Of the various books we have read this semester in Multicultural Literature, with our focus on migration and hybridity, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist has made the deepest impression on me. The novel is a unique story told from the “other side” of an American tragedy, the events of September 11, 2001, when the entire country was brought to its knees. In our immediate panic and anger, citizens of the United States often failed to see how our actions impacted other people. Getting a glimpse into an alternate view of these profound events opened my eyes and I knew right away that this was the book I wanted to focus on for my paper. I plan to complete a traditional paper over The Reluctant Fundamentalist and various topics about it, including Hamid and his ideas about social issues, the novel’s protagonist Changez, comparisons between the film adaptation of the book, and the ideas that Hamid has presented in a follow up novel, Exit West. The several sources about my topic I’ve already read have just deepened my interest in Hamid and his subjects.
One of the most significant ideas in the novel were the post-9/11 reactions of Americans towards Changez. Entire attitudes towards immigrants in the US have changed since the events of 9/11, and Hamid has suggested in interviews that we are going backwards in our approach to our borders instead of moving forward, having decided to vastly protect our borders despite the fact that the entire country was founded and populated by immigrants. Migration has been a common theme throughout the US history and it seems that in recent years we are much more suspect of those migrating from other places.
The reason I want to include Exit West into my paper is that it proposes a future where borders and boundaries are no longer a deterrent for migration. Hamid believes that in the future we will be able to live where ever we want and natural borders won’t stop people from migrating to other parts of the world. The novel is a love story that transcends natural borders and expresses Hamid’s future beliefs for our world.
Changez represents a character that was pursuing the modern day American Dream when his whole world got turned on its head. He experienced discrimination after 9/11 and he suffered knowing that his family and native country were at risk. He realizes within the novel that he has changed into a person he no longer knows and understands. The monologue style of his narrative is unique and it allows us to hear his story without commentary from the unnamed American. We don’t know about his reactions to our main character, but we are able to infer what they might be. This book is written from the perspective of someone from the East who has resided in the West, so he already has intimate knowledge of what the U.S. stands for. He is also able to show us where we are lacking in compassion towards the rest of the world. I agree with the articles that I have read that say that The Reluctant Fundamentalist was written for people of the West because it speaks to them in a way that only someone with intimate knowledge of the country, yet is inherently an outsider, could speak to them.
Another focus of the paper will be the comparisons between the cinematic and text versions of the story. Director Mira Nair made several considerable changes when she created the film version of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Many critics feel that she changed the social implications from the original story, as well as altering the main focus of the novel. It is interesting to see how the changes in focus could potentially change the overall meaning and message that Hamid was trying to portray in the novel. The critics aren’t sure about how to feel about the changes in the film because Hamid himself assisted in the screenplay for the movie.
Mohsin Hamid presents a lens through which to view American society in way that is discordant with our comforts and cultural norms. Whether it is through his protagonist, others’ views of the novel, a film adaptation, or his later works, Hamid’s take on migration and subsequent integration into American life present interesting ideas for further research and study.
Balfour, Lindsay Anne. “Risky Cosmopolitanism: Intimacy and Autoimmunity in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, vol. 58, no. 3, 2017, pp. 214–225. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2017382186&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Braz, Albert. Lovers of America (the U.S.A.): Mira Nair, The Reluctant Fundamentalist , and the Politics of Adaptation. no. 2, 2018, p. 157. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.shsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edspmu&AN=edspmu.S1925568318200106&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Koppisch, Michael S. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist : Mimetic Desire in a Geopolitical Context. no. 1, 2018, p. 119. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edspmu&AN=edspmu.S1930120018000074&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Lau, Lisa, and Ana Cristina Mendes. “Post-9/11 Re-Orientalism: Confrontation and Conciliation in Mohsin Hamid’s and Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol. 53, no. 1, 2018, pp. 78–91. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.shsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2018395207&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Morgan-Bentley, Robin. “Mohsin Hamid Audible Sessions.” Audible, 9 Feb. 2018.