How Exit West Confronts the Inevitable Changes that Come With Time

At the beginning of Exit West, it seemed to be, for the most part, the typical story about a boy and a girl, falling in love, and facing challenges together as their love evolved. Saeed and Nadia met during a time of crisis in their country. Together, they faced war, death, and countless other challenges that seemed to bring them closer. They relied on each other to get through this time of great turmoil. I really expected their love to grow as they faced more and more challenges. But as the book continued, I realized I was wrong.

As they transported to different places around the world, they seemed to gradually grow apart. The crazy new places changed each of them in different ways and by the end of the book, they found it best to go their separate ways. This made me sad because it is not typical in a book for two lovers to grow apart in this way. In fact, I found this story even more sad than tragedies in which one or both of the lovers die. It wasn’t some external source that suddenly prevented them from being together. It was simply the passage of time that prompted their falling out of love. It was nothing that either of them did wrong. Life happens. Change is inevitable.

In Exit West, magical doors take our lovers to new destinations. Although there are no magical doors in real life, there are a countless amount of things that have a similar impact. For example, moving to a new house, or getting a new job. Changes like these are to be expected. But what people are scared to accept is that they have a drastic impact on who we are as people. We have to learn to accept that with time comes change. We will constantly be losing old friends and gaining new ones. There is nothing we can do other than adapt.

In a World of Technology…

The one element about Exit West that never really processed correctly in my brain, was the time period it took place. This may be naive to say, but any story I’ve read involving a period of war and suffrage have always been stories of our past. And while I know that there are people in very similar positions as Saeed and Nadia to this day, I have yet to read a book from a fairly present time, during a state of war, until now.

With this comes the age of technology. The incorporation of the characters having phones and internet access made the reality of war all the more real to me. I found myself more “in the shoes” of the characters than I’ve ever experienced while reading before. The concept of war has always been something I’ve read about from the past or briefly heard of in the news. This was the first time that I was truly able to sympathize with the characters and I believe this is merely because of the time period the story takes place and the world of technology they characters were formally submerged in.

Saeed’s Perspective on American Nativeness in Exit West and the Current World

“Many others considered themselves natives to this country…It seemed to Saeed that the people who advocated this position most strongly, who claimed the rights of nativeness most forcefully, tended to be drawn from the ranks of those with light skin who looked most like the natives of Britain” (Hamid 197-198).

During this section of the chapter, Saeed begins talking about the few natives in Marin, and then transitions to compare the people in America considering themselves natives to the people in Britain who feared their land being overtaken by migrants.

This passage reminded me of the mindset of many Americans today when it comes to immigration. They are angered and feel as if they are being invaded. It’s interesting to see how Hamid has imputed the real point of views of many Americans when it comes to being considered native or not while also giving the reader insight to Saeed’s opinion on the matter.

One more noticeable aspect of this passage is Hamid’s word choice. He details that the people who claim the rights of nativeness most forcefully are those with “light skin”. This part was important because it one again connects to the world we are living in today. Native Americans were truly the natives/first people here but now many white people are the first to claim nativeness to this land, even though it was not originally theirs.

Escape in Exit West

In the story Exit West, the main character Saeed and Nadia both have different ways of releasing themselves from the present and just forget about what is going on around them.

For Nadia, she enjoys rolling joints and smoking weed to help her cope with the stress of the wars and riots going on around her as it calms her down and brings her joy.

For Saeed, it becomes very important to him to pray more once he has left his hometown and it seems to become a way for him to escape from the refugee camp and enter his own world where he can feel connected to his family, especially his father.

The ways that these two characters choose to cope with their stress and guilt of all that has happened around them is very different, which may be a reason for why their relationship started becoming more and more distant.

Hamid’s Style of Writing and How, Really, It’s Much Different Than What We’re Accustomed to, and That Adds to the Story As a Whole, Specifically, His Use of Overly Long Sentences to Stress a Point and Keep Us Engaged.

I loved Exit West. I think the way Hamid writes adds another layer of engagement to this story because he keeps us tethered to his characters and their thoughts. Had he ended his narration with short, choppy sentences, it wouldn’t have felt as free flowing. It’s almost a type of third person stream of consciousness, which is unlike anything I’ve read before.

In terms of keeping the reader engaged, the tiny voice in our heads that reads is out of breath by the time it stumbles upon a period. We have to keep reading because the sentence hasn’t finished yet. Even when that sentence is a page long, we naturally want to finish it because the thought it incomplete.

Many times, we confuse simplicity with quality. The simpler something is, the better and more profound it can be. One of Hamid’s sentences struck me hard:

Saeed was grateful for Nadia’s presence, for the way in which she altered the silences that descended on the apartment, not necessarily filling them with words, but making them less bleak in their muteness

(82).

That sentence is one of his shorter examples, yet it is still just as profound. He manages to clarify himself before the reader has time to object in “not necessarily” as if he is speaking this to us and can see our face change as if to speak and he corrects himself before we can get a word in.

I could go on forever about Hamid’s style but I’ll wrap it up here before I end up writing a page long sentence.