The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In Lahore, Changez observes that the market is nearly empty. He tells the Stranger that there seems to be an ominous mood in the air, perhaps because they are alone.
There has been an ominous mood in the air from the minute Changez approached the Stranger in the street. The Stranger may have grown desensitized to the danger as the evening goes on, or he may still be nervous around Changez.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
On his flight back to New York, Changez thinks that he has always disliked American foreign policy. America uses its vast power to manipulate the non-Western countries, and, Changez realizes, finance is one of its most important weapons.
While Changez insists he has always hated American foreign policy, there is little to no evidence of this in the book up to this point. He seems to be misremembering his own past to agree with his current state of mind: guilt over playing a role, as a finance worker, in American imperialism. This again raises the question of whether one should trust Changez’s story.
Themes
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Changez resolves to use his financial training to study American society. When his plane lands, he notices that the airport looks like a military camp, with armed guards everywhere. He is detained at the airport for being of a “suspect race,” and when he returns to his apartment, he mentally thanks Juan-Batista for helping him see America for what it really is.
Changez refuses to focus on the fundamentals any longer. He has become dangerous to the United States, since he has American training but not American loyalty. His description of the airport shows how militaristic and aggressive he now finds America to be.
Themes
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
The next morning, Changez wonders how he 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 the last time, he feels confused but determined.
Although Changez has decided he cannot work at Underwood Samson, he continues to be unsure of his identity. Although he continues to have feelings for Erica, he recognizes that his loyalty to her is self-imposed, rather than part of a mutual love with her. At this stage, he seems unsure what he is but sure of what he is not.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
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Security guards escort Changez through Underwood Samson’s offices, ignoring the beautiful view of New York. He has a brief, 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 he likes him, nonetheless. He adds that he can tell that Changez is going through hard times, and if he needs someone to talk to, Jim will buy him a beer. As Changez is marched out of the building, his old colleagues look at him uneasily. Wainwright shakes his hand and says goodbye.
Changez ignores the views of New York that dazzled him on his first day at Underwood Samson: he is not as naïve and impressionable as he was only a year or so ago. He realizes how deeply he has alienated his colleagues at Underwood Samson: guards escort him at all times, much as guards detain him at the airport. In part, Changez is the victim of American prejudice and racism, and in part, he has deliberately encouraged hostility by growing his beard and refusing to do his work. While Jim is too good a businessman to hesitate in firing his former protégé, he reveals the extent of his connection with Changez, offering to listen to his problems. The fact that he offers to do so over a drink — a traditional mating ritual, after all — suggests, one final time, that his interest in Changez may have been at least partly romantic.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
As Changez leaves the building, he wipes his eyes. He feels as if his world has ended, and walks home, conscious of his appearance to New Yorkers. He drinks, and calls his brother to explain that he’s been fired, no longer has a work visa, and will have to come home. Changez’s brother encourages him to stay in America, but when Changez says that he has no choice, he assures him that their family will take care of him. Changez thinks about how he had wanted to take care of them.
Changez has become disillusioned with the United States; where once he felt like a part of New York, he now feels out of place. Although Changez feels ashamed for not being able to support his family, his decision to return to Pakistan represents personal growth, since he is no longer acting on behalf of other people, whether Underwood Samson executives or his own family.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Changez notices that the Stranger’s glass has been empty for a while. He signals for the bill, and once again the waiter comes immediately. The Stranger seems to offer to pay half, and Changez insists that in Pakistan, people either pay for all or none of a meal.
The Stranger’s explanation of the etiquette of payment differs from the earlier explanation he gave about Wainwright’s offer to pay for his food at the Punjab deli. This suggests that he distorts information to suit his story, or, alternately, that he is attempting to develop a close friendship with the Stranger, as the custom of paying for another’s food supposedly represents. The waiter’s attentiveness seems possibly sinister; he’s watching Changez and the Stranger very closely.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez is unsure whether or not to see Erica once more before leaving for Pakistan. He tries to email her, but Erica’s inbox is full. He goes to her clinic, where he learns that Erica mysteriously vanished shortly after he last saw her. A nurse tells Changez that, toward the end of her stay, Erica wanted to be alone. One day, the nurses found her clothing on high rocks over the Hudson river. The nurse says that Erica’s remains haven’t been found, but that she had been saying goodbye to everyone. Changez cannot imagine Erica killing herself.
The clinic explains Erica’s disappearance almost casually — it’s not clear why Erica was allowed to wander off by herself if she had serious mental problems, and had been saying goodbye to her friends. Hamid suggests that Western medicine and science aren’t as effective as they’re sometimes said to be, and that Western society isn’t compassionate. Changez refuses to believe that Erica is dead, perhaps because he continues to love her.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez drives to see Erica’s mother, who wears no makeup. She tells him, quietly, that she hasn’t heard anything from Erica. She adds that Erica found Changez dashing with his beard, and gives him a copy of Erica’s manuscript.
Erica’s mother is kind to Changez, but not warm. It’s as if she is partly to blame for encouraging Erica to bottle up her emotions. The fact that Erica found Changez “dashing” suggests once more that she’s attracted to him in part because he’s exotic.
Themes
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez spends the next week waiting for a call or message from Erica, and revisiting places they visited. Some of these places he’s unable to find, and others seem to have changed. After a week of waiting, he reads Erica’s manuscript, and is surprised to find that it is not autobiographical or tragic, but rather an optimistic story about a girl trying to survive on an island. Changez realizes that Erica has chosen not to be a part of his life because her own is too compelling. He resolves to return to Pakistan as soon as possible.
Erica’s manuscript had seemed to be a window into her inner turmoil, and a way for her to express her feelings. Surprisingly, reading her manuscript doesn’t give Changez any new insight into her love for Chris or her loneliness: Erica remains a mystery to him. Although at first Changez refuses to accept that Erica is dead, he accepts that he and Erica will remain separate, and finally accepts his return to Pakistan.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez spends his final days in New York angry and emotional. He notices racism and American imperialism everywhere. America’s belief in its own superiority, he tells the Stranger, hurts the rest of world, including Pakistan, and hurts America itself.
Changez sees New York, as if for the first time. In part, the city seems more overtly hostile to him because of the influence of 9/11; in part, it seems different because his state of mind has changed.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Resolving to stop America as best he can, Changez boards a flight to Pakistan. He thinks of his time with Erica, and the cliff where she may have killed herself. He leaves his jacket on the ground at the airport as an “offering” to Erica, who he imagines must be very cold, wherever she is. As he flies away, he sees that his jacket has been mistaken for a security threat.
Changez continues to treat Erica as a person, despite evidence that she might be dead. Nevertheless, the way he thinks of Erica seems different from the way Erica thinks about Chris: while Erica keeps Chris’s shirt, Changez leaves his jacket. She hoards her memories as a kind of safety against the world and never leaves it; he gives up his protection against the cold as a gift to her even as he moves on. And, of course, American security forces interpret this gift he has given as a security threat.
Themes
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
The Stranger seems to ask Changez what he did to stop America. Changez assures him that he will answer this question, but offers to escort the Stranger back to his hotel, the Pearl Continental. He assures the Stranger that Lahore has little petty crime, and adds that they are both powerfully built, meaning that they’ll be safe on their walk through the streets.
Changez admits that he tries to stop the United States, but whether he does so by peaceful or violent means remains unclear. His assurance that he and the Stranger are strong isn’t completely reassuring: there’s an implied threat, since he suggests both that they might need to be strong to ward off some threat, and that he’s strong enough to fight the Stranger.
Themes
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon