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

2 thoughts on “The Unusual Experience of Stream of Consciousness

  1. Geneva D

    I didn’t notice the long sentences until someone in my class read a sentence out loud and it ended up being a paragraph long. I also would look over certain parts if I was reading too fast, and I did the same thing you did and missed the part where Saeed’s mother died, and had to go back and reread to understand. I think the reason I didn’t notice the long sentences at first was because it felt like a stream of consciousness.

    Like

  2. Ella B

    I noticed that the sentences were long, but I hadn’t thought about how it connects to and reinforces the greater ideas that the story discusses. I like the way you described the flow of the sentences as being similar to the flow of the migrant experience.

    Like

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