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?

Should We All Prepare To Be Guilty?

In The Stranger, a novel written by French author Albert Camus and translated by Matthew Ward, the main character is on trial for the murder of an Arab by multiple gunshot wounds. This character, Meursault, is ultimately found guilty, which is no surprise to him as he confirms the accounts of his murder. However, the verdict of the death penalty comes to him with complete shock, shaking him more than the murder itself. As he waits in his cell for his death, he finally begins to feel intense emotions that are absent in the rest of his narration. Though one would expect a dead man’s emotions to be that of remorse, sorrow, or fear, Meursault’s first intense emotion is regret over having not prepared for this situation.

“Then I blame myself every time for not having paid enough attention to accounts of executions. A man should always take an interest in those things. You never know what might happen.”

(Camus, 108).

This line provides inquiry to the question: Should we all prepare to be guilty? No ordinary person would live their life expecting to find themselves in a trial of this sort. Clearly, Meursault did not either. But he claims a valid point, ” You never know what might happen”. People are caught up in unlucky situations all the time. To be clear, I do not intend to say that committing murder is an unlikely situation. Is it true that an ordinary person could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and commit an offense? If one were to be on trial, how would preparation for that moment really change one’s emotions? Meursault seems to think preparing for being guilty would be benefited him, but then again, Meursault does not seem to have emotional reactions that are entirely aligned with those of any ordinary person.

Shadeless Foreshadowing: The Sun

The Stranger, a novel by Albert Camus, writes about the life of Meursault from his own perspective. The book is written in first person, giving readers a direct path into the eyes and thoughts of Meursault. It is very interesting to find what Meursault notes. Oftentimes, Meursault will disregard typically emotional events, like the loss of his mother or animal abuse. However, he always seems to note the weather and the sun. This is no coincidence in the writing.

It appears as though the warm colors of the sun indicate moments of suffering or a bad turn of events. When Meursault takes notice of the damped mood of people walking home and the crying of children, Camus makes note that “The sky changed again. Above the rooftops the sky had taken a reddish glow…” (23). Warm, normally calming colors seem to be negative in Meursault’s life. Even more blatantly obvious is the color of the sky during his encounter with the Arabs on the beach. Just prior to the release of the bullet from Meursault’s gun, the novel states that “There was the same dazzling red glare” that was overhead during their first encounter with the Arabs (57). The sun clearly demonstrates insight into the coming of events in the book. As we continue to read The Stranger, it is keen to make note of how the weather plays a role in Meursault’s life.