Migration in Exit West

In the novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, migration is a bittersweet experience for Nadia and Saeed. They have to leave their homes, jobs, and entire lives behind. It is especially heartbreaking because Saeed’s father refuses to come with them through the door. “And so neither expected, when a handwritten note from the agent arrived, pushed under their apartment door one morning and telling them precisely where to be at precisely what time the following afternoon, that Saeed’s father would say, ‘You two must go, but I will not come'” (95). No matter what Saeed or Nadia say, Saeed’s father will not change his mind. And before their journey, Saeed’s father talked to Nadia. “Saeed’s father summoned Nadia into his room. . . and all he asked was that she remain by Saeed’s side until Saeed was out of danger. . .” (97).

He wants to ensure Saeed’s safety because throughout the novel, Nadia proves to be an independent, strong, and responsible woman. If they stick together they will have a better chance of surviving. When the two are traveling through the door, “It was said in those days that the passage was both like dying and being born, and indeed Nadia experienced a kind of extinguishing as she entered the blackness. . .” (104). The experience of their migration to Mykonos is short, but almost surreal. When Saeed and Nadia get to Mykonos, “The beach was fronted by a beach club, with bars and tables and large outdoor loudspeakers and loungers stacked for winter” (105). The description of their new home seems positive. Nadia and Saeed’s journey from their home to Mykonos is sad in some respects, but hopefully it will be better in the long run if they are safe from the violence that they had to endure. My question is will this new environment strengthen their relationship or tear them apart?

A Captain Must Always Go Down with his Ship

When reading the section of the novel when Nadia and Saeed decide to leave Saeed’s house (pages 95-98), and end up leaving Saeed’s father behind, the first thing that popped into my head was the scene in Titanic when the captain was standing in the flooding room just waiting to die.

Watching the movie on repeat growing up, I was always confused on why the captain never tried to escape the sinking ship and was displaying nothing but external relaxation as his life is slowly taken away from him but as my dad used to say,

“A captain must always go down with his ship” .

Whether he feels it is his duty to accompany the ship as it perishes because it is his job or because he feels some sort of unexplainable connection to it in that he does not want to let go, a captain must always go down with his ship.

I feel this same vibe when reading this section of chapter 5. There are violent outbreaks occurring and intrusive militia ivading the houses in Saeed and Nadia’s city and because of this, there is no question in why people would do everything in their power to get out as soon and as safe as possible. However, Saeed’s father refuses to leave. When questioned by Saeed, he justifies his decision with his feeling that his wife’s presence remains in the city.

‘”Your mother is here.’

Saeed said, ‘Mother is gone.’

His father said, ‘Not for me’ (95)”.

These few lines on their own demonstrates Saeed’s fathers exceptional connection to the city in which he raised Saeed, solely because of the memories made and time spent there with his recently deceased wife, who was his best friend.

When Rose approaches the captain in the Titanic scene, the captain expresses his connection to the ship and although it may seem hard for Rose to comprehend, similar to how Saeed’s father’s desire to stay in the crumbling city would appall Saeed and Nadia, when one feels such a strong bond to a person/place/or thing, nothing has the potential to break that bond, unless it physically is destroyed (i.e. the ship sinking with the captain inside or Saeed’s house being demolished with his father inside). However, these connections and associations that we form are what allows a place that may be just a plot of land for someone to mean the world to someone else. Relationships to places that make us happy, content, and comfortable are all part of human nature. And in some cases, maintaining that relationship with the risk of death transcends the guarantee of a life ahead without being able to foster that relationship.