The narrator deliberately compares and contrasts his experience in two countries and, from various points of view, attempts compassionate empathy and sympathy by showing the experiences of strangers living in different countries. The writer uses figuratively different elements, such as the appearance of Erica and Changez, the existence of bats and fireflies, and the tale of the Janissary.
Erica and Changez, America and Lahore
The narrator contrasts the relationship between the United States and Pakistan and the representative cities in which he lived, using the tale of Changez and Erica. Changez graduated from Princeton University with the hopes of achieving a dream in the US, but Erica might have been the implementation of the American Dream. In fact, he loves her and gets caught in a fantasy that seems to have gained everything, but the fantasy turns into reality and disappointment. He tried to fit himself in the urban life, and he realised that the situation seems closer to the Filipino driver than other white Underwood Samson’s fellow.
This situation implies the status of most of the strangers in the US land, including Changez, who followed American dreams, but was confined to reality and only remained a stranger. Also, Erica who cannot forget her dead boyfriend or love him, in reality, represents an American who cannot face reality by being caught up in glory and nostalgia of the past.
This American nostalgic aspect is definite when 9.11 happened. The narrator says “I had always thought of America as a nation that looked forward; for the first time I was struck by its determination to look back” (pp. 130-131). This American, Erica and Palestinian Changez have taken the struggle of their relationship in many different cultures and perspectives in the East and West.
Bats and Fireflies
The narrator likens life in the United States to bats that survived in the city and their lives in America. “But bats have survived here, they are successful urban dwellers, like you and I, swift enough to escape detection and canny enough to hunt among a crowd” (pp. 71-72).
“The goal I had when I first came to the United States is a dream that vanished from the city a long time ago, like a butterfly or firefly that has already disappeared. They are gone now; it is possible that, like butterflies and fireflies, they belonged to a dreamier world incompatible with the pollution and congestion of a modern metropolis” (p. 71).
He as a bat can survive in cities, but he positions himself in a fragile identity due to lack of a core. The Narrator also relates this lack of core with influencing him to pretend to be Chris in the relationship with Erica. The fragile identity causes him to choose one side of the cities. The most effective event in his transition was 9.11, where from that time he refused to be one of the New Yorkers and began to show that he is from outside the United States. At the end of the book, he refers to himself as a glowing bright firefly that transcends the boundaries of continents and civilisation (p. 207).
Story of Janissary
While the narrator was in middle of the struggle of his status, he heard the story of Janissary. He referred to himself as a modern-day janissary, a servant of the American empire at a time when it was invading a country with a kinship to mine and was perhaps even colluding to ensure that the country faced the threat of war (p. 173). Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased (p. 83). It is right to speak of the inconvenient truth that Americans are not free from such a view. There is no difference between Americans who are happy to see videos of America’s state – of – the – art weapons that suddenly ruins buildings in other countries. Also, the narrator as a Pakistani takes the form of talking unilaterally to anonymous Americans, which seems to be very symbolic and intentional. As obvious, that there are a lot of people who look at the world in different perspectives and talk in different voices.
Indeed, in the novel, there are many instances of unconsciousness, but it does not seem to matter whether or not the narrator’s story is true. The narrator asks for the reader to become an anonymous American with a sympathetic understanding and empathy.