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.

Meursault and His Mother

Meursault, throughout The Stranger by Albert Camus, is characterized by having very little emotional connections with anyone. The prosecutor portrayed him as soulless, failing to even cry at his own mother’s funeral. In fact, the prosecutor happily pointed out that Meursault was “swimming, starting up a dubious liaison, and going to the movies, a comedy, for laughs” the day after his mother had died (94). While Meursault may have not outwardly displayed affection or traditional grief towards his mother, he clearly listened to her and took her words to heart while she was alive.

In part 2, Meursault mentions the words and advice of his mother that help him get through prison. Meursault after acknowledging Maman’s often repeated philosophy “that after a while you could get used to anything,” concedes that he too could have gotten used to living in the trunk of a dead tree (77). During his time of thought he chooses to remember his mother (which is significant since he barely thinks about other important people in his life such as Marie) and ponder her expressions. Meursault thinks of his mother again when he contemplates her death and his own. He can relate to the sense of freedom and finally understands that even “where lives were fading out, evening was a kind of wistful respite” (122). Impeding death, when accepted, is a sense of freedom that allows an individual to be ready to live all over again. Meursault realizes that “nobody had the right to cry over her” (122).

Meursault was able to commemorate his mother in a way that felt authentic to himself. Thinking of her during meaningful times allowed him to keep her alive in his mind. Meursault finally comes to the conclusion that while everyone was telling him that he was “weird” and “different” for not crying, he may have been the one doing the most appropriate thing by not being sad and continuing to live his own life.

Robot Lady Dines-In

In The Stranger, a strange woman entered Celeste’s and asked Meursault to sit with him. She was quite peculiar and described as having “robotlike movements” (43). Her actions serve as a foil to Meursault’s character.

The robot lady was very driven, quick-moving, and meticulous. She “studied the menu feverishly” and ordered in a “clear and very fast” voice (43). She had a no-nonsense attitude, getting straight to the point. She wasted no time between meals by checking off radio programs “one by one, and with great care” (43). She so deeply cared about checking off the radio programs and then proceeded to continue on with her life with “incredible speed and assurance.”

Meanwhile, Meursault’s character is the opposite. He is passive, soft-spoken, and unmotivated. When asked to move to Paris, he claimed he “wasn’t dissatisfied with [his current life]” and “had no ambition” (41). He does what other people tell him to do and has very little free thought of his own. He would rather stay stagnant than pursue satisfaction. He does not even find passion when being proposed to. He was indifferent and his reasoning for getting married was simply because Marie had wanted to.

yThe robot lady is assertive while Meursault is passive. The robot lady preemptively added up her dinner bill and placed the cash on the table (43). Meursault does whatever other people tell him to do. He prioritizes practicality over happiness. He accepted Raymond’s dinner invitation only so he wouldn’t have to cook for himself (28).

Meursault begins to display motivation and interest by following the robot lady for a while after she left the restaurant. Although this change in character was short lived as he regressed to his old ways and “forgot about her a few minutes later” (44). Maybe Meursault is right: “people never change their lives” (41).