spark more violence. Nevertheless, while Changez is conversing with the American, things seem quite uneasy between them. Each member feels threatened by the other and would propel more national or ethical stereotypes that need to be removed. Each person may view the other as a threat, which would lead to the Americans viewing the Pakistanis as potential terrorists. In contrast, the Pakistanis may see the Americans as undercover assassins.

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The perception that the reason why Changez was anti-America was based on the Islamic religion is entirely wrong because he was from Pakistan. The poor treatment propelled his hatred for the American culture that he encountered and not due to his religion. Also, just because Changez chose to be in solidarity with those arrested as suspects over the September 11th attack even though he was on a trip during the time of the attack, made people start treating him differently as compared to before when things were okay. Therefore, Changez faced a lot of criticism from the Americans due to his appearance and what he advocated for.

6.0 Conclusion

Based on the above discussion, the treatment of Changez in America left a bitter mark in his life and only strengthened his anti-American culture and would be detrimental to the Pakistanis and the Americans as would only propel the hatred. Their perception of each other should change and not see each other as terrorists or undercover agents. The novel ends in a dilemma as the events unfolded after that are challenging to depict because the American felt that life was threatened by assuming that Changez planned with the waiter to kill him, and he was a bit worried. At the same time, Changez suspects the American to be an undercover agent as he was all over his phone. The ending of the novel would have been better if one was not left in a dilemma trying to imagine what transpired next, although all this will depend on the assumptions that one made from the start regarding the two countries at hand.

7.0 Works cited

Bellot,Gabrielle.Why Every American Should Read The Reluctant Fundamentalist.Literary Hub, October 5th .2016, 13 Jul.2020

Hamid, Mohsin.The Reluctant Fundamentalist. London: Penguin, 2007. Print

Perner, Claudia. Tracing the Fundamentalist in Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. A Review of International English Literature Vol. 41 No. 3-4 2011, pp 23–31.

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