Mohsin Haimid’s novel, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, is a fascinating tale of betrayal and uncertain identities. Changez, the protagonist, finds himself at a teahouse, Lahore, Pakistan. There, he shares his life story with an American stranger. The story of Changez is a fascinating, often humorous, account of the life of a young Pakistaniman. Readers can also see how Erica influences Changez’s decisions and actions.
The story begins with Changez being portrayed as a successful individual. Changez graduated’summacum laude’ from Princeton University and is currently employed as an Analyst at Underwood Samson. Underwood Samson has one of New York’s top valuation firms. He also meets Erica, an attractively elegant girl from a wealthy family who seems to imbibe a certain’magnetism on Changez’ during his holiday in Greece. Hamid helps readers see Changez’s apparent achievement in the American Dream. The protagonist soon realizes that Erica’s charm and charisma are not enough to make him feel at ease. It is at this moment that readers begin to notice Changez becoming concerned about Erica. While his concerns have yet to impact his life negatively, Erica continues to be ‘lost and alone’. Their relationship is not affected by Changez feeling ashamed, nor does Erica feel that Chris must pretend to be him to please Erica. Both lovers are taken by surprise by 9/11’s unquantifiable horror. Erica and Changez find themselves in an unfamiliar environment and their relationship is thrown into turmoil. He is subject to racial discrimination at New York City’s airports. Hamid places Erica on the table for the readers to watch her mental breakdown. It seems that Erica is suffering from the New York theme death. Readers can clearly see that Erica is brittle and fragile, and her nostalgia seems to have overtaken her life. The protagonist begins to feel frustrated and depressed as her relationship with Changez slowly worsens. Hamid describes Erica’s condition in the clinic where she is near the edge of psychological collapse. As Erica feels lost, Changez’s broken relationship with Erica is evident to readers. These thoughts lead him to travel to Valparaiso in search of work. But when he returns, Underwood Samson informs him that Erica has ‘gone’. These three words are clearly a contributing factor to Changez’s internal suffering. Not only does he see his American Dream crumble, but he also loses the girl he loved. Even though Erica’s disappearance isn’t his main reason for leaving America, it could have had an impact on the protagonist’s decision. Some readers may think that Juan-Bautista’s account of the janissaries is the only reason Changez left America. However, some others might suggest that Erica’s collapse and the separation between the lovers are also important factors.
Readers are given the opportunity to see Changez become nostalgic and ‘detached” in the final section of Hamid’s novel. He thinks about Erica just as much as she did Chris. The novel gives the impression that Erica and Changez’s relationship has impacted and continues to affect the protagonist’s decisions and life. Changez admits that Erica is still emotionally involved with him and that at night he dreams of Erica spending the day with her. Hamid captures the melancholy in Changez’s world through Erica’s artificial relationship. Hamid allows readers to empathise. Erica appears to have many very dangerous emotional scars, and is appealing to them to be more like Erica. He seems to be unable to belong anymore because of their relationship. Hamid allows the reader to create their own endings, which leaves Hamid open to interpretation. Most would state that Changez is in very difficult circumstances, and could be made the victim of Erica’s ‘illnesses spirit’. This thought best illustrates Changez’s relationship and how it affects him. He also has to consider his choices after Erica disappears.
Changez’s emotional journey through America is influenced by Erica’s love and relationship. Erica’s detachment as well as her fragility pain are the protagonists. Erica’s influence also influences Changez’s decisions. Changez can also be affected by Erica’s influence when he comes back to Lahore. Changez seems to feel the same nostalgic state of mind as Erica and this can only have negative consequences for him.