The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Themes and Colors
Patriotism & Post-9/11 United States Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Racism & Fundamentalism Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
American Imperialism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

As a Pakistani man in the United States, Changez has a perspective and experiences that give him insight about aspects of American patriotism that Americans take for granted. Reflecting on his time at Princeton University, he realizes that there is a hidden patriotic project in his college education. Young, intelligent students from the United States and the rest of the world are taught to love America, live in America after they graduate, and lend their…

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a good example of a Bildungsroman, or coming of age novel. In the early chapters, Changez, the protagonist (his name clues us in to the character development he’ll undergo) is an uncertain, passive young man. He travels all over the world (to Princeton University, to Greece, to New York City) without ever voicing a particularly strong reason for choosing to go to these places. In reality, he doesn’t “choose”…

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Throughout The Reluctant Fundamentalist, beginning on the first page, Hamid, the author, shows how people judge one another based on their clothing, their skin color, and their mannerisms. These forms of racism shape Changez and his impressions of the United States. Although Changez’s friends at Princeton treat him respectfully, they’re aware that he is an outsider in the United States. When they travel to Greece together, Changez experiences various forms of “soft” racism. While…

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In the face of racism and aggressive nationalism, Hamid questions whether it is possible for two unlike people to genuinely trust and respect one another, while also exploring humans’ fundamental need for these kinds of connections. Most of Changez’s classmates at Princeton are wealthy and take American culture as a given, but Changez works multiple jobs to feed his family in Pakistan. While he tries to forge strong friendships with other students, he can’t shake…

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Through Changez’s experience, The Reluctant Fundamentalist paints a picture of the enormous financial and military power that the United States wields over the rest of the world. The novel depicts how the United States’ power is so great because it is both “hard,” meaning that it has tremendous military force, and “soft,” meaning that it encourages foreigners to adopt American customs. Meanwhile, the American characters are often ignorant or naïve about their country’s power…

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