Power in the Reluctant Fundamentalist

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In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsen Hamid explores the importance of power in his protagonist, Changez’s personal life, as well as the political engagement between the nations. Like the other characters, Changez in particular is continuously searching for power and tries not to resist change throughout the novel as he concedes that “power comes from becoming change”. However, his interpretation of power at the end is considerably different from it at the beginning of the text or perhaps his strategy changes to achieve the power. His education, experiences and his growth in different landscapes and in America in particular is the main reason behind this shift in perspective. To obtain his initial power he travels to America as a “lover of America” and “focus[es] on the fundamentals” whereas, finally he refuses to be a “modern-day janissary, a servant of American empire” and as anti-American in Pakistan “[his] days of focusing on fundamentals [is] done”. In Pakistan, Changez is trying to make his “concerns about money and status things of distant past” and he looks at dignity and position as power in his personal life, as he believes that status in any traditional, class-conscious society “declines more slowly than wealth”. Therefore, obtaining a scholarship for Princeton, he travels to America and involves himself in Underwood Samson as a financial fundamentalist, valuing cultural elements. Changez being well-paid and gaining Princeton’s prestige, he achieves this initial goal, yet his experiences and his political maturity causes him to feel “powerless” and even “angry at [his] weakness” when he visits his family in Lahore. In America, Changez falls in love with Erica and is enjoying his powerful life as “immediately a New Yorker” for four and a half years. When he is in Manila, for the first time he encounters hostility from a non-American’s expression.

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