How does Hamid establish a strong sense of setting in the opening chapters of his novel?

The novel “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid, establishes a strong sense of setting in the opening chapters. This is done through descriptive details, personification, and second-person perspective.

One reason is that Hamid introduces us to so many locations in this novel: New York City, Greece, Lahore. By establishing a strong sense of setting, readers can easily distinguish between the various locations that are mentioned. For example, Princeton is a notable location mentioned in the novel. The unique description such as “acid treatment” and “ingenious stonemasonry” allows readers to visualize the location that is being described, as well as to distinguish Princeton apart from other locations.

Another interesting element that helps to create a strong sense of setting is by personifying the location. Mohad personifies Princeton University, “Princeton raised her skirt for the corporate recruiters who came onto campus and –as you say in America– showed them some skin”. This helps to not only add character to each location, but also helps to better understand how Changez perceives each location and how he thinks of Princeton as a university that loves to impress, as well as receive praise. This quote also helps to enrich readers as to the way Changez thinks, and foreshadows the motif of voyeurism, especially from how he chooses to personify Princeton as a university that is “young” and has good skin”.

Changez speaking of his own story on a location, and explicitly expressing his feelings towards it, also helps readers get a feeling of the location without having to be there. By Changez saying “I was the star and everything was possible” about Princeton, even readers who may not know much about the university realize the magnitude of influence this university has on the way someone thinks. I feel that this was only possible because of the second-person view that this novel was written in. Because of this, Changez is forced to explicitly speak about his stories to keep the conversation between him and the man interesting. This also forces Changez to be as descriptive as possible to communicate the emotions or beauty of a location better to the man.

These effects ultimately help us, the readers, visualize the settings better and understand the character of Changez.

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