Incorporating Breath, Eyes and Memory
Comparative analysis of ONE of the following topics, incorporating Breath, Eyes and Memory and Reluctant Fundamentalist into your discussion
Exile: Comparative Analysis of Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist
The different encounters that exiled people experience has been the subject of many scholars and writers. According to Said, exile in the modern world is not only a jealous state, but also an exaggerated state of group solidarity where there is a passionate hostility towards the outsiders (178). Notably, exile creates a division between “us” and a sense of “outsiders” for those seeking exile in other countries. A majority of exiles have focused on the experiences of those who have moved to the western world due to war or in search for greener pastures. One of the novels that provide the experiences of those in exile is Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory. In this writing, Danticat presents the story of Sophie Caco who moved from Haiti where she was living with her Tante Atie and to America as well as her experiences in the US. However, in Hamid’s, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the focus is on Changez’s life from Pakistan to America and back to Pakistan. This novel illustrates how Changez had to grapple between continuing with his job in New York (which meant siding with America) or abandoning America and returning to Pakistan. Based on these readings, exile is an enlightening albeit hateful and discriminatory space because those exiled do not feel any sense of identity and acceptance in the foreign states.
Both novels, Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist are connected by the manner in which they present the purpose of exile in presenting new beginnings and enlightening those exiled. Notably, Said argues that despite the discrimination, hostility and hate that exiles face, they get enlightened about some aspects of life in the foreign countries (170). For instance, in Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory, when Sophie moved into the United States, she attended college with the aim of getting new skills and being equipped with modern competencies to get a good job (Danticat 30). Additionally, Sophie is more enlightened on how her mother had to work two jobs to not only support herself, but also send money to Haiti, her motherland. These incidences demonstrate how exile can be a place where people exiled get more competencies and understand life from different perspectives. Similarly, in Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Changez gets a better job after moving from Pakistan by working in the American high finance (Hamid 20). She lives a better life that the one she led when in Pakistan. Her entire stay in the Wall Street enlightens him about ways to become a better financier and thus, demonstrates that exile can be a source of enlightenment for those exiled. The skills that Changez gains while in the US enables him to become a university lecturer when he returned back to Pakistan (Hamid 97). As such, the two novels are similar in their display of the enlightenment advantages of exile to the expatriates.
The enlightenment that exiles get and the frustrations they face in exile empowers them to return to their mother countries and become agents of change. This aspect is well demonstrated in the two novels where the main characters eventually return to their motherlands. In Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory, after Sophie experiences life in America and attends college, she returns to Haiti with her daughter Brigitte with the aim of visiting Atie as well as her Grandma Ife. However, even in the US, she uses the life skills and lessons she has gained to become an agent of change. For instance, she joins a group of women who have had similar experience as her- sexual abuse and receives counselling (Danticat 172). Nevertheless, Sophie is unable to help Martine who committed suicide with the aim of ending her pregnancy. Similarly, in Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Changez eventually abandons his New York job and returns to Pakistan to further his identity. When in Lahore, Pakistan, Changez used the skills he had gained in his stay in exile to provide education to university students (Hamid 97). Also, he became an ardent advocate for anti-Americanism. Moreover, the knowledge that Changez had gained about the foreign world inspired him to conduct oft-violent political rallies. Although Changez had other options such as advocating for change while still in the US, he chose to return home and establish his identity while also applying skills gained to bring changes to his motherland. However, the novels are also similar in how they illustrate the fate faced by exiles in foreign countries.
In both novels by Danticat and Hamid, exile is presented as a frustrating encounter where by the exiles experience hate and discriminations from the non-exiles. This aspects is well explored by Said who argues that exiles are seen by non-exiles as outsiders and hence the exiles found themselves without a clear sense of identity and belonging (178). In Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory, the hate is demonstrated by the discussion of Sophie’s world in the US where she was living with her mother. Specifically, Part 1 discusses how Sophie is yet to find an identity because she did not conform to the close neighborhood, the political situations, and the various discrimination that she faced because of being a single mother (Danticat 39). Additionally, she has to deal with the attitudes of those in her circles and neighborhood because of the fact that she had a Haitian heritage. She is hated because of her origins and the fact that she is an exile. Similarly, in Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Changez faces hate in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack. Specifically, he was accused of the attack because of his race and became the target of racist slurs from the non-exiles (Hamid 40). His disappointment reaches peak when America planned a military retaliation against the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The feeling of fate coupled with discrimination because of color becomes a reason for Changez to think about going back to Pakistan. Overall, exile is a state where people find themselves because of the lack of a better option and the need to have better futures.
Exile is a space whereby people are forced by circumstances to travel to as opposed to something that they do voluntarily. Said has provided examples about how African slaves were exiled in the US because they were forced to provide cheap labor the colonial plantations. Additionally, modern exile is more focused on the search for greener pastures. Such aspects are well demonstrated in the two novels. For instance, in the case of Changez in Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory, his primary reason for moving from Pakistan to the United States was to get a better job and become a successful individual in his life (Hamid 1-3). For this reason, he moved from Pakistan to New York to get a well-paying job that could enable him achieve his dreams. Similarly, Sophie moved from Haiti to join her mother in the United States so that she could study and get a better life. Although she faced various hurdles in her quest to become successful in the US, she got vital skills that enabled her to get married in the US despite her origins. The two stories confirm the reason behind exile; to get better opportunities in foreign countries. Also, they concur with Said’s assertions that exile is never comfortable for the exile because of the competition between “us” versus “them” which is mostly fueled by the non-exiles.
In sum, exile is an enlightening albeit passionately hateful and discriminatory space based on the experiences of Changez and Sophie in Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist respectively. Both novels demonstrate how exiles benefited from moving into the US from their motherland. Also, the novels are similar in presenting how exiles are hated on and discriminated against because of their origins and races. For instance, after 9/11, Changez faced racist slurs from people in the US because of her origins in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The novels are also similar in how they show that exile is an option that people take in the search for greener pastures. For instance, both Changez and Sophie moved to the US to acquire better education and well-paying jobs compared to their home countries. These readings support Said’s theory that exile is not only a jealous state but also an exaggerated space where exiles face passionate hostility from the non-exiles.
Danticat, Edwidge. Breath, eyes, memory. Soho Press, 2012.
Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Harvest Books, 2008.
Said, Edward W. Reflections on exile: and other literary and cultural essays. Granta Books, 2013.