‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ Book Review

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A Pakistani author named Mohsin wrote the book titled 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist,' in which he used a range of strategies in his fiction. The most impressive technique is the way he framed his work (Hamid, page2-25). Hamid used the frame narrative method to make the story take place over the course of a single evening. The plot takes place in a cafe called Lahore. Changez, a bearded Pakistani, and an American portrayed as anxious and a complete stranger to Changez, are the main characters. Changez tells the American about a love story he had with an American lady that prompted him to flee the country. In the book titled ‘Farming of Bones’, the writer Edwidge Danticat uses historical fiction as a style to tell a third-party story. The book begins with Amabelle, who is the main character in the book, talking about her lover named Sebastian. The book is set up in Haiti and the two lovers are soon separated by the 1937 Haiti massacre (Danticat, page 1-43). Amabelle then goes on a journey in pursuit of any news concerning her lover but encounters numerous obstacles and difficulties. This paper, therefore, discusses the various styles and the manner in which the authors of the two books have presented their stories. The paper will achieve this through comparing and contrasting the two books.

The novel farming of bones is more detailed when it comes to various aspects of writing. The writer employs a unique style where he gives an explanation of the book’s title in the course of his writing. In chapter 10, the writer alludes to the book’s title when the main character who is Amabelle refers to cane fields in the local dialect (Danticat, page 3-34). The local dialect term ‘travay te pou zo’ loosely translates to the farming of bones which in this case is the title of the book. According to the author, the cane fields are dangerous and sometimes life threatening since most of the workers in these cane fields have scars or have had their hands mutilated. The character Amabelle dwells more on the past with memories of her dead parents being alluded to. The character Yves wonders why he did not die during an accident and the massacre. Other characters in the novel are not able to move past their earlier experiences and end up feeling like they are living dead.

This is in sharp contrast with Mohsin Hamid’s style in the book the reluctant fundamentalist. In this novel, Hamid does not allude to the book’s title in the entire story and portrays the main character as someone who has overcome his past (Hamid, page 5-23). Changez is not haunted by his past like the characters in the book farming of bones. Changez was able to overcome his experiences to the extent of abandoning America. Either, Hamid separates the main character in his book from the environment where he got his experience that is being discussed. This is in sharp contrast with Edwidge Danticat’s work in the book farming of bones. In his book, Danticat is not able to separate the main characters in his story from the environment in which they got their experiences that is under discussion.

When it comes to the structure of the books, there is some form of similarities since the two writers have employed the usage of first person narrative to tell their stories. In the book farming of bones, the writer uses the character Amabelle to tell the story. The writer makes the Amabelle character to tell her story in past tense lacing it with some dreams and past memories (Danticat, page 3-43). He goes further to intermingle memories and dreams within the story which helps in developing the story. Either, it helps in understanding the past experiences of the character Amabelle. Hamid also employs the usage of the first-person narrative as the character Changez gives an account of his experience by narrating through past tense though he does not delve so much into developing the Changez character throughout the book.

Danticat has also used a number of styles and strategies in his book something that Hamid has not embraced that much. In his book, Danticat has heavily used symbolism and applied it to a more general truth. The first is the word parsley, whose mere pronunciation determined whether an individual was to live or not within the Dominican Republic (Danticat, page 3-34). The writer has also used dreams as a style, not only to develop his characters, but also to help characters escape from nightmares and realities that haunt them. Amabelle keeps dreaming of her parents drowning in a river while Sebastian dreams about his father dying in the hurricane. Danticat also uses the sugar cane as a symbol in his book where Amabelle keeps dreaming about the sugar woman. The sugar woman is bound by chains and wears a silver muzzle which was given to her so that she does not consume the sugarcane.

Danticat has also used foreshadowing in the book farming of bones in many instances. An example is when the doctors says that ‘many of us start out as twins in the belly and do away with each other’. This is found in chapter 4 page 19 of the book and it overshadows the death of Rafael (Danticat, page 1-20). It also overshadows the fate of the people of Haiti. Haitians and Dominicans hail from the same region and should accommodate each other yet it is the Dominicans who do away with the Haitians. Mohsin Hamid’s story line in the book the reluctant fundamentalist does not offer much in terms of style. The story is more of a dramatic monologue that does not employ the usage of many strategies and styles. Therefore, Danticat has used a number of strategies and styles while Hamid has only used dramatic monologue as a style to tell his story.

Both writers have given their stories a plot that can easily be identified as actual places that do exist. They have not used fiction to give their stories a set up. Danticat gives his story a plot in the Dominican Republic setting it up in the 1930s. He tells a story of a Haitian lady named Amabelle who is orphaned at the age of 8 years. Amabelle’s life revolves around her lover named Sebastian. They both work in the sugar cane farm and at the time of an accident that claims Sebastian’s friend, the Haitians distrust for the Dominican government increases. The government comes up with a plot to cleanse the Dominican Republic by eliminating Haitians making them return to their country.

Hamid also gives his story a plot identified with an existing place as he sets it up in Pakistan. The whole story starts in the streets of Lahore where Changez offers to give an American direction on where he can get a good cup of tea (Hamid, page 3-34). As the two wait patiently for their tea, Changez engages in a conversation where he does the talking while the American listens. He talks a lot about his life story especially during the period he lived in America. He talks about his academic achievements, sexual encounters with a lady who ends up disappearing and the manner in which he is treated at work. He also talks about his excitement of the 9/11 attack and his growing resentment of the Americans which eventually leads him to leave the country. In both stories, the writers have given their stories plots that are set up it real life scenes that one can identify.

Both the writers have also used a number of characters to tell their stories and bring out the cultures of the people in their set up. In both cases, there are foreigners who work in countries where they are viewed with suspicion. These foreigners have to endure a lot of things even though they must work hard to survive in these countries. Even though they show signs of contentment at the initial stages of their stay in the foreign lands, things turn for the worst towards the end. In the book farming of bones, the Dominican government responds to resentment from the Haitians by cleansing the Dominican society. This was meant to do away with the Haitians who were seen as a nuisance within the Dominican Republic. In the book the reluctant fundamentalist, the main character also goes to a foreign land where he does well in his academic pursuits. He gets a good job and is treated well at his workplace. Things change for the worst when there is a terrorist attack which leads to a shift in attitude towards him (Hamid, page 4-43). He is treated differently and he resents the treatment given to him. He also rejoices at the fact that people he shares with the same religion attacked the United States and goes to an extent of growing beards to show solidarity with these terrorists. In the end, his passport expires and he loses his job too. He does not bother to look for another job nor renew his passport but opts to return to his country which is a sign of his resentment of the American society.

Works Cited

Danticat, Edwidge. "The Farming Of Bones." Américas 52.3 (2000): 64-64.

Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Ernst Klett Sprachen, 2012.

July 29, 2022




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