Mohsin Hamid set “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” in the aftermath of 9/11. The novel is about a Pakistani chasing the American dream living in the western world and a suspect of terrorism after the incident. A narration takes place on one long evening at Lahore Café where Changez talks with an unidentified businessperson he meets in old Ankali district of Lahore. Initially he suspects that the man is an intelligence agent. Changez even suspects that the person is armed and as their conversation proceeds, he explains why they were fated to meet. Changez is working for Underwood Samson after completing his studies at Princeton in a valuation company. His success in career seems so bright but it all changes after the 9/11 incident.
Chapter 4 Summary and Discussion
Chapter 4 illustrates that the common things that are normal on the surface might have serious issues underneath them. It starts with Changez asking the man about the scars on his forearm “I see that you have noticed the scar on my forearm, here, where the skin is both darker and smoother than that which surrounds it.” He makes the American nervous and uses words such as rope burn, mountain, training camp and rappelling when trying to create a picture of what the American thinks might have happened to him. He triggers his thinking by asking him a trick question if he wonders what could have made him engage in such activities. He goes ahead talking about where the injuries came from where he compares the situation of resource availability in America with the meager resources available in Pakistan.
With a lot of water in their dams, Americans do not have to worry about electricity availability, but in Pakistan, the absence of water in their dams makes them susceptible to electricity loses frequently (Hamid 47). He explains that he got the scars from wax burns when he was small but if such a scenario happened to an American child, it would be a court issue.
He gives an account of how he had to meet Erica’s parents and because of his lack of clothes; he was in a dilemma of choosing the right clothes. He wanted to look smart and casual, yet he could not find something accurate. However, he went very formal to his liking but took advantage of the code of etiquette. No one seemed to take notice of him except for a gay who seemed welcoming enough. He admits to been a fan of explicit porn movies as he accounts the familiarity of the women in seventy seventh street. Although he describes Erica’s family apartment as impressive, he admits the door attendant attendant is not as impressive. He suggests that the door attendant greeted him with a cold expression.
On entering the house, Erica welcomed him and led him to her bedroom. He describes her room and says it was bigger than her studio. The house gave him a nostalgic feeling making him miss been at home with his family. He says “I felt a peculiar feeling; I felt at home.” He explains that in the American context, a spacious bedroom is prestigious. Erica shows him the manuscript, which she finds hard to let go. Changez motivates her to hold on to it, where she admits that she had already held on to it for a long while even before they had gone to Greece. He also admits that he felt good at the way Erica was confiding in him. He even noticed that she was heartbroken at some point. However, he did not insist to know what had happened to her unless she felt obliged to tell him. He even noticed a drawing drawn by Chris that was hanging on the wall. She explains that Chris had been inspired by comic books and that the drawing was given to her by her mother. He accepts that the quality was there as it reminded him of painting in National college of Arts or Lahore Museum.
Erica took her to his parents who were in the roof terrace who were welcoming enough unlike the door attendant. The mother was even fun enough to tease him with the father offering him a wine. Her mother suggested that he was old enough to drink after the dad asked if would drink wine. However, he turned it down and accepted that he had never drunk in his life. He explained that many Pakistanis used to drink but because of consuming poor quality moonshine, some turned blind. He explains that the locals also drink much but the rules out the misconception only the westernized drink (Hamid 54).
He goes back to giving the account of the dinner. He comments that the dinner was incredible with many similarities with what the situation at Lahore, “A breeze was blowing then, again as it is now, and it carried a smell of flame-cooked meat not dissimilar to that coming to us from the many open-air restaurants in this market that are beginning their preparations for dinner.” He sees that Erica was happy and that her happiness was affecting him. At some point, he was offended when Erica’s father asked him about the situation at home where he politely replied it was quite good. However, he was not pleased with the fundamentalism issue that Americans held so closely. Although he was right in suggesting that the Pakistan government was a dictatorship with the elite raping the country’s resources, his tone was what disgusted him.
They both share a cab to a friend and he restricts himself from talking to a Punjabi taxi driver, which Erica finds remarkable. She also enquires on the incidence where the father provoked him about the situation at home and he becomes furious. She knows he is a terrible liar but not rude (Hamid 56). They went to a fashion gallery where he was able to meet Rachael’s friends whom he had not previously met. He just observed as she talked to her friend and remembered of the effect she had on the group during their trip to Greece. She showed public affection and when she kissed him when they were parting he felt the intimacy and hoped she had felt so too (Hamid 57).
Afterwards, they went on many dates but they were always with other people. Despite this, he felt that their relationship was deepening through the kisses he received. She kissed him deeply each time they were departing even to the point that he smelt her perfume. Afterwards, she invited him on a picnic date where they were alone. They were so intimate during that date and held the hand for long periods. He says, “I remember vividly the feeling of her skin, cool and smooth, on mine. We had never before remained in contact for such a prolonged period; the sensation that her body was so strong and yet belonged to someone so wounded lingered with me until long afterwards.” Like the lights scenario described earlier, the light went out and the American guy got all alarmed. Within no time, they come back and he ridicules him by offering him a carbonated drink saying that alcohol would not find its way into the country.
This chapter exhibits the aspects of fundamentalism by stating that fundamentalists are intolerant of those who have different opinions to them. Americanism is exhibited when the lights go out he gets alarmed.
Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. , 2008. Print.