Windows and Doors in Exit West

In Mohsin Hamid’s novel, Exit West, two different types of openings in buildings become meaningful symbols in Saeed and Nadia’s home. Doors are symbols of hope and prosperity, while windows are symbols of panic and death.

Windows reminded civilians of the inevitable destruction of their city. Since windows are translucent, they exposed the violence in the streets. As the fighting became worse, stray bullets commonly entered homes through windows. Or, bullets could break windows, and glass shrapnels can be deadly. As a result, residents begin placing household items, such as bookshelves, in front of windows. Nadia claims that her own windows looked like “amorphous black works of contemporary art” (72). She sees them as shapeless black modern symbols of destruction. Although they have many negative aspects, the people of the city depend on windows. They need them for light and for warmth.

Doors became an escape route for the citizens of the falling city. Since they shielded residents from the outside world, doors created the illusion of stability. Magical doors that transported a person to another part of the world existed in rumours. Most people thought that the rumours were nonsense, but “began to gaze at their own doors a little differently” (72). Unlike windows, people did not depend on doors. They were a privilege.

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