What Makes a Person A Native?

The novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid expresses a dilemma; what makes someone a native to their country? One idea the story seems to convey is that every human is a migrant- we all move around through time. When Saeed and Nadia have arrived in Marin, California, it seems that there are no true natives left in the town. The text states, ” ..nativeness being a relative matter, and many others considered themselves native to this country..”(197). Being native to a country doesn’t seem to have a true meaning. Some would say they are native if they were born in the country they reside in, their ancestors grew up on the land, or their genes are directly descendant of the slaves that were brought to the land. Hamid seems to not have a true definition of what being a native means, because it means something different to everyone.

Hamid argues that we are all migrants, because the world is always changing, even if we stay in the same place our whole lives. On page 207, an old woman is introduced. She has lived in the same place her whole life, yet she feels the neighborhood has changed so much over time that she has moved as well. The text states, ” when she went out it seemed that she too had migrated, that everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same house our whole lives, because we can’t help it” (209).

So the question is, if we are all migrants, is anyone a true native, and what makes a person a native?

6 thoughts on “What Makes a Person A Native?

  1. Max L

    This is a very interesting point about nativeness. I feel like society generally assumes that you are a native to the country you were born in, but that idea doesn’t consider culture, nationality, religion, or maybe immigration status. Generally speaking, I think there is a lot more than birthplace that determines your nativity, especially in America, where our country is filled with people of every culture, race, religion, nationality, and ethnicity.

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  2. Willa S

    I find this question so interesting. I always think about owning land. How does that even make sense? How can you sell something you didn’t make or produce? How can you own something that isn’t even an object? In that way, when you see that the world and the land we live in is really nothing to own or possess, how can anyone be native to a specific place? Does being born somewhere mean you have a right to that place? It’s a really interesting thing to think about.

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  3. Danielle W

    To answer your question, I don’t think that natives exist. We all came from the same place and spread across the world over time. It doesn’t make us natives of wherever we settled, but it does make us all immigrants. That right there is the irony behind anti-immigration sentiment. We are all descendants of immigrants, and yet, we look down upon those who are doing the same thing now that our ancestors did however long ago to get us to where we are today?

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  4. Nick W.

    This is one of my favorite ideas in the book. I think that it’s trying to say there is no such thing as a native. Everyone is homeless in some way whether they have to leave their country or lose their family. Everyone is migrating, and the world moves whether we like it or not. Hamid hints at this in the end of the book. When Saeed and Nadia meet again, a “passersby did not pause to look at this old woman in her black robe or this old man with his stubble”. The rest of the world continues in the background during this final moment.

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  5. Grace W

    I really enjoyed your perspective on the idea of being “native.” To answer your question, I do not think that anyone is really “native.” They could be native to a certain community or identity, but I don’t think that anyone is native to a place. Everyone is from everywhere and goes anywhere.

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  6. SYDNEY R

    I never really thought about the answer to this question, but I also enjoyed your perspective on “What Makes a Person A Native?” I think I would answer your question by saying that you might be a native of a culture, but I do not think you are necessarily native to a place. I would have to think a little more into this question, but it did make me think. You make some very interesting points and I think in some way we are all migrants, but i do believe we all came from the same place.

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