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The American

Liev Schreiber as Bobby Lincoln or The American in the filmatization of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The American

The American is a nameless character in the novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist. He is never given a name in the novel, however Changez presumes he is American. The American is doing an interview with Changez, something that strikes us as an interrogation. He is around his 40's and, as described by Changez, looks like a "seasoned soldier."  

Description

Changez immediately gives signals that he does not like the American. He comes in contact with Changez because of the kidnapping, and that makes Changez a suspect. He describes the American as a "seasoned soldier." By this he means the way he is, he seems rather strong, broad shoulders and a style of carrying himself that gives him associations of an old soldier. There are more descriptions later on that confirms why he might think so. He is constantly looking behind himself as he is talking to Changez, it seems he worries for something. Changez describes this as him bing on a "mission." Kind of like what James Bond would do in one of his old movies. He also has nervous movement, and always seems to place his back against the wall, one less angle to look out for. His jacket i bulging at his chest, something Changez assumes is where he keeps his business cards. As the readers, combining a watchful American on a mission, we immediately thought of a gun, and this might be the case.

Development

Changez only meets up with the American a number of times, and he never seems to change. Changez describes it as he is on a "mission". As Changez meets him, the American is always very apprehensive of his surroundings, and keeps reaching for something inside his jacket every time he gets nervous. He always sits with the back against the wall, and seems rather suspicious and afraid at all times. At first, Changez thinks nothing of the American. He assumes he was sent to interrogate him on a kidnapping, performed by one of his students. The American lives up to this role, until the final parat of the book. As they enter a hotel he sees the American reaching for his inner jacket. Up until this point, Changez had always assumed it was where he kept his business cards, however it is likely he was carrying a gun. Whether or not he was going to use the gun or not, we will never know, as the book ends with him entering the hotelroom with the hand inside his pocket.


Meaning

As a character The American was a rather genius addition to the book. By never giving him a name, we are forced to take the role ourselves. We now have to make subjective judgements about the novel, from the perspective of the American. It really makes the reader think and weigh each of the sides, before choosing one. 

At the end he also makes us question what will happen. This makes us remember the book, and keep thinking of what might have happened to Changez, as he entered the hotel. One can think the American was going to shoot Changez, as he reaches for his inner pocket, however he might just do the same reflex as he has been doing every time he gets nervous. By making the American like this, we kind of think of whole America as suspicious and violent. They seem to reach to violence everytime things get a little tight. It is also very common for American action movies to use the "inner pocket reach" in sticky situations. 

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