Exit West & Lucy by Kinkaid

While reading Exit West by Hamid, there were multiple times when I connected it to Lucy by Kinkaid. While the situations of the main character in Lucy and Saeed and Nadia differed greatly, they both shared similarities in the way that they missed their home country despite the less than ideal conditions they experienced living there. 

When reminiscing about his old home, Saeed describes it as a time “he now thought of fondly in a way, despite the horrors, fondly in how he felt for Nadia and she had felt for him” (153). While he had to leave his home country due to unsafe circumstances, he still misses aspects of it that can not be relived anywhere else. Despite the harm that was present, there were interpersonal connections that he now longs for. The greatest difficulty in deciding to leave was having to go without his father. As he stepped through the door, he knew it meant he may never see him again. Yet he still proceeded to go through the door. This just shows the immense distress of his current living conditions which warrant this decision.

Similarly, the narrator in Lucy misses her home in Jamaica even though her living conditions made her want to leave. This decision, like Saeed’s, was not made without sacrifices. The narrator explained how she missed the intangible aspects of her prior home. The sun, the taste of the food, and the presence of her grandma – all things she gave up to move to America.

Migrants are often criticized and seen as lucky to be in a place deemed “better” by many individuals in their society. The hardships and sacrifices migrants make are often overlooked. This can alienate migrants and make them feel bad for missing their old home. This perception that natives have of migrants results in the narrator in Lucy feeling extreme guilt for wanting to feel the familiarity of her old home and Saeed’s feeling of similar conflicting emotions.

Types of Migration in Exit West

  1. Doors

Doors are the clearest form of migration in Exit West, as they are quite literally how Saeed, Nadia, and the other migrants are able to travel from one place to another. They connect the world, causing new cities, homes, and cultures to be born, speeding up the process of migration as we experience it now. 

  1. Technology

There is a clear focus on the connective power of technology in Exit West. Though one cannot physically move with a phone or a TV, technology still serves as a way in which citizens of Hamid’s world connect with and become a part of larger communities. This is how technology acts as a secondary form of migration — it allows people to travel, experience, and become a part of worlds outside their own. 

  1. Relationships

The relationships in Exit West change throughout the book. Nadia and Saeed leave their families, grow apart, and meet new people. Other families come together, like at the orphanage in Tijuana, or the two old men connected by doors. Such change in personal relationships can be seen as migration in how people are consistently forming new homes and communities with new people. 

  1. Time

In the era of constant global change seen in Exit West, physical locations everywhere undergo dramatic shifts over time. Nadia and Saeed’s hometown changed since their parents were young, became a place of turmoil, and calmed down. Cities break and form again because of rapid migration. Even natives are not immune to migration, as the world is changing through time. 

  1. Stars

Stars are a recurring motif in Exit West. Stars migrate through the sky, and eventually return to the same place, over a world changed. This is analogous to Saeed and Nadia’s experience. They moved throughout the world, together and then apart, and eventually returned to their hometown, different people in a different yet familiar community. 

Exit west: is anyone really a native?

Exit west, by Moshin Hamid, is a book that depicts the world turning almost upside down, with national borders almost dissolving. Another thing that exit west turns upside down is the subconscious colonial assumptions that we have. One of the ways that Hamid subverts the colonial system is by referring to the white people of England as the “natives”. This simple word choice almost messes with one’s head as we are so accustomed to hearing about natives in reference to the less developed continents that European empires exploited. For white people it is almost a new experience to consider the ‘natives’ as being white. Hamid comments upon this: “And yet it was not quite true to say that there were almost no natives, nativeness being a relative matter” (197). Hamid then goes on to argue that the paler skinned Americans owe their nativeness to their several generations of living in “a thin strip of land between the pacific ocean and the Atlantic ocean” (198).

Yet realistically that makes them far less native than the ones who were there before European contact, but even among those peoples there are groups that arrived long before others.

Is anyone truly native?

Throughout chapters seven through nine Hamid depicts the tensions between the migrants and the natives of London. The natives of London today would be characterized by Norse and Norman genetics, Normans being Norse people who mixed with French. However these groups also displaced the Anglo-Saxons that were there before them. But these Anglo-Saxons arrived from Denmark and Germany to displace Roman groups which in turn supplanted Celtic and Pict societies. Even that natives aren’t native.

Does native as a term even mean anything? Humans are always on the move and always have been. If you look farther than all humans are “natives” to Africa or the Middle East, but we rarely think of things that way. The distinctions that humans create serve to organize their own interests. People could be natives when they want to protect their land yet toss aside the term when they want to take others’.

What do you consider yourself a native to, and why?

Cultural Assimilation in the Face of Migration

Through the relationship between Nadia and Saeed, Mohsin Hamid makes an intentional choice to explore 2 different kinds of migrants. In the discussion of migration in the novel Exit West, Hamid does an exceptional job of highlighting the personal stories of migrants and much less the physical journey of moving from one place to another. As their journey progresses, Nadia and Saeed begin to grow apart and this can be attributed to their starking differences in assimilation. Both Nadia and Saeed begin to resent each other for the way each other has begun to settle in their new lives residing in London.

Although assimilation is more related to immigrants, who move to one place with the intention of staying permanently, Nadia and Saeed find themselves settled in London long enough to get somewhat comfortable. In Exit West, Hamid directly states that migration inevitably changes those that are migrating and that our surroundings have a powerful impact in shaping who we are.

Every time a couple moves they begin, if their attention is still drawn to one another, to see each other differently, for personalities are not a single immutable color, like white or blue, but rather illuminated screens, and the shades we reflect depend much on what is around us. So it was with Saeed and Nadia, who found themselves changed in each other’s eyes in this new place.

Hamid, 2017, p.186

Both Nadia and Saeed acquire labor-intensive jobs because that is what is essentially provided to them as migrants. They live together and waver from parting ways due to a sense of security and comfort. Even though it seems like they’re living the same lives and living it together by sharing the struggles of being a migrant, this is a fallacy. Nadia finds it hard to identify with Saeed because he consistently clings to the people and culture of their birth country. Saeed can’t understand Nadia because she still wears her black robes, yet she doesn’t pray and avoids everything that connects her back to their birth country.

In the midst of Nadia and Saeed’s conundrum, the reader gets a glimpse of two different reactions to assimilating and adapting to a change of environment. Nadia embraces the change by using it as a way to reinvent a new life, while Saeed embraces it by recognizing that he can still make connections to home wherever he is. In life, immigrants and migrants battle what it means to assimilate and how much they will allow themselves to assimilate. A common fear is the fear of being stripped of one’s original culture. If you were forced to move from your homeland the way Saeed and Nadia were, whose style would you follow more and why?

Strong & Independent (as she should!)

There is no doubt that a lot of things in this story don’t make sense. Single sentences that last an entire page, magical doors that can transport you across the world, and all of this in the middle of a very realistic, devastating war… huh?? This story is very unlike others I’ve ever read and, personally, it took many chapters for me to really understand what Hamid was trying to do.

However, what I was able to catch on to early on was Nadia’s unique character. Her first real introduction to the readers with dialogue is short, yet expository. After Saeed asks her to have coffee, Nadia questions if he says his “evening prayers” (4). Taken aback and feeling pressured to excuse himself, Saeed rambles on until Nadia interrupts him, claims, “I don’t pray,” suggests “maybe another time” (5), and then rides away on a motorcycle. So random and unexpected, but it’s fascinating.

As we learn more about Nadia’s character, we learn more about her independence. It took a lot of strength and bravery for her to make the decision to leave her family and start a life on her own, let alone do it in the world she was living in. Her past has shaped her into the woman she is, and it is a shock to a lot of the people she encounters, including Saeed. I feel like she is the perfect representation of “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and it’s one of the main aspects of this story that keeps me curious. I love Nadia’s effect on not only the characters in the story, but also me, as a reader. She’s a very sublty inspiring character. As she should be.

The Afterlife

A lingering question among generations continues to be, “What happens after death?” and so he prayed as a lament, as a consolation, and as a hope” (203). Some say we go to heaven or hell and some say we are reincarnated into other organisms. Both of these theories are based on different religions, reincarnation originating from Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, and heaven coming from Christianity. Simultaneously, nonreligious people believe there isn’t one and we just decompose into the Earth, while life moves on. What if there was another thought of the afterlife? What if our loved ones keep us alive after we die? Whether it’s through prayer or memories, we continue to flourish despite our loss of breath.

In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid narrates the experience of losing a loved one as the uniting of humanity, “the temporary nature of our being-ness, and our shared sorrow” (203). Heartache affiliated with death unifies communities because everyone experiences it at least once in their lifetime. Some people go to funerals, some have services, and some pray; ways to heal from the pain of losing a loved one. Saeed prays for his parents, “as a gesture of love for what had gone and would go and could be loved in no other way… he prayed as a lament, as a consolation, and as a hope” (203). Prayer is utilized as a coping mechanism for Saeed’s grief over the death of his parents, specifically his father. “Young men pray for the goodness of the men who raised them, and Saeed was very much a young man of this mold” (202).

Saeed’s father’s soul continues to exist through Saeed’s prayer. He remains alive.

Good People and Bad Situations

The world of Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exist West can be summarized as one possible future of our own world, with the exception of the magical doors which pop up as an escape for those attempting to escape violence. In Exit West, however, the emphasis is not placed on these doors or the greater conflicts between the militants, the governments, and ‘rich’ western nations, but rather in the intimate and personal struggles of Nadia and Saeed.

However, even in a world with an inordinate amount of senseless war and destruction, ranging from the apocalypse which descended upon Nadia and Saeed’s home city to the massacre in Vienna and the riots which followed, there still are people who try their best to do the right thing. When seeking a way out of the city after it had fallen to the militants, Saeed and Nadia follow the tip of a friend to find agents who could direct them to one of the magical doors. When they do find one, the agent demands “their money and Saeed gave it to him, uncertain whether they were making a down payment or being robbed” (90). The agent does eventually follow through with his promise, giving Nadia and Saeed access to a door to Mykonos. Although the agent could have easily simply worked with the militants and betrayed or scammed Nadia and Saeed, he followed through with his commitments in the most perilous of circumstances.

This idea is further reinforced in the depiction of the riots in Vienna following the militant massacre in the streets. Although a mob was gathering intended to “attack the migrants gathered near the zoo”, some planned to “join a human cordon to separate the two sides, or rather to shield the migrants from the anti-migrants” (109-110). Although the attacks have shocked and shaken certain parts of the population, other parts remain strong in their commitment to humanity and mutual recognition, even as the situation grows more dire as the days go on. One woman in Vienna was forced off a train for declaring her commitment to those principles, but remained steadfast in her commitment to “still go” to the human cordon no matter what.

In Exit West‘s world, although there exists shocking amounts of brutality and violence, there also are good people scattered throughout trying to do the right thing, whether it is popular or easy or not. Perhaps that reflects our own world, one which is not too dissimilar from Exit West in substance save for the concept of the doors, similarly filled with good people making the best of bad situations.

Status Migrant

Being a migrant, presumptions and aspects of their being can typically be assumed, but the more perspectives one is able to obtain, the better their understanding and outlook can be formed to create a more equal recognition of the other beings. In the novel Exit West written by Mohsin Hamid, he narrates the story of migrants who are trying to escape from the violent conflict in their country. He represents the migrants,  in general, in conflicting perspectives, showing them on one side of a situation, as powerful or the other, lacking power. Hamid describes the migrants’ reaction to the arsenal used by the military, stating that they “were frightening, because [the arsenal] suggested an unstoppable efficiency, an inhuman power” (154). Hamid puts forth the perspective of the government’s forces as the callous and brutal “predators”, who assert an overpowering threat upon the migrants who he shows as the weak and defenseless “prey”. Hamid’s depiction of the migrants’ dominant opponent, who, in teasing the migrants, initiates a feeling of dread and uneasiness for them, helped portray their lack of power and vulnerability against the government’s power. 

When the migrants are narrated as powerful, Hamid writes, “[F]or armed resistance would likely lead to a slaughter, and nonviolence was surely their most potent response, shaming their attackers into civility” (154). A collaboration of ideas between the migrants in Saeed and Nadia’s neighborhood is arranged, they seek to protect their youths as well as their morals. The council determines that they will guilt their oppressors into realizing the unreasonable efforts of their attack. They are able to fight their opponents psychologically instead of physically, which they knew would fail in taking control and dominance of the situation as well as compromise their morals. In presenting these contrasting representations, it sheds light on experiences that diverge from the typical binary, adding to the unconventional perspective for migrants, and giving notice to the more authentic side of being a migrant.

A Not-So-Complex Complex Novel

In the novel, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, after Nadia steps though the first door to get to the Greek Islands it is noted that,
“Nadia experienced a kind of extinguishing as she entered the backness and a grasping struggle as she fought to exit, and she felt cold and bruised and damp as she lay on the floor of the room at the other side, trembling and too spent at the first stand, and she thought, while she was strained to fill her lungs, that this dampness mist be her own sweat”(104). The explanation of Nadia’s experience while stepping though the door is very interesting, and seems almost intense and emotionally pact. The detail of filling her lungs and the cold/bruising feeling creates a sadness and rebirth feeling, like something was restricting her lungs fro getting any oxygen or she has just come from the depths of a dark ocean in a sea of unknown. This can also be inferred to be emotional and possibly physical characteristics and descriptions of what it’s like to migrate to a new country, being in a place you don’t understand or know, a possible feeling of helplessness and overwhelmingness. Also after Saeed comes though the door after Nadia it’s mentioned that, “she saw Saeed pivot back to the door, as though he wished maybe to reverse course and return through ut, and she stood beside him without speaking…”(105). This can also be inferred to be a representation of the fact that migrants sometimes don’t want to leave their home but have to, and when they do they may regret it.

Also in the novel, there is a short description of a man who is planning on killing himself, but before he does so he notices that his door has become an opening to another place in the world, but ignores it. However, right before he is about to do anything he wants to see what could possibly be on the other side of the door and, “Later his daughter and his best friend would receive via phones a photo of him, on a seaside… and a message that said he would not be returning…”(111). The explanation of this man using the door to escape a life that only brought him disappointment and bring happiness into his life shows the contrasts between the primary story, using these doors to escape war and seek refuge, and this man’s story, using the door to go somewhere on vacation or somewhere tropical. This contrast illustrates the privilege that people have in this story and how it is utilized for themselves and their well-being. Finally, when a very pale woman from Australia is explained to be living in a home in a wealthy neighborhood that has been gentrified, it’s explained that in her side table she has “passports, checkbooks, receipts, coins, keys, a pair of handcuffs, and a few paper-wrapped sticks of unchewed chewing gum” (8). Specifically the mention of the handcuffs in this woman’s side table illustrates the power she has to be able to control when she or someone is constrained shows and contrasts later when the man coming out of the closet when he has little control of where he is.

Conscious of the Past

One of the most distinct motifs I picked up on when first reading Exit West were mentions of the past, usually meant to highlight a change that had taken place within the world of the story. Most of those changes are rather negative; lines like “The cinema they remembered so fondly had been replaced by a shopping arcade for computers and electronic peripherals,” “The Mars it showed was more detailed as well, though it was of course a Mars from another moment, a bygone Mars,” and “The family that used to run the place, after arriving in the city following the Second World War, and flourishing there for three generations, had recently sold up and emigrated to Canada,” all denote the loss of something (13, 16, 23). Sometimes the changed versions, the ones that had something missing, were more modern, which the rise of technology and increase in light pollution from the first two lines show.

Modernity is also a sort of motif in the novel, since Hamid often comments on aspects of modern city life within the novel: phone usage, drugs, commuting, emailing, going to Chinese restaurants, etc. While this was intended to push back against the Western perception of cities in underdeveloped nations, it also solidifies the book’s place in a contemporary era. But that only makes the parts where the past is mentioned stand out more.

When thinking over the purpose of these continual references to the past, I remember the quote from the very start of the book that details how “…one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put to a stop our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does” (4). I believe these references enhance the spontaneity of life and the finality of sudden changes that the quote talks about: the cinema is a cinema until it’s remodeled, and the family will run the same Chinese restaurant until they move away. There have been irreversible changes made before, and they will continue to occur, especially as Saeed and Nadia’s cities begin to fall to the militants, which is a very severe example of change, but nevertheless change is something we all expereience. We all have a past, things have changed for all of us, this will continue to be so; these ideas add to the novel’s focus on transience and the human experience.

Stuck in the Honeymoon Phase

Every relationship has their phases, their ups and downs. This could be in family relationships, friendships and in Nadia and Saeed’s case, romantic relationships. Most couples go through the same stages in their relationships, just the time going through each stage may vary. The ‘Honeymoon phase” takes place at the beginning of a relationship or even pre-relationship. This phase is exciting and new, you are getting to know your partner, you are doing new things together and it is basically impossible to see their flaws. But when the honeymoon stage comes to an end this is where many romantic relationships come to an end. In this Realistic stage, individuals in the relationship start to see the flaws in their partner ,making it easier to disagree and agree with them. Seeing the other person as a whole person outside of said relationship causes a detachment. This detachment leads to a lack of effort and communication, leading to an end in a relationship.

Off the bat Exit West introduces us to a brand new relationship, we get a good look into the honeymoon phase between Nadia and Saeed. From going out to eat all the time, to experimenting sexually and with drugs, they are obsessed with each other. When they moved in together they continued in this phase, they were feeling all love even with a war happening right outside their window. Abruptly things change once Nadia and Saeed decide to leave their country. It is almost as if passing through that door to Mykonos, was like passing through the honeymoon phase into a realistic phase. When they passed through that door, the differences that they had not seen in each other were clear and their flaws were right there, out in the open. What makes Nadia and Saeed’s relationship different is, it can not come to an end.

Stressful Circumstances

As many know stress can have many adverse effects on relationships, but it can also bring people closer. Mohsin Hamid does a great job illustrating how damaging stress can be on a relationship, but also how stressful circumstances can strengthen a relationship. Nadia and Saeed start off extremely passionate, always wanting to be together and meeting each other, “Nadia and Saeed began to meet during the day, typically for lunch…Saeed was certain he was in love. Nadia was not certain what exactly she was feeling, but she was certain it had force” (53-54). They are always together, enjoying each other’s company, and texting. As the story progresses we see Nadia and Saeed’s passion begin to fade seemingly as the result of the extreme circumstances they are forced into. After leaving home, going to Mykonos, and then traveling to London we begin to see Saeed and Nadia having disagreements and arguing, “She emerged from the bathroom wrapped in her towel..he said, looking at her, ‘you can’t stand here like that.’ ‘Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.’ … they sep on the slender single bed together without speaking, without touching, or without touching more than the cramped space demanded, for this one night not unlike a couple that was long and unhappily married” (126-127). Both haven’t been comfortable for months, being in new places and in other people’s homes. Saeed is understandably worried because of this and both of their inability to relax has seemed to cause them to become irritable. Hamid’s depiction of the effect of the stress of migration on their relationship draws parallels between the effects of migration on families as well.

The way many people view migrants today is negative. We fail to see things from their point of view and consider the fact that they may have and probably don’t want to leave their home country. We fail to see the many adverse effects migration has on the people forced to do it. We don’t seem to understand that people are leaving out of necessity and not choice. They are forced to separate from their families and friends and yet many people make rude demeaning comments and hateful attacks against migrants. I think one of the main purposes of Hamid’s novel is to make a comment on the poor treatment of migrants and give people the ability to see their perspectives and allow us to understand the reality of many migrants’ situations.

The More Years The Less Love

The idea that love sometimes fades over years is a sad realization. We see a huge parallel between love fading through Saeed’s parent’s marriage and Saeed’s and Nadia’s own relationship. Both relationships decide to wait to have sex until marriage, and in his parent’s relationships, “Saeed’s mother found it more uncomfortable”(13). When Saeed told Nadia he wanted to wait until marriage she responded by saying “Are you F****** joking”(55). Then after processing this she said, “It’s okay. We can see”(56). In both relationships, the women are way more eager and the men feel a lot of pride in waiting. After Saeed’s parents get married their marriage was full of passion. They were basically obsessed with each other and so were Saeed and Nadia. But, as time passed so did their love. “After Saeed was born, the frequency with which his parents had sex dipped notably, and it continued to decline going forward”(14). Over time, as life went on and got more complicated their love decreased. As Nadia and Saeed were going through all of the doors there love notably declined. “She smiled and moved to kiss him, and while her lips did touch his, his did not much respond”(125). In both relationships, the women are the ones constantly trying to keep the love alive and the men are the ones who are giving up and choosing not to care anymore. After Saeed’s mother passes away Saeed’s father is a mess and super upset. I am sure he wishes that he appreciated her a little more when she was alive. Knowing the huge parallel between the relationships, I would hate to see Saeed regret not appreciating Nadia more too while she is alive…

Do Nadia and Saeed share true love?

This is an idea that develops throughout the story, the first encounter they have is after their class when Saeed asks Nadia to have a coffee with him in the cafeteria and she rejects him, he tries his luck again another day and this time she agrees, they find out multiple things about each other like why Nadia wears the black robe or that she doesn’t pray and lives alone which is uncommon for a young woman. She learns that Saeed still lives with both his parents and usually prays with his father while his mother prays alone at home. Slowly and naturally they grow closer and see each other more often, and it seems like they both share an attraction for each other. So much so that Nadia accepted a promise from Saeed’s father to stay with him and protect him until he was safe as they plan to leave their unnamed city to get somewhere safer through the magical doors.

Throughout their time in Greece, they get along well and again grow together emotionally, they do not fight or really argue and don’t show any signs of losing feelings for each other. Saeed is very protective of Nadia as well. The tension builds when they arrive at the palace in London, Saeed becomes worried about their safety and lashes out at Nadia, most notably when she takes her time in the shower and Saeed yells at her for taking so long in a residence that doesn’t even belong to them, Nadia doesn’t understand his frustration but also doesn’t want to start an argument with Saeed so she lets it go, she then finishes up in the bathroom and exits wearing just a bathrobe which upsets Saeed again, “you can’t just wear that” he says to which this time Nadia responds saying that she can wear what she wants, again she does not want to start an argument with Saeed but cannot help herself as she feels the need to stand up for herself. That night they sleep in the only bed together but don’t talk, touch, or even think of each other.

When they wake up they agree that they need some time apart o get some alone time so even though it is dangerous to be out alone they spend the day apart and then come back together again at night, they quickly enjoy their time together more at night when they don’t see each other all day. They have a nice moment where they promise not to talk to each other in a nasty way anymore.

Now, this brings me to my question, are Nadia and Saeed getting frustrated or tired of each other? And are they only still together because of Nadia’s promise to Saeed’s dad? Or is there arguing and frustration with each other a normal part of a relationship that is still being worked on, and once they work through it (if they do) will their true love shine through, or was it never there?

Disconnect between Nadia and Saeed

In Exit West, Nadia and Saeed must make a tough decision regarding the question of safety and opportunity or comfort and danger. This being whether they should travel through magical doors that transport people to another part of the world, while they don’t know if the rumors are true, leaving their war-stricken country is the best option. Except Saeed’s father refuses to go with them, this causes regret and internal conflict in Saeed and tension in the relationship between him and Nadia. 

After Saeed and Nadia make it through the doors successfully, without Saeed’s father, and end up in Mykonos something is off between them. Saeed is acting much different and while they don’t address it, it is tugging at their relationship. Nadia explains that she, “had glimpsed in him a moment of bitterness” (108), something she had never seen in him before. 

It can be inferred that Saeed’s feelings of bitterness toward Nadia are due to his father being left behind. He is having trouble coming to terms with his father’s distance and possible circumstances. So he is blaming Nadia. I believe that he’s formed an idea that if not for Nadia his father would be safe, if not for Nadia he could protect his father, if not for Nadia he could still be with him. 

As Saeed and Nadia’s time on Mykonos grows longer we see more of their rocky relationship and the awkwardness of it. One night they go look out on the sea from atop a hill but, “…they did not see each other, for she went up before him, and he went up after her (109). This tells us that they don’t feel comfort in each other as they had before their travels, heavily because Saeed has closed himself off and he was the one who directed the relationship and was more warm-hearted. 

It will be interesting to see how or if this dynamic changes, if they will bounce back or continue drifting apart as they enter a new part of the world.

How Does One Get Used to Violence?

In Exit West by Moshin Hamid, lovers Nadia and Saeed live in an unnamed city that is being overtaken by militants. Throughout the chapters of the book, the narrator switches between Nadia’s perspective and Saeed’s perspective. There is constant violence and threats in their city, and the way the characters describe this violence speaks to how a war environment impacts them.

As Saeed sits with his family on their balcony, observing the stars, fighting breaks out in the distance. Hamid writes, “… Saeed’s family heard the sound of automatic gunfire, flat cracks that were not loud and yet carried to them cleanly. They sat a little longer” (16). The description of the scene provides insight into the lives of those who live in places of war. Saeed and his family are familiar enough with gunfire know it is automatic gunfire, and the description of its clean noise infers that they are aware that the shots are being fired not too far away. Though they know it is automatic gunfire, that they violence is taking place near to their home, they do not act startled. How can one hear gunfire, a threat to ones life and safety, and not immediately take shelter? As someone who has never been in a place of war, I cannot imagine how steeled one’s emotions and reactions must be to stay seated outside. How does one get used to violence? How does this living environment change other aspects of one’s thinking, such as other emotions like empathy or confidence?

What does it mean?

Meursault has clearly given up on life’s meaning because he no longer has enthusiasm towards things that would make any sane person feel emotion. The entirety of the book Meursault’s expression and tone seems to just feel uninterested in the things around him. No amount of passion or happiness or anger around him would change the course of his mood at all. This is due to the fact that Meursault has engraved into his mind that life gives no meaning whatsoever from a very young age.

When Marie asks Meursault to marry her, there is an expectation that he feels some kind of emotion, whether it’s happiness or sorrow doesn’t matter as long as he resolves his overarching existential crisis. Instead, he only gets married because Marie wants to, NOT because he wants to as well. It’s such a doomed to fail relationship between the two, because while Marie would put full effort into their relationship, Meursault would just say “whatever” and continue his business.  Meursault has this tendency to just give a green light to any request that comes his way. It doesn’t matter if he feels a certain way about their request, he just allows it to happen. He is oddly content with anything he disapproves of and will only subtly shake his head.

Existentialism In My Life

As we finished reading The Stranger, I decided to think about how different my life would be if I lived following this philosophy. The main question I asked myself was could I even do it? I think the short answer is no. I’m still grasping the whole concept of existentialism but here is what I know: I am a part of a world that values social constructs so much that we are convinced they give our life meaning, when in fact, only I can give my life meaning.

In The Stranger, Mersault says, “Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter” (114). I believe this to be true but I can’t help but not want it to be true. I learned that life is absurd and that life is full of pain and suffering, and we use things such as, love, family, money, and religion to distract ourselves from these truths. Mersualt does not. He does not rely on anyone to make him happy, he uses his thoughts to control his own life, and I admire that because I can admit to myself that I could never live like that.

I know that living this way is supposed to set you free and set you on the path to real happiness but in my opinion this would make me so depressed. I take comfort in my family and in love, and if those things held no more meaning to me, then what does? Why should it matter if these values are “fake” or “not fake”? If we’re going to die someday it shouldn’t matter what caused your happiness as long as you are happy.

I do admire the philosophy of existentialism and what it can give people but it’s just not for me.

The Meaning of the Sun in the Stranger

In the novel, The Stranger, there is the repeated usage of weather, more specifically, the sun and its heat. The sun symbolizes Meursault’s inner conflicts and overall battles. This makes sense because the sun’s appearance is during times of uncomfort and distress, for example, his mother’s funeral.

When we were first introduced to the story we took a questionaire that asked us “If you do not cry at your moms funeral, is there something wrong with you?” I said yes.

During the funeral for his mom Mersault had an overwhelming response to the heat but no response to his mothers death. Mersault desribed the sun as, “All around me there was still the same glowing countryside flooded with sunlight. The glare from the sky was unearable” (16). Mersualt repeats how the sun is bothersome.

Is there something wrong with Mersault for not crying at his mother’s funeral? I’m not sure yet. I think this is how Mersult shows his feelings. Instead of expressing outward expression the things around him feel more intense and he cannot focus. This happens later on in the novel when he kills Arab the man. He is experiencing something uncomfortable, so the sun becomes intense again.

The sun is negative in Mersault’s life whether you think he has feelings or not. It symbolizes his feelings but mybe later on in the novel it can show us when something bad will happen again.

Why is Meursault so emotionless?

The novel starts with Meursault preparing to attend his mothers funeral, a very sad time for any person, but surprisingly Meursault doesn’t seem to bothered at all. When I first read the opening pages, I actually had to re read them to make sure that I was understanding the story correctly. I simply could’t understand how Meursault could be so indifferent the weekend of his mothers funeral and during the funeral itself. This lack of emotion, sympathy, and awareness Meursault displays in the beginning of the story is something that you get to know as Meursaults character throughout the Stranger. As the prosecutor states multiple times during the trial, Meursault did not shed a single tear during his mothers funeral, in fact his demeanor didn’t even seem sad, as stated by multiple witnesses. His explanation for this is that “no one had the right to cry over his mother’s death because she was ready to live her life all over again”.

Meursault portrays this lack of emotion when he kills the Arab. He acts without thinking, but then shows no remorse, sympathy, or understanding of the repercussion for killing the man, nor did he have any reason to do so. Context clues from the story hint that Meursault understands what he did but for some reason feels no remorse or guilt, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by jail, or the fact that he can no longer see Marrie which also further proves he never had an emotional connection to her because he has no emotions. Even when he is sentenced to death by the judge, he doesn’t seem bothered, he even has it in him to say that he hopes people show up at his execution and greet him with cries of hate, he says “I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.” This is the last sentence of the book, why does Meursault hope to be hated by the spectators of his execution, when throughout the entire novel he couldn’t care less about other people’s opinion on him?