The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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Underwood Samson Symbol Analysis

Underwood Samson Symbol Icon
As its initials suggest, Underwood Samson, the valuation firm Changez works for, symbolizes the U.S. in all of its power, optimism, and under the surface racism. At first, Underwood Samson seems like a perfect meritocracy, feeding its employees a version of the American Dream: if they work hard, they'll be rewarded. Underwood Samson employees travel around the world, performing seemingly useful services for its clients. But as Changez grows critical of America's foreign policy, he begins to see the flaws in the "help" Underwood Samson provides for its clients — in order to restructure a company, it has to fire employees, some of whom will never hold a job again. Changez also realizes that Underwood Samson's meritocracy has limits; when he grows out his beard, he sees his colleagues’ formerly hidden racism very clearly. In the end, he feels the same way about America and Underwood Samson: they have good people, but their imperialism and secret prejudices do more harm than good.

Underwood Samson Quotes in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The The Reluctant Fundamentalist quotes below all refer to the symbol of Underwood Samson. 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 9 Quotes

I know only that I did not wish to blend in with the army of clean-shaven youngsters who were my coworkers, and that inside me, or multiple reasons, I was deeply angry.

Related Characters: Changez (speaker)
Related Symbols: Underwood Samson
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

When Changez returns to New York from his trip to Pakistan, he decides to grow out his beard—making it crystal-clear that he's a foreigner, not an American. Moreover, Changez has begun to feel a deep, inexpressible anger with America and his American friends.

Changez lists "multiple reasons" for his anger. To begin with, he's angry with American culture for seducing him. During his time in Pakistan, Changez has come to realize how entitled and arrogant he's become: America has shaped him into the very thing he hates. Furthermore, the atmosphere of the United States after 9/11 has convinced Changez that he's still an outsider in America. In spite of his first-class education and excellent job, Changez is still viewed as a dangerous Middle Easterner. Changez has done everything he can to fit in with Americans, and yet he's still being punished for the color of his skin. Furious, Changez decides that he doesn't want to fit in anymore. Instead of trying to hide his outsiderness, Changez decides to celebrate his Pakistani heritage, to flaunt it in the face of a racist nation—hence his beard.

Chapter 10 Quotes

I too had previously derived comfort from my firm’s exhortations to focus intensely on work, but now I saw that in this constant striving to realize a financial future, no thought was given to the critical personal and political issues that affect one’s emotional present. In other words, my blinders were coming off, and I was dazzled and rendered immobile by the sudden broadening of my arc of vision.

Related Characters: Changez (speaker)
Related Symbols: Underwood Samson
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

During his time working with Underwood Samson in South America, Changez comes to realize how "blind" he's been to the realities of his situation. Working for the firm, Changez is instructed to "focus on the fundamentals." As Changez has interpreted these words, he's supposed to focus on the dollars and cents of his assignments, rather than the human beings he's putting out of business in the process. In other words, "focus on the fundamentals" is a form of corporate propaganda, designed to repress employees' natural sympathy—which is, apparently, the enemy of good business. Furthermore, the emphasis on fundamentals parallels the way that Changez has tried to conceal his Pakistani heritage while in the United States. By concentrating on work and his career ambitions, Changez has hoped to move beyond his race and heritage and prove himself a "true American."

As Changez's blinders come off, he realizes how foolish and narrow-minded Underwood Samson—and the U.S.—can be. Instead of concealing his heritage and looking down on other people less fortunate than he, Changez decides to celebrate his Pakistani roots and express sympathy for the poor and suffering—in other words, he is reluctant to focus on the fundamentals (hence the title of the book). Changez's epiphany represents a key step in his coming of age: the moment when he stops obeying a master (Underwood Samson and U.S. culture) and begins to make his own choices.

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Underwood Samson Symbol Timeline in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The timeline below shows where the symbol Underwood Samson appears in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...and American companies. For Changez, who studies finance, the company he wants to join is Underwood Samson & Company, a small but prestigious valuation firm that estimates the profitability of businesses around... (full context)
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,... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...in a product that reassembles them in another part of the world. Jim adds that Underwood Samson excels at seeing through “hyped-up” products like the one he’s described to Changez. (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...a job offer from Jim, since his approach to solving the problem was correct, and Underwood Samson will be able to train him to assess companies more accurately. As Changez shakes Jim’s... (full context)
Chapter 5
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
When Changez meets other members of Underwood Samson , he initially pretends to be shocked and upset about the attacks. But soon, he... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
The Underwood Samson team is unable to fly back to the United States because so many flights are... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...to a handcuffed man. When the guards have finished interrogating him, Changez finds that the Underwood Samson team has not waited for him; he travels back to Manhattan alone. (full context)
Chapter 6
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
...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... (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... (full context)
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...that Changez works for “the man,” but then acknowledges the problem. Wainwright tells him that Underwood Samson would make the same business decisions whether Changez worked there or not, and encourages him... (full context)
Chapter 8
Human Connection Theme Icon
Irritated with the nostalgia of Erica and America, Changez turns to Underwood Samson , which is never nostalgic, since it looks to the future. Because he is desperate... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
...denies this, because he doesn’t want to make Jim think that he’s not loyal to Underwood Samson . Jim tells him that he knows what it’s like to be an outsider, and... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Changez soon starts to worry that he could lose his job at Underwood Samson because he’s Pakistani. Wainwright tells him about businesses that discriminate against Muslim employees, and warns... (full context)
Chapter 9
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Back at Underwood Samson , Changez notices that his colleagues are uneasy around him, since he has not shaved... (full context)
Chapter 10
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...her love for Chris. In Chile, he meets Juan-Batista, the president of the publishing agency Underwood Samson is valuing. Changez likes Juan-Batista immediately, and compares him to a grandfather. Juan-Batista, who technically... (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. Yet while Changez should be working for Underwood Samson, he instead watches news... (full context)
Chapter 11
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
...about facing Jim, and wonders about his self-imposed loyalty to Erica. When he goes to Underwood Samson for the last time, he feels confused but determined. (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
Security guards escort Changez through Underwood Samson ’s offices, ignoring the beautiful view of New York. He has a brief, tense meeting... (full context)
Chapter 12
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Changez gets a job lecturing at a university. His training at Princeton and Underwood Samson makes him an excellent, popular teacher. He begins to lead protests against the United States,... (full context)