What it Means to be Native in Exit West

Something that Exit West has made me realize about myself is the way that I think of being a native. We’ve all heard before that no one is really a native anywhere, especially the United States. I’m very aware of this, however, when Hamid mentions that in Marin, there were “almost no natives, theses people having died out or been exterminated long ago” (197), I was shocked. I found myself thinking of the predominantly white European Americans “native” to California. If I had been thinking of the genocide of the actual Native Americans from the beginning of the passage, I would probably not have reacted in this way as my perspective is different from that of Saeed, Nadia, or the narrator.

Whether intentional or not, it reminded me of the way the narrator often sets things up one way, allowing the mind of the reader to run with what he’s implied, and then takes it back. The most notable example of this is perhaps the dark skinned man who comes out of the closet, only wishing to safely escape the room of the white woman. The passage about the natives effectively had a comparable effect on me as when his eyes rolled “terribly, or perhaps not so terribly”(9), the refugees were “stunned, maybe, or resting. Possibly dying” (26), and Nadia’s coworkers were either “looting” or receiving “payment-in-hardware” (70).

Hamid has many great passages in Exit West about what it means to be a native in a changing world, but this was one that could easily have gone unnoticed by a more conscious reader than I.

One thought on “What it Means to be Native in Exit West

  1. Olivia K

    I also appreciate how Hamid uses these various anecdotes to question the current beliefs and stereotypes we may have about people. So many characters in this novel are so different that how one might picture them to be among a first glance. I think this skill is a beautiful and necessary one to incorporate in writing and I’m so fortunate that I got to read a work like this.

    Like

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