A Beneficial Apocalypse

In the political climate of many of today’s wealthier nations, the attitude toward migrants and refugees of war, especially from what are considered third world nations, is hostile and exclusionary. Migrants are often viewed as corrupting forces in these places due to hailing from countries afflicted with war, poverty, or other poor conditions, and in his novel Exit West, author Mohsin Hamid challenges these prejudiced notions. After the protagonists of the novel, Saeed and Nadia, arrive in London as refugees from a war-torn country, they experience nativist backlash against their presence. Hamid, with a conversation between Saeed and Nadia, relates the reason for this opposition to migrants in first world countries. Saeed says he can understand London’s reaction to the migrant influx, asking Nadia to imagine if “millions of people from all over the world suddenly arrived” in one’s home, to which Nadia responds “Millions arrived in our country.” Saeed then argues “That was different” because “Our country was poor. We didn’t feel we had as much to lose” (164). Through this interaction, one understands that people of wealthier nations are keen to preserve domestic prosperity, and when a number of poorer individuals from struggling regions of the globe seek residence in a place like London, the natives become protective of their successful society, thinking the migrants will detract from their riches. They, as a result, attempt to drive the migrants away. After presenting these fears of the members of first world nations, Hamid then illustrates what actually happens when migrants, such as Saeed and Nadia, are integrated into the societies they seek entry to.  

In Marin, a suburb of San Francisco that Saeed and Nadia and numerous other migrants settled in, an onset of depression occurred, this depression being a “failure to imagine a plausible desirable future for oneself” (217). Helpless against the flow of newcomers and uncertain as to how their region would fare with the incoming foreign influence, the people of the Bay Area became dispirited and anxious for their futures. However, “while the changes were jarring they were not the end, and life went on, and people found things to do and ways to be and people to be with” (217). Life in Marin continued, and its residents adapted to the new circumstances, integrating and becoming familiar with each other. The “apocalypse” of a migrant influx “appeared to have arrived and yet it was not apocalyptic”; in fact, “plausible desirable futures began to emerge” (217). With amalgamation, Marin rose out of its depression, because everyone slowly became comfortable with the evolution of their city, and they were once again able to imagine desirable futures for themselves. With additional time, “there was a great creative flowering in the region” (217). Through this narration of the interaction between Marin’s natives and its arriving migrants, Hamid describes the reality of accepting migrants into one’s homeland: everyone will adapt to the shifts in society, and life will proceed with success attainable for all. Therefore, unlike the preconceived notions of many insinuate, migration is not an apocalyptic event, and in general, it serves to enhance a society by enriching it with new perspectives, giving rise to a creative flowering for all to benefit from.

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