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Critical Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Social Change Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: May 22nd, 2019

The topic of social development and change has gained prominence during the past decade. Much has been written and said about the political, economic, cultural, psychological, and social factors of change. The modern study of social change marks a new stage in the development of social sciences. Here, fiction is believed to be an essential driver of new social identity.

Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is no exception: the book creates a unique picture of social development. In Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, social change comes through the terrorist acts of anarchic organizations, which cause a change in personal worldviews, self-understanding, and personal experiences, leading to a shift in power and the creation of a new civil mentality.

Social change is an ever-present phenomenon, whose mechanisms are poorly understood. Economic growth, changes in GDP, multiculturalism, personal experiences, and political moods create a picture of social complexity, which no science can reasonably explain.

This is probably why writers of fiction seek to re-consider the social reality in their own terms. More often than not, modern works of fiction shed light on the most controversial aspects of social change and facilitate the development and integration of social priorities with the realities of life.

In Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, terrorism and anarchic organizations cause a profound change in personal experiences, self-understanding, and worldviews, which become the main drivers of social change.

Hamid’s protagonist Changez passes a long way from a belief in the American sanctity, through a painful realisation of the country’s social and political vulnerability, to the roots of his cultural and social belonging. America attracts thousands of immigrants, who are proud and pleased at being part of the cosmopolitan society.

However, this picture of multiculturalism is merely a cover to the sense of nostalgia for something that will never happen again. In a vicious circle of events, torn between the University, scholarship, excellent grades, and obligation to work in the United States, Changez slowly realises the tragedy of American self-destruction.

American people, so devoid of refinement, position themselves as the world’s ruling class, with little to no respect to other nations (Hamid 21). It is during his journey to Greece that Changez’s personal experiences change his perceptions of the reality, in which he lives. This realisation of American superiority, arrogance, and cultural blindness gives an impetus for a profound shift in Changez’s cultural and political consciousness.

The tragic events of September, 2011 exemplify the turning point in the development of Changez’s worldviews. The latter eventually become the main driver of social change. Changez watches the news and, as the two WTC towers are crashing, he experiences a deep sense of pleasure: he smiles and experiences a deep sense of pleasure – the pleasure he cannot explain (Hamid 72).

Changez is no longer what he used to be just a day ago. The events of 9/11 push the young man beyond the boundaries of the American Dream: with his Middle Eastern appearance, he is turned into a social and cultural outlaw, an alien who is destined to spend the rest of his life in isolation and solitude.

Only active political and cultural opposition can give Changez another chance to win. From now on, Changez lives on thin ice. He makes bold political statements, which expose the tragedy of American arrogance.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, conflicts between East and West speed up a change, which is equally political and social. In Hamid’s book, social change pursues two different paths. Change is made social, when Changez learns about the events of 9/11 and decides to promote a new idea of social relations among people.

The events of 9/11 also cause another social change: the conflict between East and West that follows the terrorist act pushes Middle Easterners to the bottom of the social hierarchy, because they are associated with terrorism. Those with a Middle Eastern appearance lose everything – their reputation, cultural heritage, trust, and peace of mind.

These few hours when the two Trade Center towers are burning turn the lives of thousands into a nightmare. Nothing will be the same. From now on, the Middle East is the main source of various terrorist threats, and those of the Middle Eastern origin are potential terrorists – all of them!

This is how, hiding behind the veil of the self-preservation philosophy, America tries to submit the entire planet to the repercussions of its social and political tantrums (Hamid 168). At this point, Changez transforms into an advocate of the new ideology, which leaves no room for ominous hypocrisy but exposes the dangers of political egoism and self-centeredness.

Is Changez a fundamentalist? Hardly so; in the eyes of the American majority, the term “fundamentalism” is a good justification of its self-protection ideals. To a large extent, fundamentalism is non-existent; it is merely a product of American political inventors, who seek public approval for their acts against the humanity. However, nothing is eternal, and so is the U.S.’s political superiority.

Changes in worldviews, shifts in beliefs and thinking, and personal experiences provide a framework that organises, defines, and guides Changez’s actions. The balance of power shifts towards the new civil mentality, which no longer yields itself to the deceptive power of aggression.

The advantages and disadvantages of the social change caused by the terrorist acts are obvious. That Changez becomes an advocate of the new social mentality holds a promise to change the way American people perceive the reality. Unfortunately, it is not before thousands of people die in a huge terrorist act that changes in public mentality become possible.

Thousands of others are destined to suffer alienation and isolation because of their nationality, ethnic origin, and religion. Moreover, Changez alone cannot cause a global change in society and politics.

Most probably, he overestimates his capability to change the world. However, everything in Hamid’s book implies that such change is possible, away from violence and self-centeredness, toward multiculturalism and reciprocity in human relations with the world.

Conclusion

Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a unique but extremely interesting account of social development and change. In Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, social change comes through the terrorist acts of anarchic organizations, which cause a change in personal worldviews, self-understanding, and personal experiences, leading to a shift in power and the creation of a new civil mentality.

Hamid’s protagonist Changez passes a long way from a belief in American sanctity to the roots of his cultural belonging. Certainly, Changez alone cannot cause a global change in society. However, Hamid’s book implies that social change is possible, away from aggression and violence and toward reciprocity in human relations with the world.

Works Cited

Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. New York: Harvest Books, 2008. Print.

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