There’s no equality for life.

The story that Mohsin Hamid tells is a very relevant one in today’s politically broken, war-plagued world. Since we live such privileged lives, satisfied with all of our needs, we often forget about the Saeed and Nadia’s’ of the world. When we are preoccupied with the comforts of first-world life, a world other than our own seems too far away. We cannot fathom what refugees from war-torn countries must deal with. Their lives are based around survival. Their everyday worries are ones we have seldom had to deal with.

One of the most impactful lines in the story happens to be at the very beginning—”for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings an middles until the instant when it does” (Hamid, 4). As someone born and raised in the United States, I have never thought of life in this way. Instead, I saw life and the act of living as a stable state of being. But to someone like Saeed or Nadia, life is much more insecure. For even though we both exist at the same time and the same plane, one explosion could mean the end for a life just as valuable and just as real as my own. 

The Tea Behind Why Saeed and Nadia’s Relationship Suffered

When speaking about the deterioration of Saeed and Nadia’s relationship, Mohsin Hamid states “They had not been very romantic of late, each still perceiving the grating of their presence on the other, and they put this down to being too long in too close proximity, a state of unnatural nearness in which any relationship would suffer”(140).

This passage brings into question: Does a relationship tend to suffer due to an unnatural closeness or excessive time spent together?

First of all, couples vary in how much time is spent together. To some couples, hanging out everyday is natural, but to others, once a week is just enough. Therefore, spending an excessive amount of time together varies with each relationship.

The problem comes into the picture when the amount of spent time together leads to arguments and a sense of distress when the pair is separated from one another. These signs often suggest codependency.

A codependent relationship is one where a person is needy or dependent upon another person. Upon first glace, this may not sound like Saeed and Nadia’s relationship. Both are very strong characters, especially the independent Nadia who moves out of her house at a young age, without marrying. However, there is far more to a codependent relationship.

A codependent person’s goal often becomes fixing things, helping others, or pleasing people. This is evident within Saeed and Nadia’s relationship because at various points in the story, although they were experiencing tension within their relationship, they mentioned that all they wanted was to help one another. Saeed wished that he could please and help Nadia but he couldn’t and it filled him with sorrow. This is a sign of codependency because over time he slowly began losing his original identity and started caring solely about helping Nadia.

A codependent person also leans on someone else for support or solutions. Nadia and Saeed relied a whole lot on each other to make decisions. If one did not agree with the other there would be a lot of tension and they always made sure to come to a final decision together. There was no way that they were going to make independent decisions at such a point in their relationship.

Therefore, spending too much time with another person can often lead to toxicity because of the development of codependency.

The line on page 140 struck me as foreshadowing of Saeed and Nadia’s relationship. Similar to a lot of psychological issues, there is a sense of awareness of one’s problem but confessing it is difficult. In this case, Nadia started becoming aware of the toxicity of the codependency but she did not do much to fix it. Instead, they looked towards giving each other space, until ultimately they grew apart completely.

What Is Migration?

Exit West showed us a world where people are migrating by the masses. They are moving across the world by literally stepping through a door. Exit West has showed us the struggle of immigration without the journey of immigration. Many who are not so keen on immigration, or specifically illegal immigration, gain more empathy when they put the journey of the immigrants into consideration, but this story has showed a different side. Exit West has showed the commonality between multitudes of people. That even without the long journey of migration, it is still incredibly hard to move through change and leave life as you know, or to witness others move while one seemingly stays stagnant. Exist West has showed its audience that there is truly not such thing as stagnation or true stability.

Exit West has stories of those that physically moved continuously like Nadia and Saeed and stories of those that did not move at all like the elderly man in Amsterdam, or the older woman in Palo Alto. At first glance, it seems like one is moving while the other is not, but the truth is quite the opposite. The elderly man in Amsterdam was a witness to many components in life migrating or changing: his lover leaving, his father dying, the gain of a new love, while he still remained constant in other ways. He stayed in the same place, never stopped smoking cigarettes, he never stopped hanging out on his balcony. In Saeed’s case, it seemed that everything changed. He lost both of his parents, moved into the western world, and watched his relationship with Nadia deteriorate. But he also had things he clung onto that added stability into his life. He prayed, went to sleep next to Nadia every night, and he worked.

I believe the true thesis of Exit West is best said in the quote from the elderly woman in Palo Alto. She said, “… everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same houses our whole lives, because we can’t help it. We are all migrants through time.” Mohsin Hamid beautifully detailed that we are far more similar than we think, although our differences are still prime parts our identities as well. But if we see ourselves in the migrants we hear of everyday and keep in mind our own migrations, although they may not be as intense or life altering, then we would be so much closer to universal understanding.

Exit West and the Fear of the Unknown

“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.

Religious Autonomy

In Exit West, Saeed says that “He asked to learn [prayer] before his parents had yet thought of teaching him” (201). This sentence struck me because it was the first time I have read or heard of parents choosing to wait to indoctrinate their child into their religion.

Most people I know who are religious have been religious their whole life, and they have practiced the same religion, which is usually the religion their parents practice as well. Religion is such a strong influence on people’s actions. Most parents pass their religion onto their children without considering the child’s agency because that is “how it is done.” Children grow up knowing only the one religion and are not given a chance to experiment with what religion they connect with. If they question their inherited religion, they run the risk of being shunned (to varying degrees).

In Exit West, Saeed and Nadia respect each other’s religious expression. Nadia rejected her family’s expectations and Saeed followed his family’s practices, and they are both happy with the way they choose to express their beliefs. Saeed is happy with his choice to continue practicing his religion because it strengthened his bond with others. Nadia chose to not follow her family’s religion because she could not find a reason to keep practicing it. Why should she lose her family for that?

Divisions in Exit West

In Hamid’s society, borders set by governments or created by oceans or mountains can be overlooked. Because of the doors, the process of migration is sped up, and countries cannot build walls or physically keep migrants out. Hamid highlights the prevalence of xenophobia and shows humans’ tendencies to divide through his accelerated migration.

When Nadia and Saeed are in London, England, the natives and the migrants are very clearly divided. England attempts to enforce their laws upon the migrants and violently threatens them. The natives believe that the migrants will diminish something about their country. They feel threatened by all the people pouring into their city, and reject the newcomers.

Divisions are created not only between natives and migrants, but within the migrant community as well. In London, the migrants divide themselves up by national affiliations. Saeed and Nadia end up living around the Nigerians, and Saeed feels uncomfortable because of the unfamiliarity of all these people have something in common that he does not. He eventually finds people from his own country and gravitates towards them, finding comfort in their similarity to him, even though they are more stranger to him than the Nigerians are now.

Whether it is the non migrants reacting to the migrants or the migrants reacting to each other, the fear of being isolated and singled out creates divisions in society.

Lovers to Strangers

The story of Saeed and Nadia, is a story that is often not written which is why Exit West is a great book and touches on themes and topics that are often talked about in the media. However, the love story between Nadia and Saaed, and their journey from being Lovers to almost Strangers is very common in the entertainment world. From books to movies and most commonly music the love story of Nadia and Saeed is quite common, from how they where close to growing distant and moving on from each other.

An example of this love story is in Katy Perry’s song Small Talk with one of the main lines being “we went from strangers to lover the strangers in a lifetime”. Just like Nadia and Saeed did, they where both lovers at the beginning and where each others emotional support and “other half” and the beginning. As the story progress Nadia and Saeed love in a way dies out, and they become separated emotional and later physically. The journey they took helped them bond at the beginning and as the journey they took ended Nadia and Saeed began to grow distant. Just like Katy Perry’s song it talks about how they had a great journey and then ended up being almost strangers in the end.

Maintaining Relationships

I thought it was both interesting and sad when Hamid wrote about the evolution of the different relationships in the story. He described Saeed’s parents’ relationship, saying that over the years they had sexually distanced themselves from each other and from the way things used to be. Hamid wrote that “Saeed’s mother would sometimes wonder whether he did this out of genuine desire or habit or simply for closeness” (14). Their relationship in a way had lost a flame and it didn’t have an impact on me until Hamid wrote about the dwindling relationship between Nadia and Saeed. On page 200, Hamid describes Nadia’s feelings for Saeed. Nadia wishes she could have their old relationship back and says that she no longer craved his body and that their relationship had become more like siblings. This made me upset because of everything they went through as a couple and their journey together was coming to an end.

This made an impact on me because I feel that a lot of people take relationships for granted. “Exit West” reinforces the importance of relationships opposed to Meursault’s look on life in “The Stranger”. I think when we are on our death bed, we will all look back on the relationships we made with others opposed to how much money we made or how successful we were. Relationships that humans have with one another makes life worth living and it’s important to work hard to maintain healthy and happy relationships in our lives, especially the most important ones.

The Effect of The Narrative of “Exit West”

In “Exit West,” Mohsin Hamid tells a riveting story about two main characters, Saeed and Nadia, in a war torn city. While much of the novel focuses on Saeed and Nadia’s travels away from their home city, I think that the first part of the novel in the city is just as important as the immigration in the second part of the novel.

The first part of the novel focuses on the war torn city that Saeed and Nadia are living in and their day to day lives inside the city. It recounts Saeed and Nadia going about their lives normally: going to work everyday, going grocery shopping, and even partaking in some drugs. Basically until the last few weeks before they leave through a door, Saeed and Nadia go throughout their lives with very little change despite the war.

I think this narrative from inside a war torn city is important for Westerners to read and understand. So often we watch the news or read the newspaper, where all that is focused on in areas experiencing conflict is physical destruction and political turmoil. The news also focuses on people fleeing war torn cities. This novel takes away the element of hard journeys of migration by implementing the idea of doors, allowing the reader to focus on the narrative of Saeed and Nadia. And as Western readers, I think it is important for us to understand that what we hear in the news isn’t the whole perspective. “Exit West” is an excellent narrative to understand a little bit more of the narrative of people in war torn areas.

Saeed, Nadia, and Assimilation

Though the United States does not have an official national language. Still, according to a Pew study, 70% of people in the U.S. said that speaking English is important for assimilating and being “truly American.”

Nadia seems to have embraced this, and rarely speaks the language of her home country, while Saeed seeks out others who come from a similar background and prays daily.

It seems that Nadia is adjusting more easily than Saeed. Her use of English and disinterest in their birth country is part of assimilating and adjusting to an “American” life. She doesn’t dwell on the past as much as Saeed, and she doesn’t feel the same need to make friends with others from her birth country.

But she still wears her black robes.

At her co-op, her robes identify her as an outsider to the man with a pistol, and even to her co-workers. Despite this, she doesn’t take them off.

Though Nadia and Saeed assimilate and adjust differently, both of them honor their backgrounds and roots.

Exit West: Somewhat Dystopian Outlook

In Exit West, it is clear that Hamid is making a statement on the way people handle immigration into their hometowns. Throughout the book Saeed and Nadia travel through doors and move to many different places. Every place they move, they seem to feel foreign and unwelcome. Both of them have to find some sort of community to make them feel welcome wherever they go. Like how Saeed prayed with the preacher’s daughter in San Francisco and his group in London that reminded him of home. There is a migrant crisis wherever they go because the doors make it so easy to pass through and go to any country you please. And while this is a fictional book, it is obvious that Hamid is is connecting this to the present even if it came out two years ago.

While the book is telling the story of Saeed and Nadia, it also shows undertones of the migration crisis in every place they go. When Saeed and Nadia escape their hometown and go to London it is clear they are unwelcome. The citizens make the job market almost impossible to navigate and the immigrants stay completely separated from the natives. But the most obvious thing Hamid is hinting at is the somewhat gentrification in cities like Marin County. At one point in the book (when Saeed and Nadia move to San Francisco), the Narrator describes Marin County as relatively impoverished and lower income. This is an obvious hint at how the citizens feel about migration because Marin County is one of the richest and most expensive places to live in currently. Hamid is showing the audience how some people are so afraid of change and migration that they will move as soon as someone different from them comes to where they live. The property values went down because all the rich people got out as soon as others came in. Hamid called out this issue of people being scared of immigrants in a really subtle yet smart way. He follows the love story of Nadia and Saeed but also adds in those small hints about whats going on in the outside world both in the book and in real life. This story is a good warning for some of the people in this country who still believe walls should be separating us.

The Ending of Exit West

My first thoughts after finishing Exit West was that it was a sad ending. After thinking about it more I thought maybe it wasn’t so sad because both characters found new relationships that they were happy in. Furthermore, Nadia and Saeed ended on good terms and even talked after their breakup.

I think that the ending was supposed to be happy, but I still can’t help feeling sad about how it ended. I feel like I was there with Nadia and Saeed through their relationship and everything they went through. So when the part came that they ended things with each other, I couldn’t help but be upset. I had just read a couple hundred pages about their relationship and I thought that they were such a good couple and I was sure they would make it. I think that although this ending is sad in some aspects, it is most realistic. A lot of people date and break up and its completely normal, but it can still be sad when it ends.

Exit West and My Personal Connection

Mohsin Hamid’s novel “Exit West” portrays a variety of themes, but one that stuck out most to me was migration. Although there are themes of love, family, and religion, I found that the novels themes revolving immigrants and migration connected best to me because of my grandparents.

In my life I tend to be surrounded by two different worlds, my grandparents on my mothers side and my grandparents on my fathers side. My grandmother from my fathers side migrated from Panama and my grandfather on my fathers side migrated from England. Although these places are on opposite sides of the world, both these people share a life changing experience. Like my grandparents, Nadia and Saeed had migrated to a totally different world and had to adapt to many life changes. In today’s world, and especially in the US, there is a lot of commotion with fleeing immigrants and negative opinions towards them. Exit West is so captivating because it gives a perspective of how some people are searching for a better life and seeking asylum.

Overall with my personal connections and the current news, Exit West was a great representation of people in search of hope. In the end I find it important that more people read these types of Novels so they can escape their perfect worlds and dive into the realization of how many people live.

Exit West: Doors to the Unknown

In Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, migrants find themselves searching for safety despite constant threats from people who want to enforce borders, such as the militants in Saeed and Nadia’s city or the nativists in London. Yet, for Saeed and Nadia, the world has opened itself up in a mysterious but beautiful way, as doors are appearing that transport anyone who walks through them to other parts of the world. In this way, the doors transcend boundaries set by governments to restrict movement between nations. Although, using these doors leads to new kinds of divisions that have less to do with physical divisions than with socially constructed separations.

Typically, stories about refugees/migration focus on the transit, the journey to their destination. Yet, in Exit West, Hamid tells a story of migration in which the migrant’s journey is compressed into an instant. Hamid uses the symbol of a door, through which migrants pass almost seamlessly from one country to another as Nadia and Saeed do, from their unnamed city, to the Greek island of Mykonos, then to London, and then to Marin County, in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Throughout the novel, Hamid intersperses vignettes, or doors, to other people and places around the world. For example, while contemplating suicide, a man in England comes across a portal to Namibia, where he remakes his life. Also, when refugees emerge from doors in San Diego, an elderly veteran asks the police if he help; they ask him to leave, and the veteran realizes that he, like the migrants, doesn’t have anywhere to go.

Particularly, I think Hamid’s way of writing the novel is very interesting. While most stories about migration focus on the transit rather than the destination, Hamid wrote about the destination rather than the transit. I think the symbol of the doors was an intriguing part of the story, and it gives the reader a peek into the lives of other characters, many whose lives are completely different than Saeed and Nadia’s.

Saeed and Prayer

One thing I found interesting about Saeed’s contemplation about prayer is that is was devoid about any mention of God. Most of the time when talking about prayer people will talk about their relationship with God. However, Saeed talks about his human relationships.

Of course, Saeed likely believes in God, but it seems that his primary reason for praying is the way it connects him to other people. For someone like Saeed who is not naturally inclined towards cutting ties immigration would likely be especially painful and destabilizing. It is understandable then why he began to pray more after immigrating. Prayer was what kept him tethered to his family and past. For Saeed prayer served as a portal to other times and people he had lost, just as the doors served as portals to other places.

How Exist West Humanizes Refugees

Exist west provides a very important perspective on the refugee crisis. Often the media portrays them as numbers rather than humans. Due to this, it’s easy to lose sight of what refugees really are: humans.

Before the fighting in Saeed and Nadia’s city broke out, they lived lives quite similar to ours. They went to work, went on dates, used social media, listened to music, and had good educations. People in western countries usually don’t put themselves in their shoes. They never think what it is like to have their entire lives uprooted in a matter of weeks.

Imagine if all of a sudden an intense radical group started terrorizing our towns to the point where they are no longer safely habitable. We would most likely do the exact same thing: take who and what we can with us and try to find somewhere safe to live.

While I don’t think simply looking at the refugee crisis from their perspective will spark any major change, I do believe it will at least make people have more sympathy to those trying to find a safer home. They didn’t just choose to move from their homes, they were forced out. They aren’t looking to steal our jobs or cause terrorism, they just need a place to go. Maybe once more people start considering that there will be less hostility toward refugees.

Exit West and What it says about Immigration

Exit West is an incredible novel by author Mohsin Hamid. A somewhat love story of two people desperate to get out of a country on the brink of civil war. Through magical doors, the title characters Saeed and Nadia are able to leave their old lives behind and start a new life together in three different locations.

While it seems like getting out of their country will serve to benefit them, it almost seems like everywhere they go is much of the same. In just about every country they go to, they are on the outside looking in. From the locals scorning them, to the government constantly spying or attacking, it seems that Saeed and Nadia are not wanted anywhere. We see this within our own society as well.

The United States was built on immigration from a vast amount of countries. But these days, it seems as if we have forgotten that. In the case of Saeed and Nadia, all they want to do is show the people of whatever country it is they may be in that they want to contribute to the society the locals have built, and that they are just here to help. We see this manifest in our own country, with hundreds of people being denied everyday.

Saeed and Nadia prove that opposites do attract

In Moshin Hamid’s novel ‘Exit West,’ the two main characters, Saeed and Nadia, share a romantic relationship for most of the story. However, the two are almost polar opposites from each other, backing the theory that opposites do attract in a relationship.

The main difference between Saeed and Nadia is their opposite views on the meanings of life. While Saeed is revealed to be a man of great morality, he is much more conforming to the traditions of his family, culture, and religion. Nadia on the other hand is not, as she holds existentialist commonalities. As an ultra-religious man, Saeed refuses to have sex with Nadia before marriage, although she persists frequently. Throughout the book, it is discovered that Saeed feels very strongly about his parents, constantly praying for them. However, Nadia left her parents and does not mention them much.

Although, Saeed and Nadia’s relationship eventually came to a close at the end of the novel, they still remained friendly. This goes to show that opposites do attract, as different lifestyles can be appealing and interesting.

“Trust” vs. The Stranger

“Trust” is a movie revolving around absurdity and a dialogue that strays away from the norm. Although I gathered that The Stranger is a work of literature that also shows the theme of absurdity and randomness, “Trust” is different.

In The Stranger, Meursault says things and does things purely for the reason of it making sense in that particular situation. In “Trust”, Maria proves to be a very strong-headed, confrontational young woman who speaks her mind and goes for what she wants, exactly when she wants it. This characterization is hugely different than that of Meursault. Maria, although young, seems to be ahead of her time and very mature. Starting in the very beginning of the film, she is faced with a pregnancy and left to deal with this issue without much assistance. The fact that the movie begins this way helps to develop Maria’s characterization and the characterization of others in the film by contrasting them with Maria.

The absurdity found in “Trust” is partly due to the circumstances that the characters find themselves in. For example, in society today, I don’t think that the average person would invite a teenage girl whom they found in an abandoned area, and who just finished an entire 6 pack of beer, into their home to spend the night. Although this movie came out 30 years ago and times are slightly different now, this is absurd to me and many events before and after this show the absurdity portrayed in the film.

The Unusual Experience of Stream of Consciousness

Exit West, written by Mohsin Hamid, has one of the most unusual sentence structures out of any of the books I have read. Long and drawn out sentences with many distinct thoughts throughout them are not so uncommon, but to have them compose the entirety of the book is something unique. Each sentence is a stream of consciousness, not of Nadia or Saeed’s perspective, but the thoughts of the narrator who, I believe, is Hamid himself, although my opinion is certainly biased because I have heard Hamid reading his book. Regardless of whether Hamid is the one narrating the story, the narrator occasionally introduces his own thoughts into the book, such as when he describes the man who emerges from the closet as rolling his eyes “terribly”, and then takes back his opinion believing it to be too harsh. 

Hamid wrote Exit West, in stream of consciousness is to better capture the migrant experience, which is about flowing from one situation into another. By having the narrator almost endlessly flow through each description, never dwelling on one particular moment for too long, Hamid can instill uneasiness due to unfamiliarity onto the reader. One can debate whether Hamid’s decision to write the book in this way is for the better; On one hand it definitely gives the book a unique feeling and does what it is supposed to do, however, important events are sometimes described so quickly that the reader can miss them entirely due to their placement within a paragraph causing the reader to get lost and have to read the passage again. I certainly experienced this a few times, most notably when I passed over the part where Saeed’s mother’s death is hastily described in an otherwise wordy but unremarkable paragraph, leaving me confused about whose funeral Nadia was visiting. Obviously, I was reading too quickly, but I did feel that the book’s pacing was slow due to the sentence structure and wished it was a bit faster in pace. At the same time, this may have been intentional, as in reality, some events pass by so quickly that it is hard to process them and other events are drawn out with no resolution in sight. All in all, Exit West was a unique and interesting read that captured the migrant experience using stream of consciousness as a method of introducing unease into the reader