What’s the Point of the Vignettes?

Throughout Saeed and Nadia’s story, seemingly unrelated vignettes interrupt the storyline, just for the plot to be picked up again within a few pages. It was not until a few chapters in that I realized that each vignette portrayed a different experience with the magical doors that Saeed and Nadia would eventually travel through. Still, I could not quite comprehend why Hamid felt the need to diverge from the storyline so frequently. Perhaps it is because each vignette not only provides a different perspective of the migrant experience but also helps further the plot by serving as a parallel to Saeed and Nadia’s story.

The vignettes paint migration as not just a means of escaping war and peril but as an opportunity to find the ideal life for oneself. A man in England contemplates suicide before discovering a door to Namibia and creating a new life for himself there. Regardless of how geographically desirable a location may seem, suffering can always find a way to manifest itself. Hamid depicts migration as a tool to break free from both physical and mental suffering and suggests that we are not as bound to our locations of origin as we may believe we are. In another vignette, an old man from Brazil finds love in Amsterdam and brings his Dutch love interest back to Rio de Janeiro for a visit. The nomadic lifestyle that these doors provide is what allowed the two men to discover their love for each other.

Nadia and Saeed could have had a stable life in England, but they both felt incomplete and were inclined to relocate once again to Marin, California. Through the vignettes and Saeed and Nadia’s journey, Hamid communicates that the reason for migrating can be as grave as fleeing for one’s life and can be as simple as craving new experiences.

5 thoughts on “What’s the Point of the Vignettes?

  1. JOHN V

    This is an interesting distinction to make. Refugees leave in order to escape a dangerous environment, where vignettes leave in search of new experiences. When saying the distinction between the two out loud, the vignettes sound almost selfish. Leaving your home in search of a better one is a valid reason, however, not when compared to leaving in order to keep ones family safe.


  2. Olivia K

    While I thought each of the vignettes were beautiful pieces of migration and intrapersonal relationships, I thought that they should not have been included in the story because they lack relevance to the main plot. Each of these brief anecdotes are pieces of art in themselves and I felt that using them as interruptions in the main plot took away from their intention and emotional significance. I would love to have read these if they were a collection of short stories published by the author instead.


  3. Sonia Z

    I really love this interpretation. The vignettes are so interesting to look at because I agree that the first time I read them I was kind of confused as to why they were there. I think they also provide little takeaways from the story, as well as supporting it. They open the migrant experience up to include more than just Saeed and Nadia and show the sheer multitudes of ways that migration can come to form.


  4. Lucy S.

    Interesting perspective. It’s really fascinating how the vignettes serve to enhance the story and also develop the theme that Hamid presents that everyone is a migrant through time. It is also interesting to think whether or not this theme would have come through as strong as it did if the vignettes were not included.



    I really like this point of view. I think the vignettes did a great job of progressing the story. I will say that I personally had a different view on what they were trying to achieve, but you’re opinion has opened my eyes to a different point of view that seems really valid.


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