Elements of Identity Crisis in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer


This thesis shall explore the elements which cause the identity crisis in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and its impacts on the protagonist, Changez. A lot of literature has been written on the theme of identity crisis but The Reluctant Fundamentalist depicts the identity crisis in the 9/11 perspective. This novel shows the life of Muslims and specially Pakistanis after 9/11. This novel also reveals the reflections of the American state as well as American society. This novel shows racial discrimination in American society. Unacceptance of every Muslim and Pakistani by Americans becomes a root cause of identity crisis for Changez and this leaves some marks on Changez’s personality. In this thesis, the researcher’s aim is to explore the elements which cause the identity crisis in Changez’s personality.


One of the most prominent writers of Pakistan Mohsin Hamid has mentioned the theme of identity crisis in his novel “The Reluctant fundamentalist”. The objective of the research is to get the description of identity loss and how the 9/11 incident affects the character of Changez.

Hamid was born in 1971 to an upper-class family in Lahore. Mohsin Hamid moved to California at age 3 when his father undertook a Ph.D. program at Stanford University. At age 9, he returned to Pakistan and completed his secondary education at the Lahore American School. At 18 he returned to the United States to attend Princeton University, where he studied creative writing under award-winning novelists Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison. After graduating in 1993 he returned to Pakistan and worked on his first novel.

Shortly after his 30th birthday in 2001, Hamid decided to leave the united states for London, on September 11 of the same year he watched with shock as terrorist targeted his former home across the Atlantic. He had since written “ Like many Bush-era self exiles from united states, I found that London combined much of what first attracted to me New York with a freedom America seemed to have lost in paranoid years after 9/11 “( Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. New York. Oxford University Press, 2007)

In London, Hamid met his wife. They and their daughter returned to Pakistan to live in 2009. As well as his novels, Hamid has also written much political and social commentary for publications, including The New York Times, the Paris Review, and The Washington Post. Many relate to experiences of immigration, citizenship, or migrant identity. He is famous for writing Moth Smoke (2000), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), and How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia (2013). The novel ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ employs the technique of a frame tale and it is a dramatic monologue. Changez is the untypical protagonist who falls prey to the 9/11 event. The loss of identity is the main theme of the novel published in 2007, the novel became an instant success and went on to sell one million copies and became a best seller. Nominated for numerous awards, the novel is also a critical success and is a topic of constant debates among scholars.

The title ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ is intriguing and needs some genuine, imaginative gymnastic and clinical dissection. It is an exciting term with which most of the recipients, as well as disseminators, are not acquainted. It needs to be vivified through unambiguous hair-splitting and brainstorming. If we look out the superficial meaning we discover that a reluctant fundamentalist is the one who vacillates in accepting and practicing the basics of the religion. But on a minute analysis and examination, we discover many undertones and undercurrents.

Many critics have presented their analysis on the title and its theme of an identity crisis. The term identity crisis is not a new issue to grapple with. Many writers have dwelt on the issue.

14 years ago, an attack on the world trade center with the help of 3 hijacked airplanes on September 11, 2001, changed the scenario of the world. It developed the concept of terrorism, Islamism, and initiated a war on terror. This event is still in media and the terrorist attack in New York was the turning point. This event has been of great importance for the world’s development in the last 14 years and it also affected the people in their everyday life. (Global Jihad By Jarret M. Brachman, 29)

Society is no longer oppressed. They need to figure out who they are. After spending a very long span in an alien’s culture (America), one gets used to it. But arriving back in the homeland (Pakistan), Changez loses his own identity. Changez is an untypical protagonist as he is a representative of the Muslim elite and a successful graduate of a prestigious university and working at Underwood Samson (a top consultancy firm). His unexpected downfall and how the 9/11 incident contributed to his future, his awakening from the American dream, and how his social identity alters.

This thesis is conducted in order to ferret out how the 9/11 incident affects the character of Changez and created an identity crisis.


Read more