The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Erica Character Analysis

Erica is a beautiful and popular Princeton graduate, with whom Changez falls in love. She has strong feelings for Changez, though she sometimes seems to view Changez as an exotic foreigner more than a true friend and lover. A writer, she is nostalgic for Chris, a childhood friend and boyfriend who died a year before she and Changez met. After 9/11, she falls into depression and mental illness, focused around an obsessive nostalgia for Chris that thwarts any possibility of a relationship with Changez. By the end of the novel, she may have killed herself, though Changez in his life in Pakistan still thinks fondly of her and imagines – though without any real hope – that she will someday come to him. That the name “Erica” is contained within the word “America” is no coincidence, and Changez’s relationship with Erica can be seen as analogous to his relationship to America.

Erica Quotes in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The The Reluctant Fundamentalist quotes below are all either spoken by Erica or refer to Erica. 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 2 Quotes

When my turn came, I said I hoped one day to be the dictator of an Islamic republic with nuclear capability; the other appeared shocked, and I was forced to explain that I had been joking. Erica alone smiled; she seemed to understand my sense of humor.

Related Characters: Changez (speaker), Erica, Mike, Chuck
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

“I’m more unsettled than nervous,” she said. “It’s like I’m an oyster. I’ve had this sharp speck inside me for a long time, and I’ve been trying to make it more comfortable, so slowly I’ve turned it into a peal. But now it’s finally being taken out, and just as it’s going I’m realizing there’s a gap being left behind.”

Related Characters: Erica (speaker), Changez, Chris
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

“Are you missing Chris?” She nodded, and I saw tears begin to force themselves between her lashes. “Then pretend,” I said, “pretend I am him.” I do not know why I said it; I felt overcome and it seemed, suddenly, a possible way forward.

Related Characters: Changez (speaker), Erica, Chris
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

Not, of course, that I actually believe I am having a relationship, in the normal sense of the term, with Erica at this moment, or that she will one day appear, smiling and bent against the weight of her backpack, to surprise me on my doorstep. But I am still young and see no need to marry another, and for now I am content to wait.

Related Characters: Changez (speaker), Erica
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

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Erica Character Timeline in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The timeline below shows where the character Erica appears in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Human Connection Theme Icon
...that he will tell him about his lover back in America, a Princeton classmate named Erica. (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Changez meets Erica the summer after they graduate from Princeton. Changez’s college soccer friend, Chuck, invites him on... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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When Changez arrives in Greece, he is so attracted to Erica’s “regal” appearance that he offers to carry her backpack. Erica wears a t-shirt with Mao’s... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...group heads to Greece’s coastal city of Piraeus, where Changez sees other men flirt with Erica. One man tries to impress her by playing American pop music on the guitar, but... (full context)
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A member of the Princeton group, Mike, tries to woo Erica while they eat dinner at a restaurant in Santorini. He sits next to her and... (full context)
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Erica tells Changez that she’d like to be alone in Greece, writing, but that she isn’t... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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American Imperialism Theme Icon
While he waits for another time to be alone with Erica, Changez enjoys his vacation to Greece, especially since he has never seen the ocean, or... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Changez gradually realizes how difficult it is to catch Erica on her own — she’s always surrounded by other people. Although this is because she’s... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...of the East stand alongside modern military forces that serve a similar purpose. One day, Erica sunbathes topless while Changez sits close by. She notices him looking at her, and he... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
On their bus ride into Rhodes, Changez notices that Erica is sitting very close to him. In Lahore, Changez tells the Stranger that being in... (full context)
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American Imperialism Theme Icon
Changez tries to make conversation by asking Erica about the men’s shirt she’s wearing, which is visibly worn. She replies that it belonged... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
When their bus arrives at its destination, Erica and Changez have a beer together, and she asks him about Pakistan. Changez tells her... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
Erica tells Changez more about Chris. Both he and Erica were only children, and best friends... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Later, Erica and Changez join the rest of their group for dinner, Erica sits near Changez. Chuck... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Changez and Erica aren’t physically intimate in Greece, but Erica gives Changez her number, since they’re both moving... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...the back and leads him inside for food. Later that evening, though, Changez thinks of Erica, and wishes that she were at the party with him. He imagines that even she... (full context)
Chapter 4
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American Imperialism Theme Icon
...at night. While he works for Underwood Samson, he explores the city at night with Erica as his guide. (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez’s first New York encounter with Erica takes place at her apartment on the posh Upper East Side. Unsure of what to... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
Erica shows Changez an envelope containing a manuscript that she plans to send to an agent... (full context)
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Changez notices a sketch hanging on the wall in Erica’s room; Erica explains that Chris, inspired by the Tintin comics, drew it when he was... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Erica shows Changez the rest of her apartment, including a terrace with a beautiful view of... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
For the most part, Changez’s meal with Erica’s family goes well. One awkward moment comes when Erica’s father asks Changez about Pakistan, and... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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After dinner, Erica and Changez travel downtown to Chelsea to attend a party at an art gallery. Even... (full context)
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...City. Mingling with artists in “outrageous” clothing, he feels relieved that he’s wearing Pakistani robes. Erica is surrounded by friends, and Changez is reminded of her magnetic personality. At the end... (full context)
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Changez accompanies Erica to parties, restaurants, and galleries, but always with other friends. He notices that she seems... (full context)
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...weekend before Changez leaves for the Philippines to assist Underwood Samson with the music business, Erica invites him on a picnic; he’s pleased to find that they’re alone. Erica tells him... (full context)
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While Changez is telling the Stranger about Erica, the lights suddenly go out in the café. The Stranger jumps to his feet, but... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Changez receives many emails from Erica during his time in Manila. The messages, which Changez treasures and looks forward to, are... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
...to be shocked and upset about the attacks. But soon, he begins to think of Erica, and he no longer has to feign emotion. He is worried that Erica might have... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Changez meets Erica shortly after he returns from the Philippines. She seems older, he notes, but still beautiful.... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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Changez tells Erica that his aunt went insane and never married again after her husband died, even though... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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Changez is flattered that Erica tells him about Chris, but worried that she will never move past Chris. He neglects... (full context)
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Changez takes Erica back to his apartment, which is far smaller than hers, and she falls asleep. He... (full context)
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Changez is attracted to Erica, but feels protective around her. He notices that she seems lonely and introverted in public,... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
Erica has found an agent for her manuscript. The agent, who she obtained through a family... (full context)
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... (full context)
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Erica tells Changez that he is the only man she has been with other than Chris.... (full context)
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Erica asks Changez about his experiences with women, and he admits that he never had sex... (full context)
Chapter 7
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
Shortly after Erica and Changez try to have sex for the first time, the United States begins bombing... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez sees Erica a few days after the bombings in Afghanistan, and notices that she looks pale and... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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American Imperialism Theme Icon
Changez and Erica go back to his apartment. He tries to kiss her, but she doesn’t reciprocate. She... (full context)
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After Erica and Changez make love, she tells him that he is a kind person. Changez feels... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Erica leaves Changez’s apartment before he wakes up; he doesn’t see her for a few days,... (full context)
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Changez asks Erica about her novel, and she begins to cry: she can’t find the energy to work... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
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Changez is unable to deduce what causes Erica’s sickness, but thinks that she is suffering from a powerful nostalgia for her relationship with... (full context)
Chapter 9
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
...is happy to reunite with his brother, his mother, and his father. Changez doesn’t mention Erica to any of them. His brother tells him that he has friends who are fortifying... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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Changez emails Erica, telling her about his anger and guilt, and letting her know that he misses her.... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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Changez meets Erica, who looks distant and “devout,” as if she’s been fasting. Erica says she’s been thinking... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Flying to the city of Valparaiso, Chile, Changez cannot stop thinking about Erica, but he is unable to determine why she can’t get over her love for Chris.... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
...Neruda’s house, which again reminds him of Lahore. While he walks around, he thinks of Erica, and realizes that he may have failed to make her love him because he lacks... (full context)
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...nervous that he will lose his job and his visa, and thus may never see Erica again. Nevertheless, he leaves Chile and flies back to New York. (full context)
Chapter 11
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
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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 context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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Changez drives to see Erica’s mother, who wears no makeup. She tells him, quietly, that she hasn’t heard anything from... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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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... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 12
Human Connection Theme Icon
Changez arrives in Pakistan, and finds himself unable to stop thinking about Erica. He imagines what it would be like if she came to live in Pakistan while... (full context)
Human Connection Theme Icon
...he is gay, but though he says he is not he doesn’t tell her about Erica. He assures the Stranger that he doesn’t really expect Erica to come back to life,... (full context)
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
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...politics because he wanted to draw attention to himself in an irrational attempt to win Erica’s attention. His friends and colleagues warn him that America might send someone to intimidate him... (full context)