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Jessica
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The Book as a Whole: American Life

Over the course of his monologue, Changez delivers more than a few critical appraisals of American life, culture, society, values, and politics. Is it fair to say that these criticisms grow sharper -- or cut deeper -- as the story progresses? Why or why not? Identify a few such criticisms, explaining why you do or don't agree with them.

And what do we learn about the American who sits across the table from Changez for most of the novel? And what do we never learn about this person? How does Hamid convey this information? Early on, Changez says that his café companion's "bearing" gives him away as an American. What does Changez mean by this? What are his deeper implications?


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Note: This topic refers to the book as a whole.

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bentley
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Re: The Book as a Whole: American Life (Spoiler)


Jessica wrote:

Over the course of his monologue, Changez delivers more than a few critical appraisals of American life, culture, society, values, and politics. Is it fair to
say that these criticisms grow sharper -- or cut deeper -- as the story progresses? Why or why not? Identify a few such criticisms, explaining why you do or
don't agree with them.

And what do we learn about the American who sits across the table from Changez for most of the novel? And what do we never learn about this person? How does Hamid
convey this information? Early on, Changez says that his café companion's "bearing" gives him away as an American. What does Changez mean by this? What are his deeper
implications?



Reply to this message to discuss any of these topics. Or start your own new topic by clicking "New Message."

Note: This topic refers to the book as a whole.





Wastefulness: He felt that Americans were wasteful with money and had no reluctance to spend $50 on a meal. He felt that they were careless.

Superiority: I think he felt that they were friendly to a point but lived off of trust funds and family money where he had to use his signing bonus to travel with them. Changez looked down on them; while at the same time felt uncomfortable with their attitudes and brashness.

Disrespect: He felt that he observed his fellow travelers being rude and forceful with service personnel who were their elders. He did not feel that they valued age and their elders.

Right from the beginning of the novel, you could sense in Changez's language how he bristled at the abundance that was wasted by his fellow students. There was a bitterness which came across in his dialogue right from the start. There was a resentment that had germinated even at Princeton.

America and Princeton welcomed him and gave him a place at the table. These opportunities should have been appreciated more. Immigrants who came to America for a better opportunity years ago thanked their lucky stars for being able to start a new life in America and were determined to make this new country "their home". Today, there are many folks who want to share in America's riches but do not plan to integrate or see the bright side of the generosity which is part of the American spirit. To me they are takers and do not give back to the country which gave them these opportunities. In fact, they criticize all of the differences and magnify these differences as imperfections. Some gratefulness would have gone a long way for Changez but I just feel he had an inflated opinion of himself versus how he felt even about his fellow Princetonians. I think he looked down on them. Why not celebrate the land that offered so much? Why not appreciate these presented opportunites and exhibit some sense of loyalty? Why not try to see the generous spirit of Americans? Where was there any gratitude for the opportunity to study at Princeton? To me Changez exuded resentment and an allegiance to distorted viewpoints without any flexibilty to adopt a new outlook. His frame of reference was Pakiston and if America was different from Pakistan he never saw it as being better or being able to appreciate these differences. He loved New York City because he could find pockets of Pakistan in this melting pot. There was a book years ago called "The Ugly American" and that is exactly the viewpoint that Changez his projecting about his experiences.

I have no idea why the companion did not take off his jacket. Maybe he had a gun under his jacket. Was that the implication? Why did his companion think that he might be poisoned by the food and why was he wary and mistrustful of the waiter? From my vantage point, I think Changez might be mocking him.
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Mariposa
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Re: The Book as a Whole: American Life (Spoiler)

Of course now you know, Bentley, since you finished the book that both their suspicions were accurate. The man was carrying a gun and most likely was an American CIA type assassin. And the man was also correct to suspect the waiter because the waiter was hooked up somehow with Changez or so it seemed at the end. So it was right to be suspicious about his food being possibly poisoned because he knew who he was and what his mission was and he knew that probably others suspected as well.

I think the book makes some interesting criticisms of life in America but that is for another post at another time...maybe.


Lizabeth
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bentley
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Re: The Book as a Whole: American Life (Spoiler)


dianearbus wrote:
Of course now you know, Bentley, since you finished the book that both their suspicions were accurate. The man was carrying a gun and most likely was an American CIA type assassin. And the man was also correct to suspect the waiter because the waiter was hooked up somehow with Changez or so it seemed at the end. So it was right to be suspicious about his food being possibly poisoned because he knew who he was and what his mission was and he knew that probably others suspected as well.

I think the book makes some interesting criticisms of life in America but that is for another post at another time...maybe.


Lizabeth




Yes, I do. I also thought that Changez protested too much. Somehow the waiter and Changez had a connection and he gestures Changez to detain the American. Agree with you that the American was a kind of operative and I think knew a lot about Changez. Both I agree met their fate as did Erica.

I do think that Changez was having some sort of a melt down. Yes, what was your take of the criticisms and which ones are valid from your viewpoint and which ones are not. In terms of Changez's dialogue of course.

I do think the book makes you pause and reflect.
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US generosity



bentley wrote: Why not try to see the generous spirit of Americans?





A sentence taken out of context...but where exactly is that generous spirit? It depends on how one looks at this. Isn't the generosity a myth nowadays? USA takes a lot seen in the global perspective and it often dictates conditions in a rather ruthless manner. To admire USA today a lot would need to change, a foreign policy, some infrastructure. Or is it just about chasing the buck?

What was it about for Changez? As many foreigners he struggled with appearances.


ziki
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reflexion



bentley wrote:I do think the book makes you pause and reflect.




Agree, not a little task achieved.

ziki
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bentley
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Americans and Foreign Aid

[ Edited ]
I take exception to some of the misperceptions of Americans woven into the undercurrent of TRF. And the attempts to paint all Americans or all of America with one brush..I think it would be unfair to do the same thing for any country..Pakistan or any country for that matter...or any religious group.

Let us talk about the generosity of the American people which I had mentioned in passing but I think was challenged here.

Americans are by far the most personally generous in the world to those less fortunate...we are not talking about governments...but even with government spending the dollar amount is the highest of any country even though the percentage of GNP is not.

"One notable area is US foreign aid. Being a major part of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and even helping to formulate the United Nations over 50 years ago, America's actions can be felt around the world."

Where we surpass others once again is in the amount of private giving (by American citizens on their own).

"While Adelman admits that there are no complete figures for international private giving she still says that Americans are clearly the most generous on earth in public but especially in private giving."

Adelman, Director for The Center for Global Prosperity, from the Hudson Institute published its first Index of Global Philanthropy in 2006, which contained updated numbers from those stated above. The total of US private giving, since Adelman's previous report, had increased to a massive $71 billion in 2004. Page 16 of their report breaks it down as follows:

International giving by US foundations: $3.4 billion
Charitable giving by US businesses: $4.9 billion
American NGOs: $9.7
Religious overseas ministries: $4.5
US colleges scholarships to foreign students: $1.7 billion
Personal remittances from the US to developing countries: $47 billion.

http://www.globalissues.org/TradeRelated/Debt/USAid.asp

Changez benefited as do others from the generosity of Americans and America with his financial aid. I do not feel sorry for Changez...Underwood Sampson was not the only concern who can feel like Changez shafted them. Remember Changez turned his back on his opportunities; I do not feel his relationships turned their back on him. Jim was there to talk and to listen and I am sure others would have been too. No Changez deluded himself and maybe others and just marched to a different drummer. That is ok too but let us not feel sorry for him for making that choice. I do feel sorry for the choice of profiling but given the circumstances Changez should have understood the why even if he did not understand the who and why he was singled out to undress down to his boxer shorts.

It is really sad what the entire world has to go through now because of terrorists. Airports are not fun for anyone!

And yes I know some will say that Erica turned her back on Changez..I do not believe she ever turned towards him as a substitute for Chris and she had problems too because she did the same thing that Changez did. Just walk away and or say goodbye in a final way to her/his life.

I know that you have to walk in someone else's shoes to know what they go through and I am very sympathetic to those who try and try and are continually shot down in spite of their valiant efforts. That didn't happen here with our protagonist. He shot himself in the foot.

Message Edited by bentley on 05-08-200709:46 AM

Message Edited by bentley on 05-08-200709:48 AM

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Mariposa
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Sympathy

Sympathy.

I do feel sorry for Changez. He dies in the end. He was unarmed.

Part of me also feels sorry for tne American. He possibly died in the end too. Killed by the waiter and friends. He was just another worker on behalf of the US government. I think some of the things Changez said angered him. But enough to kill him? He trusted Changez enough to walk with him to the hotel. He may have only killed Changez when he saw the waiter. Then he felt it was an ambush.

Was Changez part of the waiter's group? I don't think so or else he would have been armed.

I think the waiter's group was keeping an eye on the situation and then decided to make a move before the American got into the hotel.

It is possible no one survived that encounter.

That is the reality of the world in which we live. These antagonisms are killing.

None of them knew how to talk to each other. How to communicate. Changez tried to explain. If he was killed anyway and I think he was, then he failed.

Communication and understanding failed. Violence succeeded.

It is a morality tale for our time.

Lizabeth
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bentley
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Sympathy



dianearbus wrote:
Sympathy.

I do feel sorry for Changez. He dies in the end. He was unarmed.

Part of me also feels sorry for tne American. He possibly died in the end too. Killed by the waiter and friends. He was just another worker on behalf of the US government. I think some of the things Changez said angered him. But enough to kill him? He trusted Changez enough to walk with him to the hotel. He may have only killed Changez when he saw the waiter. Then he felt it was an ambush.

Was Changez part of the waiter's group? I don't think so or else he would have been armed.

I think the waiter's group was keeping an eye on the situation and then decided to make a move before the American got into the hotel.

It is possible no one survived that encounter.

That is the reality of the world in which we live. These antagonisms are killing.

None of them knew how to talk to each other. How to communicate. Changez tried to explain. If he was killed anyway and I think he was, then he failed.

Communication and understanding failed. Violence succeeded.

It is a morality tale for our time.

Lizabeth




What you say is true..at least that is my take as well. I just feel that the whole situation was not too believable..but if it could hypothetically happen the entire situation has a little of my sympathy; but I still cannot excuse away Changez's actions. Hopefully our country is starting to once again talk with its enemies or countries where there are differences. Without communication there is no chance of understanding of any kind. The whole thing is sad but not altogether sympathetic.
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