Posted in Books

Changez’s American Dream

The American Dream.Chances are that this statement evokes a feeling in you or a vision of what you would like to achieve.Everyone has an idea of what the American dream is.To me and probably many others it is the chance to change our status; that hard work can lead to the expensive house in the hills and the new car every two years.In Mohsin Hamid’s book The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the main character Changez is living the American Dream.

Changez is a Pakistani born man, whose family wants the best for him, as most families do, so they send him to America to attend a prestigious Ivy League school.Changez describes “This is a dream come true. Princeton inspired in me the feeling that my life was a film in which I was the star and everything was possible.” During his senior year the corporate recruiters came to interview the best and the brightest for positions in their companies. After four year at Princeton Changez was confident that he could get any job that he wanted, except one, at Underwood Samson & Company. They were a valuation firm, basically they told their clients how much businesses were worth. This company was so important to get hired onto “that after twoor three years there as an analyst, one was virtually guaranteed admission to Harvard Business School. Because of this, over a hundred members of the Princeton Class of 2001 sent their grades and résumés to Underwood Samson. Eight were selected – not for jobs, I should make clear, but for interviews – and one of them was me.” Changez was interviewed by a man named Jim. Jim saw in Changez a bit of himself and offered him a position at the firm.

The summer after Changez graduated and before he began his work at Underwood Samson, he decided to vacation with a group of other recent graduated in Greece.There he met a beautiful girl named Erica, whom over the course of the vacation he became more and more enamored with.She came from a good background, the elite of American society.And she also lived in New York where Changez was going to be living when he started his new position at Underwood Samson.

Up to this point, Changez is living the American dream, he has a good education that many of us would give our right arm for, he has a love interest that might lead to something more than just friends to an entry into Manhattan society, and an illustrious job where he has an expense account to go with the exceeding high level of pay.He seems to have it all.And yet there is an undercurrent of something, not sadness, but maybe a longing for his home, for things that are familiar to him.

I see the beginning of the end of his American dream, when he goes to the Philippines for his first Underwood Samson assignment.The assignment goes well, but on the night before they planned to leave, 9-11 happens.The attack on the World Trade center changes everything for Changez, but it is not apparent at first.After a few days, they all fly back to America, but as all the other members of the company are American citizens he is not.“When we arrived, I was separated from my team at immigration.”He is detained and the remainder of the team does not wait for him.

This singular event in American history, 9-11, changed the course of this book along with the course of America in real life.Following this horrific event many Americans came to fear the unknown, the foreigners within the country.As within the book Changez was viewed with suspicion and even fear from the very people who the day before 9-11 would not have given him a second glance.This fear led the country into a Fundamentalist movement.Now I know that Fundamentalism is usually a religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.But in this case the American Fundamentalist movement was intolerance of people from the Middle East.We banded together to mornthose we lost and to strike down our enemies, but we also lost sight of the principles that made America so great in the first place, the idea of the cultural melting pot.However, for our main character he hasn’t come to any harm up until chapter 7 of the book, and continues to go about his business as usual not knowing yet that his whole life has been altered by something far beyond his control and it will result in the loss of his American Dream.

Images from the following:

http://o3.indiatimes.com/bookworm

http://www.pa.uky.edu/~dejan/slike/Princeton

http://www.bergoiata.org/fe/divers40/10.htm

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