The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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Jim Character Analysis

Jim is an executive vice president at Underwood Samson, and Changez’s mentor for most of his time with the company. Because he worked his way up from an impoverished family, Jim identifies with Changez’s financial situation, and regularly communicates this to Changez. Like Erica, Jim’s feelings for Changez may be limited by his minimal understanding of Changez’s culture and personality. The novel also hints that Jim may be interested in Changez romantically, though Jim’s sexuality is never revealed.

Jim Quotes in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The The Reluctant Fundamentalist quotes below are all either spoken by Jim or refer to Jim. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harvest Books edition of The Reluctant Fundamentalist published in 2008.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“… I get where you’re coming from Changez. You’re hungry, and that’s a good thing in my book.”

Related Characters: Jim (speaker), Changez
Related Symbols: Underwood Samson
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Jim (the first in a long line of monosyllabically-named American characters) interviews Changez for a prestigious job at the consulting firm Underwood Samson. During the course of the interview, Jim comments on Changez's race and income level, and manipulates Changez into "snapping"—a response that Jim seems to find impressive. Jim insists that he and Changez are similar: because they come from working-class families, they're equally ambitious.

The quotation establishes an important idea: finding a "connection" with somebody isn't necessarily the same as sharing life experiences. Jim thinks he knows Changez well: he thinks that because Changez is less well-off than some of his peers, they're "kindred spirits." Jim seems unaware (and uninterested!) that Changez is actually from a relatively well-to-do family, with a huge amount of cultural capital. In short, Jim "sees himself" in Changez, stopping short of forging a real friendship with Changez.

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Chapter 3 Quotes

I was aware of an advantage conferred upon me by my foreignness, and I tried to utilize it as much as I could.

Related Characters: Changez (speaker), Jim
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

As a Pakistani, Changez has plenty of disadvantages working in America: people tend to hold him at arm's length, thinking of him as alien and unfamiliar—in short, it's hard for him to build close relationships with his peers. And yet Changez knows that his outsider status gives him some distinct advantages: as an "exotic" creature, he's automatically more visible and interesting to his peers, meaning that people remember him more distinctly, so it's easier for him to make a good impression.

The myth of the "exotic" foreigner, while it seems to endow foreigners with positive qualities, is itself a form of prejudice, however: the "exotic other" and the "dangerous Muslim" are just two sides of the same racist coin. So the fact that Changez knowingly allows Americans to treat him as exotic suggests that he is, on some level, okay with his peers judging and stereotyping him: he's participating in his own othering. This shouldn't suggest that Changez is somehow to blame for the racism he receives: rather, it suggests that Changez has become so used to doing what his American friends and supervisors tell him to do that he's begun thinking of himself as an "other."

Chapter 7 Quotes

“The economy’s an animal,” Jim continued. “It evolves. First it needed muscle. Now all the blood it could spare was rushing to its brain. That’s where I wanted to be. In finance. In the coordination business. And that’s where you are. You’re blood brought from some part of the body that the species doesn’t need anymore. The tailbone. Like me.”

Related Characters: Jim (speaker), Changez
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jim—Changez's self-appointed mentor and friend—tries to establish a firm relationship between himself and Changez. Jim uses an unusual analogy, painting a harsh, Darwinian portrait of the world's economy. As Jim sees it, he and Changez are crucial for America's continued success in the future, because they're different; their difference allows them to think creatively and cleverly, ensuring the success of their country's economy.

The way Jim treats Changez seems both condescending and ignorant, however. Jim knows next to nothing about Changez's family or heritage; he just assumes that he and Changez are "buddies" because they both come from somewhat uncommon backgrounds (Jim is from a working-class family; Changez is from Pakistan). Moreover, Jim seems to think of Changez as a mere "tool" in the economy; someone whose value lies in his difference itself, not in his personality or his character. In other words, Jim—no less than any of Changez's other American friends—judges Changez for his outsiderness (even if his judgements are all positive). Jim even suggests that Changez's culture is somehow obsolete or vestigial, in the same sense that the tailbone is a vestigial part of the human body: even if Changez himself is useful, his country and culture aren't.

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Jim Character Timeline in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The timeline below shows where the character Jim appears in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez is nervous for his job interview with Underwood Samson. His interviewer, Jim, is well-built – not unlike the Stranger, Changez notes – and, tells Changez to convince... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
When Changez, irritated by the personal questions, asks Jim what he’s getting at, Jim smiles and says that he, too, attended Princeton on scholarship... (full context)
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...world. Around his Princeton friends, Changez adopts an air of wealth and sophistication, but like Jim, he secretly works to support himself and his family, choosing places where his classmates are... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Changez resumes telling the Stranger about his job interview. Jim gives him a difficult problem to solve: he has to value a hypothetical company whose... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
In spite of his mistake, Changez succeeds in gaining a job offer from Jim, since his approach to solving the problem was correct, and Underwood Samson will be able... (full context)
Chapter 3
Human Connection Theme Icon
...time for the company’s yearly summer party, Changez and Wainwright ride in a limousine with Jim, who is hosting the party at his house in the Hamptons, while most of the... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Jim’s party is extremely luxurious. While Wainwright enjoys himself, Changez steps outside and watches the waves... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
While Changez is watching the waves, Jim approaches him, and recalls his first Underwood Samson party at the Hamptons. Jim tells Changez... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
When the analyst training program ends, Changez learns from Jim that he is ranked first in his class, and that his instructors admire his drive... (full context)
Chapter 5
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
At the end of Changez’s time in Manila, Jim flies in to evaluate his work. Jim tells Changez that his work is excellent, but... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez tries to connect with Jim’s sense of outsiderness. Though he didn’t grow up in poverty, he felt a longing for... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...feels guilty, and though he tries to act calm, he knows that he seems uncomfortable. Jim asks him many times if he’s all right. (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
At Underwood Samson, Jim, still very impressed with Changez, assigns him a new project at a cable company in... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Jim advises Changez not to be concerned. He remembers living through the 70s, when the economy... (full context)
Chapter 8
Human Connection Theme Icon
One evening, Jim suggests that Changez come to his apartment. Changez notices the large number of photographs of... (full context)
Chapter 9
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez becomes increasingly unpopular at work. Jim calls him into his office, and assures him that he doesn’t care about the beard,... (full context)
Chapter 10
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...a grandfather. Juan-Batista, who technically doesn’t own his publishing company and dislikes Underwood Samson, asks Jim and Changez what they know of books. Jim responds that he has valued media companies... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Jim returns to America, leaving Changez to work in Chile with another Underwood Samson vice president.... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...is fighting against his own country, Changez tells his supervisor that he refuses to work. Jim calls Changez, and offers him a break, as long as he finishes his work first.... (full context)
Chapter 11
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
...will support himself without a job or a work visa. He is nervous about facing Jim, and wonders about his self-imposed loyalty to Erica. When he goes to Underwood Samson for... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
...tense meeting with his supervisors, who explain that he is fired. Afterwards, he speaks with Jim, who looks tired. Jim explains that he feels no guilt about firing Changez, but that... (full context)