Vignettes, Questions, Themes, and Life

To begin with, I think the use of the vignettes throughout the book were really neat. I didn’t really value, or understand, them until I finished the book and reflected on what I read. The first vignette, about the lady in Australia, actually threw me off. I thought that we were going to learn about the lady at the end of the book, or that scene would be resolved and I would have an understanding as to what happened. I came to realize that there would be more of these scenes, and they would never be resolved, leaving me with questions. Like I said earlier, I didn’t really like this aspect of the book, but I now feel like I have an understanding as to why Hamid did this. Obviously the vignettes are scenes of people going through doors and entering a new life, but there is an underlying theme of all of them, that relates to a theme of the book.

First off, I think that the reason that the vignettes are left unfinished and unresolved is because that is what life is like for every person in them. I always had this feeling of confusion, wondering what’s going to happen, how does this get resolved. I think Hamid was trying to put the reader in the mind of the immigrant. There is no guarantee of what will happen next, and there’s no way to know how everything will end up. On top of that, the fact that in all the different vignettes there were different short term outcomes, like the man leaving England for Africa, which made him happy. Or the family who made it out of their city, only to be taken aback by an unknown group of people likely the books form of ICE, or something along those lines. That shows that the outcome can have many different forms. This theme of not knowing, a cliffhanger, is throughout the whole book. To show this, the final words of the book are ” They rose and embraced and parted and did not know, then, if that evening would ever come” 231. The ending of the book leaves another cliffhanger to the reader. I think this novel shows the overall mystery in life, and how nothing can be promised, that there is no guarantee as to how things will end up. To finish though, I think Hamid did an amazing job with this novel, because it shows the mystery of the displacement of people, and life itself.

2 thoughts on “Vignettes, Questions, Themes, and Life

  1. Vivian P

    I totally agree with you. I wanted to hear the rest of the stories from the people who went through doors, and I too expected them to be resolved in some way at the end of the book. That’s what’s so brilliant about it, we want to hear all of their stories when on the news the journeys and lives of migrants often go unnoticed, reported on with some annoyance. Meanwhile, when we get a human experience tied to who they are, we are invested in them.

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  2. Danny K

    I can relate to being completely confused by the first couple of vignettes, appearing suddenly throughout the book. As the book continued, I was able to start connecting the vignettes to the overall story of the book, and seeing correlation between Nadia and Saeeds journey, along with the brief passages of the individuals the reader was introduced to. The usage of cliffhangers in Exit West is very frequent and agree with your interpretation of them.

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