“So Men Don’t F–k With Me”

In Exit West, Nadia is definitely her own person. She moves out from her parents while unmarried, which is culturally abnormal for her. From here, it could be inferred that the role of women in Exit West could be a traditional one. The robe is “conservative and virtually all concealing” (16). Saeed thinks it to be related to Nadia’s faith. After he inquires, “If you don’t pray, why do you wear it?” (16), Nadia responds with the brusque “So men don’t f–k with me” (17).

This is one of my favorite lines in the entire book. It is made even more important through Hamid’s commitment to long, flowing prose. I know this is a character speaking, and not Hamid’s narration, but the contrast is still there. Besides, Hamid could have written the whole novel with punchy little sentences like these. Then, maybe, this line would not be more memorable. I digress. All the same, what really makes this statement work is all the meaning packed into Nadia’s words.

When Nadia expresses the desire to be liberated from male advances, it ties into the patriarchy. There is a big question, though: is she wearing this robe as someone who feels bound by such ideals, or as someone who is independent but does not want any questions asked therein? The argument for the former hinges on the idea that such a robe looks like a patriarchal construction. It swallows Nadia whole and could make her look meek and submissive. Or it may not. We know Nadia is a strong, independent woman, so perhaps she is wearing this robe to avoid all the prodding that would come with her outwardly breaking norms by, say, wearing skinny jeans and a crop-top. She is merely playing a role, does not want anything to do with anyone, and has to get on with being her own self.

Character On Trial

Throughout the back-and-forth between the prosecution and defense, I noticed how odd the trial seemed.
Full disclosure, I am not a lawyer, but even still, something about this trial seemed atypical, unbecoming of a murder case. First of all, only a page or so is dedicated to prosecution of criminal activity (87-88). The diversion to non-criminal affairs is imminent around page 87, when the prosecutor “had to turn to some questions that might seem irrelevant to [Meursault’s] case but might in fact have a significant bearing on it,” whereupon Meursault thinks, “I knew right away he was going to talk about Maman again, and at the same time I could feel how much it irritated me” (87). Later on, there is more discussion that is actually relevant when Raymond is called to the stand. He recounts the relationship between the victim, Meursault, and himself. All the same, take note of the following dialogue between the prosecutor and the defense lawyer.

Prosecutor: “The same man who the day after his mother died was indulging in the most shameful debauchery killed a man for the most trivial of reasons and did so in order to settle an affair of unspeakable vice” (96).

Defense: “Come now, is my client on trial for burying his mother or for killing a man?” (96).

Prosecutor: “Indeed, I accuse this man of burying his mother with crime in his heart!” (96).

The focus on morals in place of criminal activity makes for a strange trial. What is the crime here? The prosecutor may be reaching towards premeditation in his charges. That would make sense, especially considering Meursault was sentenced to death. Chapter 4 better represents a murder trial. Meursault’s motives are discussed. All told, I just can’t get around this oddity.

Meursault’s People: Beautiful and Brutal

I have been thinking about the kinds of people Meursault associates with in The Stranger.

First, I shall examine his love interest, Marie. She seems like someone too impactful for Meursault, considering his cold nature. I would not be certain he would be available to fall in love, but here we go. Of course, the two have some previous history, so I will dismiss my questions. She is the traditional romantic archetype in many stories, and yet this story is such an oddity with regards to emotional capacity that it seems odder still.

Now we move on to some of the sinister characters. Raymond and Salamano spring to mind. Raymond beats women and Salamano his dog. These two are not very upstanding, and yet Meursault associates with them, just like he would with any friend.

In a book defined by solemnity, why would Camus give us such provocative characters? Why would they do what they do? Do they symbolize anything?

You know what, I would say yes. Marie is certainly a juxtaposition to Meursault insofar as she invites him to express his emotions. The two enjoy intimate moments in the water and in the bedroom, and are on course to marry, even if Meursault is somewhat apathetic about it (41-42). Perhaps she is bringing something good out of him. Raymond and Salamano, however, represent Meursault’s darker streak. Meursault is no angel himself–he commits murder and covers for Raymond when he is caught slapping a woman. As such, these two are definitely a negative influence. The two of them personify his self when he shoots the Arab, once to kill him and “four quick times on the door of unhappiness” (59). What is more, this Arab is not even a nemesis of his. He adopted Raymond’s violent disposition.