While reading Exit West, I was able to form a solid connection to the strange doors that led to new and unexpected places. I read through the novel and I came across the doors and immediately began thinking. As my brain was processing the specified thoughts of magical doors, it hit me. In the first Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), Harry and Ron are making their way to the train station for their very first day of school in the wizard world. They finally reach the checkpoint which is simply a plain brick wall in the middle of the train station. They then are told to run into the brick wall as fast as they can to surpass into the wizard world. This brick wall serves as a portal to the kids on their journey. The same situation dwelled in my thoughts when Hamid wrote, “…But approached the door, and drawing close she was struck by its darkness, its opacity, the way that it did not reveal what was on the other side, and also did not reflect what was on this side, and so felt equally like a beginning and an end” (103). People migrating through the magic doors associates a similar contrast with Harry and Ron running through the magic wall. They all put themselves at slight risk to reach what they thought was the beginning.
Although it’s sad that Saeed and Nadia did not end up together, it makes a lot of sense. They met during an already rough time, but being forced to take that journey together would put a strain on any connection. Any situation that evokes that many negative and stressful emotions is bound to suck all the romance out of a relationship.
While I think Saeed and Nadia were very compatible at the beginning of the book, the events of the war and their journey changed them. For better or for worse, the two of them were not the same people they were in the beginning. Nadia was hardened from the start, already exposed to the horrors of the world through her family situation and her gender but still hopeful for the world. Saaed’s heart was soft in the beginning, but his outlook on the world darkened over the span of the book.
Even though Saeed and Nadia did not end up together, they will always be bonded through their trauma. Their visits might have gotten less and less frequent towards the end, but I think they will always hold a special place in their hearts for each other due to the circumstances in which they were forced to survive in.
by Jasmine Wood
Hamid’s level of detail on the smaller, more specific events and interactions of his characters in his novel Exit West creates a relatability to which his readers connect, despite the overarching circumstance of violence and conflict and resulting refugee crisis. While it is clear the novel’s attitude toward global change and immigrants is targeted mostly towards an audience far removed from the experiences of its characters, there is an equally important message of finding unity and respect despite cultural differences. The most readily example would be Nadia and Saeed’s lives early on before their city fell apart. They had movie theaters and cell phones and social media and hallucinogenic drugs – all things that almost every reader can relate to. And so, Hamid effectively bolsters his novel’s theme with subliminable connections that are impossible for his readers to deny.
However, another way Hamid unites his audience is through his writing’s attitude toward change. Even though the change in Nadia and Saeed’s lives is very different than, say, the old woman’s, the author still manages to connect them through the mode of time. Throughout the entire story, the author constantly uses phrases such as “back then” and “in those days.” Consequently, he reflects on his characters’ experiences on a scale of time – past, present, future. Similarly, he utilizes the same phrasing when discussing the personal changes of supporting characters, such as the old woman and her house in Palo Alto. Thus, readers make a connection between the larger global changes and smaller personal changes because both of them are framed as ‘before’ or ‘after’ or ‘now’ or ‘today’ or ‘back then’ or ‘in those days.’ So it is on this level, too, that readers are able to relate to people seemingly a world away. After all, in Hamid’s words, “We are all migrants through time.”
Throughout Exit West, Nadia makes multiple points to talk about how her womanhood impacts her experience in her community. Even before her move to her new land as an immigrant, she feels as if she is seen as something nonhuman. Right at the beginning of the book, Saeed asks Nadia why she wears a conservative and concealing robe if she’s not religious. To this she responds: “So men don’t f**k with me,”(Chapter 1). Ending the first chapter with those words highlights to the reader just how much Nadia must watch herself in her home country. Because she is seen as a target for men, Nadia is seen as the other, even before leaving her city to go to Europe. Her experience as a woman has already forced her to watch her back, so unlike Saeed, the switch to a foreign land does not make her feel much more different or exiled. Nadia already lives in fear of what people will do to her because of how she looks- she is already the other in her own land.