Together as The “Others”

The novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid highlights the unity that forms among migrants. Hamid emphasizes the fact that it is not each individual migrant against the world, it is all migrants against the world. They form a bond, which is created by having similar struggles and lives that they need to leave behind. As Nadia and Saeed leave his father behind as they travel, it is described as, “When we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind” (98). This is not a common occurrence, it is something tragic that connects those who can relate to it. Migrants leave their home, their family, their entire past life and often can never return.

Due to this connection through trauma, it is shown throughout the novel that migrants stick together and fight for each other. One example of this is when the police showed up to the house Nadia and Saeed were staying at with other migrants. The police asked them to leave the house until “Other people gathered on the street, other dark- and medium- and even light-skinned people” (128). These people bonded together and made a racket until the police decided to withdraw. This is an important event that shows the power of people of all different backgrounds and skin colors coming together and standing up for each other. Another example is when they have to decide what to do as people become more hostile and scared of the large groups of migrants coming in. One option included “A banding together of migrants…cutting across divisions of race or language or nation, for what did those division matter now” (155). This perfectly emphasizes how migrants do not fight for themselves, they fight for each other. They are all “others” in their new locations and their previous distinctions are put aside. The quote continues and states, “The only divisions that mattered now were between those who sought the right of passage and those who would deny them passage” (155). The migrants recognize that to survive and be successful, they must work together. This unity is present in Exit West and in the real world when migrants stand together as one against the rest of the world.

The Art Of “Getting Used To It”

As we continue through Albert Camus’s The Stranger, we see Meursault continue on through his life and eventually end up in prison for killing an Arab. This is a huge twist in the story and Meursault’s life changes drastically. He went from having a routine, a way of life, to ending up in a dark, bug infested prison. As I read this, I thought about how hard it would be for Meursault to adjust to this new experience and new way of life. He was so used to doing things on his own time, without any outside influence about how he acted and what he did. Now, he is thrown for a loop and has little to no control over his actions in prison.

He states that the adjustment was difficult at first, “When I was first imprisoned, the hardest thing was that my thoughts were still those of a free man” (76). He continues on and thinks, “But that only lasted a few months. Afterwards my only thoughts were those of a prisoner” (77). This highlights how he was able to adjust to a new life, adapting the thoughts and actions that he felt helped him in his new environment. Furthermore, he states, “All the time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it” (77). I think this is important because he is showing that no matter where he is put, he feels that he is able to adjust and become familiar and “used to” his new place.

I think this is a very important point to make, especially in regards to the year 2020 and what has been going on in our world. No one thought that the entire world would be going through a pandemic and all of the chaos that has emerged from it, but we have gotten used to it. We went from being confused and scared, to every person wearing a mask being normal, and another semester of school from home. While no one was expecting this to happen, and no one is necessarily ecstatic about it, we as humans have all gotten used to it. It is a human adaptation, being able to grow and learn in a new environment, and it is one that I think is very crucial in present times. Both Meursault and people all over the world have been able to “get used” to a big change and make the best out of it.

The Lives On Fifth Avenue

In Toni Cade Bambara’s The Lesson, the students being taught by Miss Moore come to realize some of the differences between their lives and the lives of the people who shop on 5th avenue. When Miss Moore is talking about the kids, she describes Sylvia and her friends as “all poor and live in the slums” (110). When the group arrives at Fifth Avenue, they are enthralled with the objects they see in the windows and how much they cost. They find a paperweight that costs $480 and are confused at first, curious as to why a paperweight is even needed. The students talk about if they have paper on their desk at school or at home that would need a paperweight and say, ‘”I don’t even have a desk,’ say Junebug. ‘Do we?’ ‘No. And I don’t even get homework neither,’ says Big Butt. ‘And I don’t even have a home,’ say Flyboy” (112). The kids start realize that their lives are very different, and are surprised that people would spend that much money. They continuously say, “White folks crazy” (114), emphasizing that they feel different and out of place from the people that they are encountering.

Each item they see, they check the price and are surprised every time. Sylvia saw a $35 toy clown and thought about what that money could buy for her and her family. “Thirty-five dollars could buy new bunk beds for Junior and Gretchen’s boy. Thirty-five dollars and the whole household could go visit Granddaddy Nelson in the country. Thirty-five dollars would pay for the rent and the piano bill too” (114). This contrast between what people spend their money on was really an eye-opener for Sylvia. She could not understand why people would pay so much for one thing when in her community and house, that money could be better used somewhere else. The author gave this insight into Sylvia’s mind in order to show that she recognizes Fifth Avenue and her home as two very different entities and realizes the very evident differences between the two.

Escape from Punishment

This story is written in a specific way so the reader is not fully aware of what is going on in the beginning. There is talk about drugs, and euphoric sensations as a result, but the writer does not fully explain what is going on and why this is all happening. A couple of pages in, Saunders gives us a little information to why Jeff is going through what he is. The text states, “…as if trying to remind me that I was not here by choice but because I had done my crime and I was in the process of doing me crime.” (55) This is very interesting because the reader realizes that Jeff is stuck there and being administered drugs because he committed a crime. This crime is referred to as “the fateful night” in the story and it is later on revealed that Jeff is in Spiderhead because he killed a guy in a fight. I thought his was a very important part of the story because the reader is able to see that each character does not actually have the consent we thought they had before. Because they have to say “acknowledge before being given the drug, I thought they were in control, but this quote shows that they are not. This point is emphasized when Heather is given Darkenfloxx. While Heather says “acknowledge,” she ends up dying from this drug in less than 5 minutes, proving that she has no control. This terrible system, guilting Jeff and the others into believing they are terrible people and deserve to be given these drugs in exchange for their past faults, reminds me of the present day debate on whether or not prisoners should be tested on for different products or drugs. These are very similar situations, where there is a power hold from one side, and the other has little to no control. This power struggle is a very dangerous one and can lead to scary things, as shown in Spiderhead.