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Fiction as resistance : the post-9/11 novel as an alternative to the dominant narrative : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
This thesis explores three post-9/11 novels, namely Don DeLillo's Falling Man, Mohsin
Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Ian McEwan's Saturday, in terms of their
resistance to the dominant narrative that overtook the media and political rhetoric in the
days after September 11, 2001. I demonstrate how, through this resistance, the novels
create spaces for the reader to re-examine and re-imagine the causes for, consequences
of, and responses to 9/11. There are three aspects of this dominant narrative: America
the Brave – although Americans suffered huge loss of life and significant trauma, the
media and government agencies focused firmly on the heroics of the days surrounding
the events rather than the more uncomfortable or tragic elements. The second aspect is
one that was clearly stated by President Bush when he said “You are with us, or you are
with the terrorists.” The third aspect is that of America as innocent victim and the
terrorists as evil perpetrator.
DeLillo's Falling Man principally disrupts the dominant narrative by reinstating
Richard Drew's censored photograph, the Falling Man, thereby rectifying the
undemocratic editing of what was to be included in the photographic history of 9/11.
Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist gives centre stage to Changez, a Pakistani male
who represents those of Middle Eastern descent whose voices were elided from the
dominant narrative. Ian McEwan's Saturday troubles the conceptualisation of invasion
through the characters of Perowne and Baxter. Perowne represents Western privilege
and Baxter, despite being English, stands for the evil outsider. This notion of invasion
is troubled through questioning who is at fault for the invasion of the Perowne
household by Baxter and his friends and through the invasion of Baxter when Perowne
operates on him after throwing him down the stairs.
By reinstating the suppressed images, giving voice to silenced sections of
society and questioning of the motives and intentions of those in power, these three
novels work to resist the dominant narrative's powerful hold over the general public and
provide the imaginative space for new possibilities, new perspectives and critical
engagement with 9/11 and the responses to it.