Exit West: The Antithesis Of The Stranger

It’s not hard to notice the stark differences between The Stranger and Exit West. At a fundamental level, we as readers are no longer following a possibly deranged sociopath. On a more literary level, we as readers have been charged to forgo our new found ideas of existentialism. In an unnamed war-torn region, Nadia and Saeed spend their days in the constant knowledge that these may be their last. Balmy sunny mornings are not an opportunity to go to the beach with one’s lover, instead, Nadia and Saeed spend their quiet moments to secure emergency supplies and the means of escape. See, Nadia and Saeed can’t afford to be existentialists. The “life has no meaning” attitude doesn’t really fly when people are depending on you. The idea that existentialism is a luxury isn’t quite noted in The Stranger. From Exit West, you realize the deeper purpose of some of our social constructs. You always can say that religion, family structures, and relationships have been used to oppress others in the past. But when we take a closer look, these are also the structures that push us to stay alive. When Saeed’s mother is senselessly killed, Saeed and his father turn to one another and their shared religion to grieve. These societal pillars allow the two to move forward and progress with their lives. You could make the argument that if Saeed’s father was an existentialist, then he would have been able to move on from the absence of his wife. If he didn’t feel such a loving connection to his lost wife, he could have made the more rational decision, and made the passage through the doorway. But by refusing to accept this existentialist rational, Saeed’s father may have saved Nadia and his son. Saeed no longer has to be entrusted with the safety of his father. A burden that may have slowed him down in the long run. Saeed as a character somehow manages to keep a positive outlook on life, even in the midst of all of the chaos he has experienced. You could make the argument that his strong faith has allowed him to perceive the world in this light. He clings to the loving relationship he shares with Nadia and his religious views to get him through each day. In contrast, Mersualt rejected religion and a traditional relationship. Two aspects that may have prevented him from making the choices he did. And in the end, where does he end up? The gallows. 

4 thoughts on “Exit West: The Antithesis Of The Stranger

  1. EMILY I

    I agree with your point that Saeed uses his loving relationship with Nadia to stay positive and hopeful for their future. Their connection and romantic bond has allowed them to maintain their relationship throughout their travels. They both share the idea of leaving their crumbling city in order to have a better future, and they use their sexual attraction to each other to get through hard times.

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  2. Grace S

    I really enjoyed this blog post! I did not even think about comparing the two books and I agree that there is not way that Saeed and Nadia can be existentialist. When you are fleeing from a war and are trying to find a safe place to save it is impossible to live a care free life. There is so much on the line for them and they can’t just let that all go.

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  3. Lauren d.

    I agree that Nadia and Saeed could not really afford to be existentialists in order to survive. I think it is very interesting how Meausault is the one that is so negative and believes life has no meaning when he is the one with an easier life. Whereas Nadia and Saeed would be more logically people that have earned the right to be more negative.

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  4. YUNHAO XU

    Well, I mean Saeed’s father is definitely not an existentialist. The person hurt most when Saeed’s mother passed away was his father. However, I would like to argue that Nadia was kinda like an existentialist. Both at the beginning of the novel and the end talk about how Nadia liked her small space. She was willing to enter a relationship with the people she was really interested in like Saeed and the musician, but that was not love. That can also explain why she refused Saeed’s invitation to live with him at first and why Nadia lost interest in Saeed at the end.

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