After the 9/11 terror in 2001, the world has encountered the threat of terrorism and its tremendous horror. Post-9/11 trauma plagues people all over the world, and still remains vividly in our daily life. In literature, post-9/11 authors have attempted to represent the 9/11 terror and interrelated phenomena in their work so as to understand the nature and essence of the attack. This thesis explores specifically two post-9/11 novels, The Zero by Jess Walter and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. These novels represent different worlds―the West and the Muslim―yet correspond to each other in the main idea to shed new light on the interpretation of the 9/11. To interpret 9/11, the authors employ a narrative strategy through an‘unreliable’ narrator which causes the ‘unreliabiltiy’ of the narrative itself. This study investigates how Jess Walter employs the narrative strategy of an 'unreliable narrator' not only to deconstruct ‘Americanness’ but also dismantle the boundary between the Muslim world and the western world in The Zero and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
In The Zero, Jess Walter employs the unreliable third-person limited narrator making the reader delay the judgement of the value of the narrator as character and the overall narrative of the novel. A hero of the 9/11 terror and mainstream American representative, Brian Remy is a character symbolizing the post 9/11 trauma. Through the aspects of the split of Remy's whole identity into two selves, Walter raises the issue of‘unreliability’of the narrator and critiques how America with its exceptionalism and exclusive immigration politics makes the Third world the Other in order to maintain the current system of globalization.
Walter dismantles the dichotomy of the western world = ally vs. the Muslim world = enemy by having a Muslim character, Jaguar speak the truth of the narrative as opposed to the unreliable narrator, thus making the reader sympathize with the ‘Other’ and understand the American politics. As such the author's narrative strategy fosters a sense of tension for the reader to delay their judgement and critiques the false image of ‘Americanness.’
In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid represents the unreliability of the narrator, Changez, through his dramatic monologue which functions as a way of making the reader doubt the credibility of his whole story. As an immigrant from Pakistan, Changez aspires to succeed in America by assimilating himself into the mainstream circle, yet his confusion of his original identity and the bond with his home nation and family prevent him from belonging to any of the two worlds, thereby forcing him to come to terms with his own identity after the prevalent discrimination and oppression on the people of the Muslim culture which has been incited by the incident of the 9/11 terror. All of his story told in the form of a dramatic monologue from the first person narration reveals his unreliable aspects and at the same time it exposes the vainglorious diplomatic politics of America and its Othering of the third-world people.
I argue that Mohsin Hamid capitalizes on the narrative strategy of the unreliable narrator to make the reader doubt Changez at first, yet empathize, and ultimately understand. His monologue narrated from the first person point of view maximizes the narrative effect in that it tells the ‘truth’about the relationship between the Third world and America through the mouth of the ‘unreliable narrator.’
Comparing and contrasting the two different narrative styles regarding the narrator, the thesis examines how these two novels look at the 9/11 terror from a new perspective and suggests the possible solution of the conflict between the Muslim world and that of the West through the sincere communication with the Others.