Let me start by asking you all some questions, who are you, what is your purpose, what do you aspire to be? Now I’m sure some of you have your whole future seemingly planed out but, for the large majority of us we’re still unsure. In psychology, the concept of identity is described as “the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person or group”. The 2011 Novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, takes this concept on identity and explores it through the actions of the main protagonist Changez. In his second novel, Mohsin Hamid, a distinguished Pakistani author, admired for his thought-provoking, often political and profoundly intricate novels, conjures a layered account of love and loss, ambition and nostalgia, that sets his Pakistani protagonist’s romantic and professional quests in the US alongside the purposes of two allied nations who function at times almost as enemies. The novel portrays Changez’ dilemmas as well as challenges which threaten his personal identity in a foreign culture that he is compelled to conform and adapt to. The novel brings to light the theme that Changez’ foreign identity is at risk due to cultural conflicts that result in the transformation of his identity and ethnicity for the gain of America’s hegemony. Changez’ journey of identity can be broken down into three different phases, Phase 1: Establishing of an American persona, Phase 2 :the transition (the active search and test of his identity) and Phase 3: The rejection of American values and realignment with his home land. As a result, it is evident that Changez’ relationship with America most certainly influences and transforms his personal identity. Today, I will explore how and to what extent Changez’ relationship with America influences his everchanging personal identity in the events before, during and after 9/11.
Changez is the Pakistani protagonist of the novel. He was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and attended Princeton University after being the recipient of a scholarship. When we the readers are first introduced to Changez, we are lead to believe he is a rather naïve, innocent person, grateful for all the opportunities he was lucky enough to receive. This is apparent on the first two pages of the book where Changez states when talking to the unnamed American about his time at Princeton, “This is a dream come true. Princeton inspired in me the feeling that my life was a film in which I was the star and everything was possible.” Here we see Changez embracing the American lifestyle, he sees America as a land of opportunity where he has a chance to transform his life. This is even more apparent in Chapter 3 when Changez says, “In a subway car, my skin would typically fall in the middle of the colour spectrum. On street corners, tourists would ask me for directions…I was immediately a New Yorker. What? My voice is rising? You are right; I tend to become sentimental when I think of that city.” This suggests that Changez believed New York to be the place for him. In New York, he seemed to fit in with the Americans as he felt a sense of belonging and importance. Changez’ employment at Underwood Sampson also contributed to establishing his American persona.