The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Changez observes that the Stranger is hesitating to explain who he is, and comments that the Stranger is almost certainly not a tourist, but tells him that he need not reveal his identity if he doesn’t want to. The Stranger then seems to change the subject to the table next to theirs.
Changez acts so casually around the Stranger that he already seems to know who the Stranger is. It is unclear if the Stranger is genuinely reluctant to explain who he is, or if Changez is only imagining his reluctance. Similarly, it’s unclear if the Stranger changes the subject, or if Changez does.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez observes the strangeness of having a romantic meal while eating dead animals, and wonders if humans intuitively see a connection between love and death. He remembers being sixteen and driving to buy flowers for his grandmother’s death; the car broke down and he was forced to walk.
The link Changez draws between love and death foreshadows his relationship with Erica. His memories of walking to buy flowers reinforce the unreliability of technology in Pakistan.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
After 9/11, Changez notices a spike in American patriotism. Although in the past New York City had its own unique culture, now he experiences it as being replaced by a national American culture. The new patriotism, Changez feels at the time, has a threatening undertone, as if America is eager for revenge after 9/11.
New York’s renewed emphasis on American culture indicates Changez’s growing discomfort in the United States, since in the past he’d enjoyed New York’s unique culture. He also senses the danger of this patriotism, though he doesn’t yet feel that he is in danger personally.
Themes
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Changez meets Erica shortly after he returns from the Philippines. She seems older, he notes, but still beautiful. Erica tells him that she feels depressed, and can’t stop thinking about Chris. Her mother suggests that she and Changez go to the Hamptons, but Erica insists that she doesn’t want to be alone.
9/11 worsens Erica’s obsession with her past, and her loneliness. As a result, the connection Hamid draws between Erica and America becomes more explicit, as Changez describes the United States, too, as reacting to the 9/11 attaches by delving into its own idealized past and embracing its exceptionalism.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
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Changez tells Erica that his aunt went insane and never married again after her husband died, even though they only met a few times (it was an arranged marriage). Erica laughs and says that it’s good to have Changez back. She adds that she likes when Changez talks about his home.
Changez’s story appeals to Erica because it includes details, such as the arranged marriage, that Americans would find exotic. Erica feels close to Changez, but she also continues to view him as an exotic novelty.
Themes
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez is flattered that Erica tells him about Chris, but worried that she will never move past Chris. He neglects to tell Erica that his aunt was once beautiful and lively, but eventually became old and unstable, and fears that Erica will end up the same way. He notes that Erica seems anxious, since 9/11 has brought back old, painful memories, and wonders if the same is true of him.
Changez continues to put on an image of exoticism for Erica, hiding details of his story that wouldn’t charm her. Although he begins to realize how serious Erica’s depression is, he remains deeply attracted to her, even making an effort to compare himself to her by wondering if 9/11 has made him anxious, too.
Themes
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez takes Erica back to his apartment, which is far smaller than hers, and she falls asleep. He is tired, but finds it difficult to sleep. When he wakes up, Erica is gone, having kissed him on the forehead before she left.
Despite Changez’s financial success at Underwood Sampson, his wealth is no match for Erica’s older money. Changez and Erica’s relationship continues to be caring, but chaste.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Erica continues to invite Changez to parties and fundraisers, where he feels that his poise, education, and employment at Underwood Samson impress others. Changez observes to the Stranger that he was entering the elite classes in New York at the same time that his family was leaving the elite in Pakistan.
Changez is growing more distant from his family and his Pakistani roots. He feels that he “fits in” in New York high society, because of his education and employment, not his upbringing in Lahore.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez is attracted to Erica, but feels protective around her. He notices that she seems lonely and introverted in public, and feels a desire to make her feel comfortable. It may have been his protectiveness or his awe at her beauty that stopped him from kissing her, he tells the Stranger.
Changez notices Erica’s melancholy, and wants to help her. His explanations for not kissing her may be sincere, or they may be attempts to mask his homosexuality to the Stranger, or even to himself.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Erica has found an agent for her manuscript. The agent, who she obtained through a family friend. Despite the fact that the agent is reluctant to try to publish the manuscript because it’s short, Erica is delighted at this step in becoming a writer. To celebrate, Erica and Changez go to his flat. They both sense that their time at the flat will be important and exciting, and Changez is nervous.
Erica seems to have found her agent by making use of her family connections as much as her talent as a writer. She and Changez sense their attraction to each other, but Changez is more nervous than Erica, since he is inexperienced with women.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
At Changez’s apartment, Changez and Erica drink champagne, and Erica asks Changez if he wants to see a bruise she sustained while practicing tae kwon do. Changez is initially reluctant to see her remove her clothing, but he ultimately agrees. Erica removes her shirt, and Changez notes that she looks paler but also healthier than she did in Greece. He touches and kisses her body, while Erica does not respond in any way. They begin to have sex, but Erica seems uncomfortable, and so Changez stops.
Erica seems attracted to Changez, as evidenced by her willingness to remove her clothing in front of him. Yet at the same time she is afraid to pursue her attraction to him, since she is still in love with Chris. The discord between her feelings and her appearance has grown even greater, in part because 9/11 has made her remember the pain of Chris’s death.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Erica tells Changez that he is the only man she has been with other than Chris. Since Chris’s death, she finds it almost impossible to have sex. Changez, disappointed that Erica won’t reciprocate his feelings, but also flattered that she is so honest with him, asks Erica about her relationship with Chris, and she explains that she was so close to him that when he died she felt as if she had lost a part of herself. Erica seems to relax as she talks to Changez.
Changez begins to understand Erica’s feeling for Chris in more detail: Erica is so attached to Chris that she finds it difficult to have feelings for anyone else, even Changez. The fact that Erica begins to relax while she tells Changez about Chris suggests that connection and discussion are valuable ways to deal with grief.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Erica asks Changez about his experiences with women, and he admits that he never had sex before coming to the United States. He says that he has enjoyed relationships with women, but that they are insignificant compared to Erica’s relationship with Chris. Erica and Changez talk until it is morning, and Erica tells Changez that he is good at calming her. They fall asleep, but with only their backs touching.
Changez admits to never having sex before coming to America; strangely, he doesn’t reveal if he’s had sex since coming to America — in this way, his sexuality becomes more of a mystery. The closer Changez gets to Erica, the further apart he feels: they sleep together yet apart, symbolizing this paradox.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez observes that the Stranger is looking at him oddly. He asks if the Stranger finds his story too intimate or explicit to share with others, but notes that the Stranger seems to shake his head in response. Changez insists that the night is an important one, and that he isn’t usually this open.
The Stranger may indeed be looking at Changez oddly, or Changez may be conscious of his story’s oddness and imagining the Stranger’s reaction. His insistence that tonight is important is enigmatic, but his candor with the Stranger suggests that he feels a strong need to share information now, possibly because he’ll be unable to do so in the future. At the same time, the importance of this night echoes the sense that Erica and Change had that the night at his apartment after she secured an agent would be important, and thus it may be that the connection with the Stranger that Changez seeks—whatever it is—is similarly tenuous.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon