On Migration: Time

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.”

One thought on “On Migration: Time

  1. MCKALE T

    Hamid’s use of time as another way of migrating was really interesting. I agree that by including this concept Hamid brings the novel from Nadia and Saeed’s world into the context of the reader’s world.

    Like

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