“Perhaps…they had understood that the denial of coexistence would have required one party to cease to exist, and the extinguishing party too would have been transformed in the process”(Hamid 166). This sentence is part of a passage from Chapter 8 of Exit West that had a significant impact on me because of how pertinent it is to the current global tension around immigration. The debate over refugees and immigrants is especially polarizing in the United States right now, and it’s hard for members of either side to see the perspective of the other. But Hamid offers an insight into the minds of both through the novel’s omniscient point of view.
Of course, since the novel is centered around two refugees (Saeed and Nadia), there is more of their perspective than anyone else’s. However, in this particular passage, as well as (sporadically) throughout the whole book, Hamid shows the thought process of their opponents, and I thought it was really interesting to see how he thought they might approach the situation.
In the novel, the “nativists” ultimately give up on their plans to ambush and massacre the refugees, and Hamid determines that “they did not have it in them to…slaughter the migrants”(166). As much as they–and real-life nativists–may advocate for the eradication of immigrants, it takes quite a lot to actually do that, and at the end of the day most people do not actually want that to happen. In truth, they are simply afraid of the change that immigrants represent, so they come up with extreme ways to prevent that change. But in Exit West, Hamid imagines a future where those people come to terms with the situation and accept it for what it is, as hard as that may be, and I hope that this future is a plausible one for the world we live in. As Hamid says, “Courage is demanded not to attack when afraid”(166), and I would like to believe that more people have that courage in them than is apparent right now.