I’ve Never Seen a Man Die

One constant of human experience is death; something particularly true in inner-city neighborhoods victim to high crime and gang violence. In the song, “I Seen a Man Die,” by Scarface in his album, The Diary, he analyzes the effects of murder and gang violence on the participants and communities surrounding them. The album is devoted to giving the listener the experience of crime in majority minority inner-city communities. He expresses the emotional maelstrom giving cause to so much rap music, and, in the words of NPR, “(H)e explosively deflates the stereotype of gangsta rap as empty nihilism endangering communities.” The Diary is arguably the magnum opus of his long and illustrious career, and he gives his most cogent and moving presentation of his cynical worldview in it.

The central idea behind “I Seen a Man Die” is the failure of crime-affected communities and the prison system to rehabilitate or disrupt the brutal pattern of gang violence. By seeing the world through the eyes of a convicted murderer, Scarface broadens our experience by humanizing and giving motivations behind an oft demonized group; in addition, he expresses his inability to live clean, as he is inevitably drawn back into the criminal underworld and pays the ultimate price for it. Scarface uses this intricate and moving song as a call to action to reform the prison system and combat cycles of gang violence in black neighborhoods.

Scarface uses several techniques to express this. First of all, his repetition of the eponymous chorus expresses his persona’s confusion over the gangsters values that have been inculcated in him.

I still got to wonder why

I never seen a man cry, ’til I seen a man die

By using this confusion as the refrain of the song Scarface is drawing attention to his community’s failure to keep young men from the gangster lifestyle that celebrates killing your enemies. The received values that say murder is admirable and respected in the gangster lifestyle are clashing with his real life experience of guilt, shame, and sorrow. He’s not a psychopathic or nihilistic man, rather he has been let down by the community, which has allowed the destructive gangster values to take root. This call to attention of the failure of the community to keep young men on the right path is further reinforced by his criticism of the prison and rehabilitation system.

And he’s young plus he came up in the system
But he’s smart and he’s finally makin’ eighteen
And his goal’s to get on top and try to stay clean
So he’s calling up his homie who dun came up
Livin’ like this now they dealin’ with the same stuff
And had that attitude that who he was was worth it
And with that fucked up attitude he killed his first mate
Now it’s different, he’s in dead dirt

Although he has been punished by the prison system, he still lacks any real way to make a living. Scarface draws attention to the commonality of this issue by discussing that his friend deals with the same issue. Seeing through the illusion gangster lifestyle, yet lacking any reasonable recourse, as prison has only alienated him more from his old community, he is forced back into crime. And as a result, he is shot and killed, as the narrator tells him to let go.

I hear you breathin’ but your heart no longer sounds strong
But you kinda scared of dying so you hold on
And you keep on blacking out, and yo pulse is low
Stop trying to fight the reaper just relax and let it go
Because there’s no way you can fight it, though you’ll still try

Scarface in this verse is making an allegory. He, in the garb of the narrator, is equating death and following the gangster lifestye; Scarface is fundamentally expressing the fatalistic sentiment that once you go down that path, death is the only reward. He is emphasizing that the gangster lifestlye leads to nothing but death, and that communities and institutions need to make a far greater effort to change it.

This song is a blistering critique of a worrying trend in black neighborhoods, and demonstrates an excellent example of a tradition of activist Hip-Hop.

How To Get Through Beloved

Despite Nabakov’s theory that it is better to not try to relate to books because you will get more out of them if you don’t, I still like to relate to the books I read. With Beloved, relating to it is difficult. I have never been enslaved, I don’t live in the 1800’s, and I’ve never been to Cincinnati. However, in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, the state of limbo is explored which I relate to. In Catholic theology, limbo is the afterlife of someone who has not been sent to heaven or hell. It is usually for people who are not baptized. However, I think that limbo can have a broader inclination of a state of being between two things. In the novel, Beloved describes a traditional state of limbo as she was killed while she was a baby. She describes it as “dark” and that she is “small in that place” (88). She describes it as being very warm and crowded and “Nothing to breathe down there and no room to move in” (88). In addition to this kind of limbo, the entire book has a broader sense of being in limbo. The seamless transitions from past to present and vice versa almost make it hard to decipher which is which. This makes it feel as though the reader isn’t really in either the past or the present and they are just in a limbo between the two. 

As highschool seniors, we are about to enter a similar limbo between time. The summer after senior year is in between two phases of our lives, high school and college but it’s also the limbo between childhood and growing up. So when you are struggling to finish those last few chapters of Beloved, think of the book’s relationship to limbo and your own relationship to it. 

Exit West and Making The Most of A Situation

In Mohsin Hamid’s 2017 publication Exit West, characters Saeed and Nadia meet many challenges regarding their home. As their city becomes one of war and violence, Saeed and Nadia are forced to do whatever it takes to survive, and they face this new life both scared and determined. Saeed tries to provide for his family and Nadia herself, but the conditions don’t get any better. Nadia eventually moves in with Saeed and their relatively new continues to build through their survival. The events of Exit West show that while some events and disasters are out of human control, anyone can alter their personal fate by striving for growth in their relationships as well as themselves. In times of despair, it is important to continue to express yourself and remain active in your community as it can vastly help make the most out of a hard time.

Nothing But Animals: An Exit West Analysis

 “She felt fear, a basic, animal fear, terror, and thought that anything could happen”

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In his novel Exit West, Mohsin Hamid uses vignettes to display the effects of the migration through the eyes of different people across the world. Unpacking these vignettes is always a pleasure to do in class as they always bring us as readers closer to the story, immersing us into the world.

In one of his vignettes following a woman facing the effects of the greater world migration in her home country of Vienna, Hamid conveys the theme of people exhibiting reactions of nativism, and activism in response to the civil unrest. Hamid does this through displaying the native peoples of Vienna reverting to a sense of comfort in power dynamics, inevitably losing their humanity, with the woman displaying courage, and hope, actively protesting the invasion of the militants and supporting the migrants. Hamid conveys this distinction metaphorically through an an extended metaphor of animals representing nativism. 

In lines 34-35, upon entering a train on her way to protest, she’s met with hostility from other citizens she considers family due to their shared nationality. “She boarded the train and found herself surrounded by men who looked like her brother and her cousins and her father and her uncles, except that they were angry, they were furious, and they were staring at her and at her badges with undisguised hostility, and the rancour of perceived betrayal, and they started to shout at her, and push her, that she felt fear, a basic, animal fear.” Here Hamid points out their animal like behaviors of the men on the train towards the Woman, showing how the civil unrest in the country has caused them to lose their humanity, attacking one of their own for advocating and maintaining humanity towards the migrants.

In lines 40-44 of the vignette, we see the Woman going to begin her journey to protest the militants occupying her country, going towards a zoo to do so “She gathered her courage, and she began to walk, and not in the direction of her apartment, her lovely apartment with its view of the river, but in the other direction, the direction of the zoo, where she had been intending to go from the outset, and where she would still go.” The choice of the location where she protests being a zoo, alludes to the overall inhuman actions of both the militants Viennas citizens toward both the Woman attempting to support those seeking asylum in the country.

Capture vs Freedom in The Stranger

In Albert Camus famous novel, The Stranger, the idea that life is meaningless is revealed through the attitudes of the narrator, Meursault. Halfway through the novel, I was convinced Meursault’s random behavior had to do with him being a unique and free individual. It was not until Meursault went to jail that I realized he had been trapped all along. While at his mother’s funeral, Meursault displays himself as cold and emotionless. For example, he describes the funeral as something concrete and not emotional, he also demonstrates this when he falls asleep in his chair during the wake. This response is perceived as odd by others around him who expect Meursault to be grieving the loss of his mother. Meursault expresses feeling judged by his mother’s friends on page 10 saying, “for a second I had the ridiculous feeling that they were there to judge me”. When first reading this quote, I was unaware of its significance to the story. It was not until part two, during the trial, that I realized Meursault had been foreshadowing events of the trial all along. When witnesses were called, the director, the caretaker and Perez, all who were present at the funeral, gave testimonies about Meursault’s behavior. They describe how he had not cried or paid his respects, and bring up that he slept during the wake. While listening to the witness statements, Meursault describes a sudden urge to cry. This is because at this moment he began to realize he was guilty. Meursault’s attitudes and behaviors throughout the novel paint him as a free, senseless individual but below the surfaced he remained captured. After Meursault is found guilty, he has a final conversation with the chaplain. This conversation helps Meursault accept his fate and he is finally able to let go of the life he had lived before. As he begins to see life and death as equal possibilities, his indifferent attitude switches. Therefore by coming to terms with death and embracing his fate Meursault is finally free.

for the first time in years I had this stupid urge to cry, because I could feel how much all these people hated me

pg. 90

Exit West: Fantasy and Immigration

‘Exit West’ is a story based in an alternate reality filled with teleportation doors, a fantasy like concept that the story doesn’t focus too heavily on (as to not drown the rest of the story and its meaning). However unlike most other immigration based stories, which typically focus on the journey of immigration and its hardships, ‘Exit West’ doesn’t do that and is more concerned about the struggles and hardships that come after arriving. The doors play into the quick transition by removing the need for a long winded explanation of the travels of the main pair and other immigrants. The concept of magical teleportation doors could be a concept used in an apocalypse, and indirectly makes commentary on the bizarre sentiment of a mass immigration. The book comments on it by creating a reality where no major consequences are caused by the large number of immigrating people, at most there was discourse among the ‘natives’ and the immigrants, there was no war as some people would like to suggest and the doors are even used by people who wouldn’t usually be considered “immigrants” by the western idea of the term.

Exit West‘ is a story of immigrant accented by a fantastical idea and the interesting “romance” between two violently different people and their story of love and suffering.

Change Never Stops

Exit West, by Moshin Hamid, is a story about doors opening around the world that can transport a person from one country to another. This phenomenon creates a migration apocalypse. Many people are moving to new countries which creates a lot of changing cultures and music. There is an old woman in Palo Alto who decides to stay in her childhood home as everyone else is moving. Even though she has decided to stay everything around her is changing, making her feel like a migrant in the only place she has ever lived. This Palo Alto Passage presents the theme of uncontrollable change. Everyone will experience change no matter if you migrate or not, and that change is unable to be stopped. Focusing on sentimental values and building community can make a healthy change. While focusing on monetary values will make the change bad.

Exit West and Focusing on the Why of Immigration

The story Exit West by Mohsin Hamid helps imagine a reality where the how of migration is not the focal point of immigration but instead something that just happens, something where anyone could walk through a door and instantly be in a new country. This idea Hamid constructs his book around, these passages being reduced to walking through a door, helps to focus on what was happening that made it necessary for someone to leave their homes in the first place. That idea he invokes helps to restore humanity into these characters while reading, in contrast of the real world where stories of immigration focus on the how instead of the why, stripping humanity away from the people who partake in this journey. Often, this dehumanizing makes it easy to alienate but Hamid challenges that idea throughout the whole book and through his characters of Saeed and Nadia. As Saeed and Nadia go through change with each journey they take through the doorways, we see that migration is normal and identities can alter as a result. Though it is easy to other when looking at the journey of someone else, one you may not be able to relate to, we are all migrators as the world and people around us shift and change as well.

Exit West and Don’t Turn Back

In the novel Exit West, Mohsin Hamid writes a beautiful story regarding the migrant experience. The aspect of the story that struck me the most, however, was the emphasis on time and, more specifically, how to deal with the past. Throughout the novel, Saeed and Nadia frequently move from one place to the next, often in horrible conditions. Yet, despite all odds, they are able to move on and start their own lives without getting caught up in the past. I believe this is because they take the following approach: accept the past for what it is, value the aspects of it that deserve to be valued, and acknowledge that the past cannot be changed so it is best not to hurt yourself worrying over it.

The first significant move was Saeed and Nadia moving from their home country. That was a huge decision to make, especially for Saeed. They both had to leave behind their homes in which they had spent and dedicated their whole lives. Saeed even left his father, who had refused to go with them. They were able to cope with this traumatic departure by understanding that they had no choice but to leave, and still value the time they had in the country. Specifically for Saeed, he maintained his religious practice of prayer that was taught to him by his family, which allowed him to feel connected to his home even if it was in the past.

In my opinion, the novel’s most significant life development was Saaed and Nadia moving away from each other. I, being a rather nostalgic person, had trouble understanding how two people who cared for each other and went through so much together could possibly let go of each other. I realized, upon reflection, that if Saeed and Nadia had tried to cling to the past and stay together, it would have only been harmful. Splitting up was by no means easy for them, but it was the best for each of them so they could develop as a person and move on with their life.

I learned that, although there is value to the past, you can’t expect to live in the past and still successfully move on into your future. The more time you spend looking back at the events of your past unnecessarily, the more time you waste in which you could be growing as a person.

Exit West and the End of Borders

Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West tells a story about our world if random doors became portals to other random locations on Earth. People in the novel begin using the doors to escape their own countries in fear of war, poverty, or various other real-world issues that people emigrate from. First world countries such as the United States and England receive an influx of refugees from the portal doors, and respond harshly to this immigration. Efforts are made to forcefully remove the migrants from their shelters, and nativist militias organize and begin attacking the migrants. However, shortly after the conflict escalates to violence, it ends as neither side wished to cause any bloodshed, or do evil things. The world governments organized the construction of new cities specifically designed for the new presence of migrants.

This idea of borders disappearing is something I have thought about before. We are currently in an age of increased global connection, and especially with the creation of the internet and instant international messaging, the separation between nations is gradually decreasing. Immigration has also increased, and many nations are becoming more diverse. But global connection is not without hindrance. Events like rising nationalism in the US and the European reactions to refugees from the Middle East cast doubt on the possibility of a world without borders. I personally believe that too many people are rooted into their nationalist beliefs of their countries, and that if a scenario similar to the one presented in Exit West were to occur in reality, there would not be a peaceful conclusion to the conflict. Sadly, I think humanity has a far way to go before a border-less world can be accepted by many.

Big Trouble in Little China’s Complicated Relationship With Orientalism

On the surface level, Big Trouble in Little China (1986) is just another American martial arts movie. It stars a white protagonist who enters a mysterious oriental world, and is chalk full of Fu Manchu caricatures and other stereotypes evoking the East-Asian mysticism trope that plagues Hollywood. However, what sets Big Trouble apart – and elevates it to the status of cult classic – is the unique way its protagonist operates in the story.

The film’s IMDb summary would have you believe that Big Trouble stars Kurt Russel as the lead and a Chinese-American actor named Dennis Dunn as his sidekick. Upon watching the movie, you’ll find that it’s the other way around. While Russel’s Jack Burton may begin the film as the focal character, it quickly becomes clear that he isn’t meant to be the typical white savior character who inexplicably masters the ancient ways of a foreign culture immediately upon entering it. No, Burton is a buffoon who bumbles his way through the movie and [mild spoilers] even spends most of the climax unconscious after accidentally dropping a rock on his own head. Meanwhile, Dunn’s Wang Chi and the other Asian-American members of the cast take on the threat they, as residents of “Little China” (a fictionalized version of San Francisco’s Chinatown), are actually equipped to handle. So instead of being a story about a white man saving a foreign culture, it’s a story about people saving their own culture.

All that being said, the movie does use an excessive amount of oriental tropes. While you could argue that it does so in a tongue in cheek manner, it’s still perpetuating harmful stereotypes. Whether the positive elements outweigh those negatives is up to the viewer. Personally (and obviously I am in no way an authority when it comes to Asian-American representation), I find Big Trouble to be a refreshing subversion of the white savior narrative, and altogether a pretty fun movie.

The Takeaway from Exit West

In the novel, “Exit West,” by Mohsin Hamid, the novel posits that people immigrate to other countries to find better opportunities. Early in the novel, the people who go through the door follow the narrative of refugees in search of safety. As we see with Nadia and Saeed, life in their hometown becomes dangerous, without freedom, privacy, or financial opportunities. Furthermore, Exit West questions what it means to belong somewhere and suggests that country of origin only plays a small role in a rapidly globalizing world. Nadia has never felt a sense of “home” when being in her country. This embodies this philosophy in her ability to find friends in all the places she travels. She doesn’t value nationality because she associates her home country with the representation of her childhood. On the other hand, Saeed stays close to people from his country.

Migration In Exit West

Exit West showcases that characters have the freedom to migrate almost instantly through doors. Resulting in characters doing so in search of new possibility or to escape the dangers of where they were previously. When Saeed and Nadia migrate they leave their lives they had before and use migration as an opportunity for change. Most would depict migration as an interval between departures and arrivals but Hamid depicts it as a condition of living in the world. Hamid shows us that migration is a normal aspect of life and that identity can fluctuate because of this. He displays this through both Saeed and Nadia, when they go through change in each of the places they visit through the doors. In the end, most would view migration as the struggle that one goes through, but Hamid changes that view and turns it into something positive. Where characters who do migrate mainly experience positive outcomes.

Exit West: Why Magical Realism?

Exit West is a novel full of complexities and commentary on migration, relationships, death, war, loss, and the evolutions of our identities over time. What one has to wonder, amid all these layers, is why Hamid chose magical realism as the framework through which to tell this story. Arguably, he could have written a realistic fiction novel that could tell a distinctly similar narrative–or at least communicate the same themes–without the use of magical doors.

I would claim, however, that magical realism is a critical part of Hamid’s story. Through the clearly fantastical element of the doors, Hamid creates a world that is just removed enough from our reality for him to comment on modern society while maintaining a certain distance from it. It’s not hard to draw connections between Saeed and Nadia’s story and real-world debates around immigration, international tensions, racism, and xenophobia. Hamid does not try to hide those themes, but he also doesn’t comment on them directly. He creates this world that is almost ours, but with the distinct difference of the doors, in order to explore these ideas in a more theoretical context. Exit West is the story of our world, if something were to happen tomorrow that destroyed our notion of nations and borders as we know them. That theoretical gives Hamid room to explore vast societal issues without directly commenting on any current events. It allows him to create a vividly relevant novel without referencing any specific real-world events, which both makes his commentary more powerful–as it can stand on its own, without the need for outside context–and helps the reader maintain a Nabokov-style impersonal imagination throughout the story.

Why Saeed and Nadia Were Never Going to Work Out

At the beginning of Exit West, Nadia and Saeed were able to grow their relationship organically. They saw each other when desired and gave each other space when appropriate. However, when war tore apart their country they were forced to live together and then escape their home country together. While this living situation was manageable in the beginning, the lack of personal growth opportunities created an environment of mutual hatred.

This environment of mutual hatred between Nadia and Saeed is not just a problem among them, within the circumstances any “couple” would fall to the same demise. Being forced to live within the same quarters, without the space a blossoming couple needs, is detrimental. Nadia and Saeed were not afforded the ideal situation to grow. Nadia was thrown into the mix with the passing of Saeed’s mother and was almost “adopted” by Saeed’s father. This inadequate situation forced Nadia and Saeed to deal with circumstances a relationship of much longer length would have difficulties navigating. Their fresh relationship was not built for this complicated environment.

With this in mind, it only makes sense that both Nadia and Saeed would grow resentful of each other for the situation that was almost forced upon them. Such complexities only stunted their growth as individuals and a couple, proving the impossible nature of their relationship. In the end, it was bound that their romantic, and even platonic relationship, would fizzle out.

Exit West Analysis On Saeed & Nadia

In Exit West, there has been character growth that Saeed and Nadia both went through. In the beginning, before the migration, there are written as two individuals who have no interaction with one another. Once they have started interacting with each other, they both got along well enough to meet their close ones. Later on, they had developed a relationship with each other and this is where the migration with the both of them begin. When they both have successfully migrated, this is where the spark between them fell. Despite leaving their home country in which is a war-zone at the time, Saeed still longed for the nostalgia his country brought to him. Nadia, on the other hand, believes cutting ties with her home country would be beneficial, including removing Saeed from her life. The character growth in the novel brings a new perspective on how any type of scenario such as migration can affect a person and their connections to others.

Overall Meaning of Migration in Exit West

In Exit West by Mohsin Hamid shows a drastic meaning behind the story line. We can see how two of the protagonists, Nadia and Saeed, fleeting to other countries throughout the novel. There are many points in the book where it shows the difficulties of migration and what it comes with if in that position. Even when successfully fleeting to a new country, there are some obstacles that manage to get in the way which is portrayed in one of the scenes. On page 127, it quotes, “Soon there was a vanload more of them, in full riot gear, and then a car with two more who wore white shirts and black vests and were armed with what appeared to be submachine guns, and on their black vests was the word POLICE in white letters but these two looked to Saeed and Nadia like soldiers.” Even going through migration could lead you back to square one. Perhaps not physically but mentally it can jarr a person such as someone like Nadia and Saeed. It is greatly portrayed how individuals who go through migration and their hardships and obstacles that comes with it are portrayed and written in Exit West.

Country of Origin within Exit West

Exit West attempts to answer the many questions about globalization. Many characters throughout the story struggle to feel at home because of the force of migration. The sudden move to London poses many difficulties for both Nadia and Saeed. Both characters struggle to cope with the new challenges that London brings. Nadia dislikes the migrants from their home country because of past experiences, where as Saeed actively explores his values and moral compass. Over time, both characters develop a sense of respect for their home country and learn to value it in their own way. Nadia finds connection with her people through the council and Saeed finds his place with the other migrants in London. Their experiences are important to note when thinking about the effect of ones home country on their values, actions, and morals.

Wise Woman

Hamid writes,

She learned how to dress for self-protection, how best to deal with aggressive men and with the police, and with aggressive men who were the police, and always to trust her instincts about situations to avoid or to exit immediately.


After reading this sentence I was utterly drawn to the character, Nadia. She is a brave individual that defies social norms by moving out of her family’s house before getting married. She learned how to be independent and flourish in a world where women are taken advantage of. She reminds me of women today; people who know the odds are against them but don’t let that stop their ambition.