"The Reluctant Fundamentalist"- Themes, Style, Structure and Context

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Ujwal Ganguly,

Q. How can a literary text’s style and structure reflect the context in which it was written?

My answer:

The protagonist of Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a deeply introspective character whose story is an emotional rollercoaster.   Hamid’s novel is the story of the rise and fall of Changez’s relationship with America.   The novel takes the form of a dramatic monologue, with Changez as the speaker addressing a mysterious American man. His story addresses his time in America from the beginning to the end. Hamid’s use allegory, along with the structure, setting and characters of the story help enhance the inner conflict that Changez goes through.

The first and perhaps the most striking stylistic feature of them all in this Novel is the author’s use of the dramatic monologue. A dramatic monologue is “a poetic form in which a single character, addressing a silent auditor at a critical moment, reveals himself or herself and the dramatic situation.”  Here, the single character addressing the reader is Changez and the silent auditor is the unnamed American. The use of this technique ensures that the story is hear through Changez’ and only Changez’ voice. The story is based around him and is about him. It is almost as if the story he tells is one that only he can take the American through and it done and narrated his way, through his experiences. Throughout his time in the US, Changez had had to constantly prove himself worthy to be deemed one of them. He had lived the beginning of an American dream, however, the tragedy of 9/11 changed his life as he knew it. He was subject to racism and marginalisation. And this constant growth of frustration and confusion within him about where he truly belonged led to him having an identity crisis. The use of the dramatic monologue shows that he has taken control now of his own identity as his dreams of being successful in the US and US failing him had led to him to search for it. Also the use of such a style of narration almost shows that he has found his lost identity and shows how he is the one in power. The situation is now under Changez’ control. Hamid’s decision to not give the American a voice enhances the fact that it is only Changez who is allowed to speak in the story. The reader sees everything through the eyes of the protagonist including the American himself – making the American a weaker person in the story. As towards the beginning of his life, Americans were the one’s with the power, the use of this monologue shows the current contrast of things.                                                                                                                                                                                Also, along with the iconic dramatic monologue, Hamid uses literary devices like allegory (or more simply, symbolism), to develop this story. The Reluctant Fundamentalist has two readings. The dominant one being the story on the surface and the alternative one is the inner conflict that intertwines both the aspect of culture and Changez’ search for identity. The two main allegories used are “Underwood Samson” and “Erica and Chris”. Underwood Samson is the premiere job that Changez gets after graduating Summa c,

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um Laude from Princeton University. Despite being one of the best new recruits and a favourite of his boss Jim, Changez still has to constantly prove himself at every point in his job. An example of this is when he was held back at the airport for questioning and his cooleagues did not wait. He may have been one of them on the face of it, but deep down he knew, that he was not truly one of them. There was no lack of trial from Changez’ side but ‘US’ or Underwood Samson never truly accepted him for who he was ...

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