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.