The Other is Everywhere

Throughout the novel Exit West, Nadia and Saeed both encounter the other and become the other themselves. Each time the two pass through a door, they find themselves in a new location amongst people they have never met. In these circumstances they feel very uncomfortable because they are viewing the people around them as “the other”. For example, when they are living in the house predominantly occupied by Nigerians, Saeed feels so uncomfortable, and even scared, that he tries to convince Nadia to move to another house. “Saeed was grateful for Nadia’s presence, for the way in which she altered the silences that descended on the apartment, not necessarily filling them with words, but making them less bleak in their muteness” (82)

This dynamic was interesting to me because when I thought about the story from the perspectives of different characters, it’s clear that all the migrants view each other as “the other” or “different”, while simultaneously the natives are looking at them as “the other” as well. As the story continues, this outlook shifts a little. Saeed grows to accept his roommates as almost equals rather than as strangers, and they reach a sense of mutual recognition. 

I think the hesitation Saeed had in these situations largely comes from the way the media portrays the global other. In social media, the news, and TV shows, we are sometimes taught that people from other countries are strange and weird or we are only shown the bad parts of their countries such as violence and war. This leads us to have an uneducated opinion on other people and places. 

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