The Dangers of Nostalgia in Mohsin Hamids The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Nostalgia: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Nostalgia is the sentimental longing or affection for the past that most people would associate with positive personal memories that transport them back to a happier time. Mohsin Hamid uses the concept of nostalgia throughout his novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, to communicate the life story of Changez to the American man while in Lahore, Pakistan at a café. In Hamid’s essay, “On the Dangers of Nostalgia”, Hamid depicts the prominence of nostalgia in our world today and how it has impeded on our growth for the future.

Throughout the novel, Changez is in a state of nostalgia as he looks back on his life in America and in Lahore as he tries to decipher how his experiences and choices helped him become the man he is in the present. It can be argued that Changez is trying to make sense of his past rather than being nostalgic of the past. However, it seems that Changez, in his present form, is allowing nostalgia to guide him through his past experiences and memories in order to come to a conclusion of who he has become.

In Changez’s professional life at Underwood Samson, he reflects on his own self-identity while working in Chile. After multiple months working for the valuation company, Changez is confronted with the decision to leave Underwood Samson after consulting with Juan-Bautista in Chile. Juan Bautista attempts to shed light on, what he believes to be the underlying concept of Changez’s job, whether Changez believes it or not, and how it resembles the Janissaries from the middle east.

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This conversation leads Changez to a deep bout of introspection” (Hamid 152) which guides him to a nostalgic reflection of the type of person he has become. Changez experiences a time of disillusion which causes him to be weary of the future. This connects to Hamid’s attempts in his article to point out that nostalgic reflections can lead individuals to be “unstable in the present” (Hamid par. 8) instead of bringing them back to happier times. These events cause Changez to be sensitive to the world around him and a sort of lost identity that stems from a nostalgic reflection.

One of the major nostalgic reflections that Changez presents to the American is of Erica. Changez meets Erica on a holiday vacation in Greece after their graduation. He was fascinated with her at first site, mentioning how “stunningly regal” (Hamid 16) she was. They developed a strong acquaintance through their time together which then continued when they returned to New York. Changez reminisces through the memories they created of going from party to party in Manhattan. He seems to be more nostalgic of Erica compared to all of the other experiences that he had by mentioning her more often than not. However, Erica had her own nostalgic filled days that prevented her from fully experiencing life. She often fell into the routine of speaking of Chris, her past boyfriend who died from cancer, which did not seem to bother Changez. Erica seemed to be in a constant state of nostalgia although it seemed to Changez that she was active in the present. In “On the Dangers of Nostalgia”, Hamid notes that humans live and exist “in one moment, then in another… until we reach our end” (Hamid par.1) which accurately depicts Erica’s character through most of her life after Chris. She does not move on after his death but is paralyzed by one memory that haunts her which is the danger that Hamid is trying to shine light on by his article. Due to her inability to free herself from the nostalgic memories of Chris, Erica was unable to be fully present for Changez and their relationship.

The end of the book is a great example of how the author exemplifies the lack of control we have about the future and how we have to let go and explore the possibilities. In the end of the novel, Hamid leaves Changez’s fate in the reader’s hands. This unusual ending seems to have parallel connections to what Hamid is trying to use nostalgia to describe in his article. He tries to point out in the article that as time and technology seems to be moving forward faster than we can comprehend, we begin to hold onto the nostalgic ideas and memories that we know we can rely on, as to be “resistant to the future” (Hamid par. 8). The novel ends with Changez trusting the American to give him a business card, but no further action or dialogue. This can show how the future is unknown for both Changez and humanity, therefore we have to grapple with a conclusion that will satisfy our need for concrete answers. As the article notes, “we are left stranded” (Hamid par. 8) with the unknown ending as well as our unknown future with which we try to predict, but ultimately “seem unlikely to occur” (Hamid par. 8).

Changez’s storytelling to the American takes the reader on a journey of deep nostalgia into Changez’s previous years. The shared connection of Nostalgia between both The Reluctant Fundamentalist and “On the Dangers of Nostalgia”, shows that nostalgia can be both good and bad for an individual and a society. In Changez’s accounts, nostalgia played a central role throughout his life with his family and his decision making. For Erica, it seemed as if she was trapped in a nostalgic state all through her life due to the passing of Chris. In both cases, nostalgia was a major piece that altered both of their lives, for better and for worse.

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The Dangers of Nostalgia in Mohsin Hamids The Reluctant Fundamentalist. (2021, Dec 25). Retrieved from

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