Nadia and Saeed, the Answer to Existentialism

Starting this novel, I believed Exit West would connect to the theme of existentialism in the same way that The Stranger or the movie Trust did. However, this novel proved to do the exact opposite; by providing a way to cope with and get through a difficult situation that completely defies the cornerstones of existentialism. At first, their relationship is simply a distraction from their everyday lives, the author makes a point of stating that this is before the violence, danger, and peril that they would soon flee becomes prevalent. While describing Saeed and Nadia’s first introduction, the author foreshadows this terror that would soon make their relationship much more than just a fun, playful, distraction, “Saeed spoke to Nadia for the first time. Their city had yet to experience any major fighting, just some shootings and the odd car bombing…” He goes on to list more detailed and graphic examples of the lack of stability that would soon become commonplace in Nadia and Saeed’s worlds.

Contrasting this with the actions of Meursault in The Stranger, it is clear that Meursault does not have the same desire for human connection that Nadia and Saeed do. Saeed and Meursault both find themselves attracted to women, however Saeed is interested in more than just the physical beauty of the opposite sex, but Nadia’s interests, intellect, and overall character, in a way that Meursault is not. While working, Saeed is unable to stop thinking about Nadia, this is something that is almost laughable to picture Meursault relying on another person for happiness, or even using someone else as an outlet during a moment of struggle. Throughout Exit West, the relationship between Nadia and Saeed gets more serious, while the condition of their home does the same. The bond between Nadia and Saeed is as close as family, as Nadia is comfortable referring to Saeed’s dad as “father”, and they connect through prayer, another outlet to calm their mental state through the great trauma they have experienced.

While I have not yet finished the novel, the relationship between Nadia and Saeed has been everything but negative. They rely on each other for support, love, and sex, which is not only passionate but another outlet for them to forget the danger around them. Comparing this to The Stranger, Meursault was going through struggles that were far less serious or life threatening, however Meursault ends up struggling far more. He has nothing in his life that he finds fulfilling or is passionate about. While he is not unable of having connections with others, he does not find much value in them, and does not allow his deepest emotions to be shared with anyone. Exit West represents how an emotional connection with someone that understands your situation can be uplifting, and a source of purpose in a dark and sometimes unfulfilling world. The necessity of human connection through times of struggle is echoed in Trust, as the two main characters, the girl struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, and Matthew, the Existentialist who cannot find something to fulfill him and resorts to violence and alcohol, come together and find each other as a way to cope with the outside world.

One thought on “Nadia and Saeed, the Answer to Existentialism

  1. Finn G.

    I think the ideas in this post are very interesting, but I disagree on one thing. While existentialism does generally purport that the type of relationships society wants us to form are social constructs with no inherent meaning, it doesn’t say that you should never form relationships with people in your life — if that really makes you happy. Thus, Nadia and Saeed’s relationship doesn’t reject existentialism in any way, because they formed it for themselves, not because society told them they needed a partner.

    Liked by 1 person

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