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Jessica
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The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity

Changez announces in Chapter 3, "I was, in four and a half years, never an American; I was immediately a New Yorker." What do you think he means? How is Changez's sense of identity altered over the course of the novel?


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

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christyscmh
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity

I believe Changez'z entire identity become fairly bitter towards the ending. I cannot say for definite - as I still have 1 more chapter to go - but I'm not seeing that Changez' demeanor will suddenly turn positive in the last few pages. He is torn between his loyalty to his homeland of Pakistan but the United States also holds a soft place in his heart; mainly because of Erica. With the attacks of September 11th catapulting several countries into a war, initiated in my eyes by those who attacked the World Trade Center but in all technicality, by the United States; Changez becomes bitter in his feelings towards America. In addition, his relationship with Erica was doomed from the start, of no fault of his, he simply fell in love with a girl who was lost to someone else. I think the boldest statement of his confused identity came with his willingness to pretend that he was Chris when he and Erica finally were able to make love. The whole scene as I read it and pictured in my head was utterly awkward and I can't imagine how Changez or even Erica was able to carry out this demented sort of role-playing.

I have a hard time deciding whether or not I truly like Changez. Of course, being from America and knowing my own personal convictions about September 11th (I have a tattoo on my back in tribute and memorial of the event) I support our country's decision to act on impulse. My ideas towards the war have changed since then and I believe it is time to retreat and bring our soldiers home. Having said that, I deeply respect the cultures and religions of other people and can understand where Changez is coming from even though his harsh comments towards the United States, of which I dearly love, sting me quite badly.

As I mentioned before, I still have another chapter to finish so maybe my ideas on Changez will have solidified into something more concrete and I will have a better picture of him overall. I don't have great hope for that though because within these last few pages it really seems as though everything is falling apart in his world.

I'll be back shortly; stay tuned.
Live as though there is no tomorrow; Love as though you've never been hurt, and Dance as though there's no one watching.
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bentley
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity


Jessica wrote:

Changez announces in Chapter 3, "I was, in four and a half years, never an American; I was immediately a New Yorker." What do you think he means? How is
Changez's sense of identity altered over the course of the novel?



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.





I have completed Chapter 3 but not the entire novel. There were many things that excited him and made him feel content for a period of time in NYC. He liked living in his neighborhood, having food he appreciated nearby, hearing music that reminded him of home during parades, having a prestigious job at Underwood (with an expense account). Regionally, he was close to Princeton in NJ where he had spent his undergraduate years so he felt comfortable with the niche that he had carved out. He was also happy with the taxi drivers who he connected with due to language and when he rode the subway, he also felt that he fit in and blended in with the melting pot which was and is NYC. Family and Pakistan were extremely important to him and allowed him the stability and the core unit to be comfortable to branch out on his own and sample another culture. He was hungry once more at Underwood to prove himself and excel. And he thanked God for his lucky break to land such a job at such a firm. He had realized that he could be comfortable with NYC and relished the "connections" that he could make with his homeland which didn't necessarily resonate with America as a whole, its core values or the genesis and history of America itself. Changez loved the energy which was NYC. Changez always stood apart even at Princeton and saw the differences which he did not appreciate and which were not in alignment with his upbringing or core family values and customs. He seemed to resent the frivolity and wastefulness that his classmates exhibited with money and lost or missed opportunities. I found it odd that he made a big deal about being (I believe) one of two students at Princeton from Pakistan and there were another 1000 students from all over America. Maybe he felt more students should be afforded a Princeton education from Pakistan. But then again Princeton is in America. I will have to wait until I am further along to comment on changes in Changez's sense of identity. I think Changez felt he fitted in enough (or as much as he wanted to).
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bentley
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity (Spoiler)

[ Edited ]
The more that I think of it...it is obvious now and should have been obvious to me before where Hamid was going with the title. Changez at Underwood was involved with Fundamental Analysis so he was a fundamentalist who by following the American dream was slowly losing his identity (similar to Erica btw yet different). Was he selling out on his background and who he really was? The following article is an excellent one. I think that Changez changed one group of fundamentals for another one. Remember what the motto was at Underwood:"Focus on the fundamentals". And Changez did become very reluctant about what he was doing and who he was and/or should be.

Changez's job at Underwood:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_analysis

Excellent Review Article:

http://jaiarjun.blogspot.com/2007/04/preserving-identity-reluctant.html

Message Edited by bentley on 05-02-200707:36 PM

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Mariposa
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity (Spoiler)

I just finished the book and started thinking about the title. Does it apply to his eventual reluctance at being a fundamentalist in the sense of doing fundamental analysis (reluctance at being part of the corporate world etc) or does it refer instead to his reluctance to become a fundamentalist in the sense of a Muslim fundamentalist because part of him still loves NYC and Erica? Or perhaps the title refers to both? And that gives the Changez (oh my god--his name..Changes...he is going through changes...maybe?) an ambivalence, a reluctance at first to put all his convictions in one world or the other. He changes from one belief system to another but reluctantly. He lives in Pakistan but has so many memories about NYC that he is not fully in Pakistan. And is Changez killed at the end? Does his reluctance to initiate the action in the end destroy him?

Lizabeth
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bentley
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity (Spoiler)

[ Edited ]

dianearbus wrote:
I just finished the book and started thinking about the title. Does it apply to his eventual reluctance at being a fundamentalist in the sense of doing fundamental analysis (reluctance at being part of the corporate world etc) or does it refer instead to his reluctance to become a fundamentalist in the sense of a Muslim fundamentalist because part of him still loves NYC and Erica? Or perhaps the title refers to both? And that gives the Changez (oh my god--his name..Changes...he is going through changes...maybe?) an ambivalence, a reluctance at first to put all his convictions in one world or the other. He changes from one belief system to another but reluctantly. He lives in Pakistan but has so many memories about NYC that he is not fully in Pakistan. And is Changez killed at the end? Does his reluctance to initiate the action in the end destroy him?

Lizabeth




Lizabeth,

I think both...yes, if you look in the section titled Erica and Changez PaulH and I were discussing some of those word analogies. He was losing his identity here and was then trying to preserve his old one. I think he might be killed at the end. A part of him died when he was in NYC and left (Erica for AmERICA). And whether he liked it or not, he took those memories and changes back to Pakistan with him and no matter if he had on the traditional dress and a beard a foot long, he couldn't disguise this. He could not be normal in either world. He may have felt that he sold out when he became part of Underwood. He was angry remember like a scorned lover and I do not think that statement only dealt with ERICA (amERICA).

He certainly had a meltdown...like Erica after 9/11.

And remember what the Underwood motto was: "Focus on the fundamentals"...and I think Changez just started to focus on them differently.

Message Edited by bentley on 05-03-200708:25 AM

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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity



christyscmh wrote: I think the boldest statement of his confused identity came with his willingness to pretend that he was Chris when he and Erica finally were able to make love.




He and Erica were not able to make love. Her body as he said rejected him. So not even in bed could he be himself (simple man with a woman) but he had to pretend to be somebody else (Chris=American) to complete an intercourse. How sad it that?

ziki
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christyscmh
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity

In response to Ziki:

The first time Erica's body rejected Changez, yes you are right. But there was a second time where they did make love and in order for them to do this, Changez told Erica to pretend that she was making love to Chris...she closed her eyes and did this and then they did actually make love this time.
Live as though there is no tomorrow; Love as though you've never been hurt, and Dance as though there's no one watching.
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christyscmh
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity

In response to Bentley:

I love that you point out about Erica's name being in America. I never made that connection while reading but wow! that makes so much sense and really adds more meaning to this story. I'm curious, you never commented on the mentioning about whether or not Changez was killed in the end of the story. What is your take on this? Mine is that the stranger was pulling a gun from his coat and not, as Changez almost humorously suggests a business card holder. I'm curious about your thoughts on this.
Live as though there is no tomorrow; Love as though you've never been hurt, and Dance as though there's no one watching.
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity



christyscmh wrote:
In response to Ziki:

The first time Erica's body rejected Changez, yes you are right. But there was a second time where they did make love and in order for them to do this, Changez told Erica to pretend that she was making love to Chris...she closed her eyes and did this and then they did actually make love this time.





Yes, I know, but was "he" there? Or was he there "in his totality"? No. Neither. He kind of borrowed Chris' identity even there. And he also questioned that, later.

ziki
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity (Spoiler)



bentley wrote: Changez at Underwood was involved with Fundamental Analysis so he was a fundamentalist ...




yes, there is the double meaning in the title (focus on the fundamentals-motto)..and in what way is he reluctant in pakistan..it's like a quip. Clever, I thought :smileyhappy:

ziki
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity (Spoiler)



dianearbus wrote:
I just finished the book and started thinking about the title. Does it apply to his eventual reluctance at being a fundamentalist in the sense of doing fundamental analysis (reluctance at being part of the corporate world etc) or does it refer instead to his reluctance to become a fundamentalist in the sense of a Muslim fundamentalist because part of him still loves NYC and Erica? Or perhaps the title refers to both? And that gives the Changez (oh my god--his name..Changes...he is going through changes...maybe?) an ambivalence, a reluctance at first to put all his convictions in one world or the other. He changes from one belief system to another but reluctantly. He lives in Pakistan but has so many memories about NYC that he is not fully in Pakistan. And is Changez killed at the end? Does his reluctance to initiate the action in the end destroy him?

Lizabeth




Exactly...all these questions and many others that the book digs out...

ziki
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anger



bentley wrote: A part of him died when he was in NYC and left (Erica for AmERICA). And whether he liked it or not, he took those memories and changes back to Pakistan with him and no matter if he had on the traditional dress and a beard a foot long, he couldn't disguise this.




He wanted something and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't get it. I think that was the main reason of his anger that is both personal and collective. He was left with appearances and that is too shallow to live on. He tried to find his ground with help of Erica but it was a mission doomed to fail.



ziki
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bentley
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Re: The Book as a Whole: Changez's Identity



christyscmh wrote:
In response to Bentley:

I love that you point out about Erica's name being in America. I never made that connection while reading but wow! that makes so much sense and really adds more meaning to this story. I'm curious, you never commented on the mentioning about whether or not Changez was killed in the end of the story. What is your take on this? Mine is that the stranger was pulling a gun from his coat and not, as Changez almost humorously suggests a business card holder. I'm curious about your thoughts on this.




Hello Christyscmh,

I believed that Changez got killed in the crossfire. The waiter was signaling for Changez to delay the American and the American was pulling something out from under his jacket. Changez saw metal. The American was not safely inside the hotel gate. I think the American was trying and going to protect himself. I am not sure that Changez intended violence but I think he was going to get caught up in it and did. Some others might disagree.

Regards,

Bentley
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