Beauty and Brutality

In his novel, Exit West, Moshin Hamid employs the casual description of violence as well as it’s juxtaposition to love to convey the unconditional possibility of life’s inevitable and drastic changes. Specifically, Hamid accomplishes this theme through Saeed and Nadia’s relationship and the harsh and incessantly changing world that it forcibly exists in.

After Nadia gives Saeed a set of keys, a valuable step forward in their romantic relationship, both of them grin, “But when he was gone she heard the demolition blows of distant artillery, the unmaking of buildings, and large-scale fighting having resumed somewhere, and she was worried for him on his drive home…”(66). The quick shift from the love and happiness in their relationship to the violence surrounding them and the lack of security in his safety reveals the reality of how immediate life can change, especially when shifting from a personal bubble to the dangers of the real world.

Furthermore, when Nadia is considering the possibility of moving in with Saeed, Saeed’s mother’s death is abruptly mentioned in the middle of her sentence, Hamid mentions, “and she might have waited much longer had Saeed’s mother not been killed, a stray heavy-caliber round passing through the windshield of her family’s car and taking with it a quarter of Saeed’s mothers’ head”(74-75). Within the topic of taking another monumental milestone surrounding Saeed and Nadias love and relationship, the death of his mother is not only mentioned passively but brutally described. The unexpected cruelness exposes the abruptness of life events and their unpredictability, shown by the natural introduction of this violent death.

Physical Confinement Frees the Mind

At the beginning of the book, Mersault is solely focused on physical desires and stimulation, without much regard for internal reflection. However, towards the end of the book, Mersault is forced to use his thoughts to stay content, and therefore enters a period of reflection, a process we have seen to be very limited and most of the time nonexistent for Mersault. Specifically, when Mersault is in his jail cell, he comes to a realization that life and time are meaningless. Although readers have made inferences on this attitude Mersault has on life even from the beginning of the book, this seems to be the first time Mersault himself realizes why he doesn’t care and has reflected and fully come to the conclusion that life is meaningless.

“For the first time in a long time I thought about Maman. I felt as if I understood why at the end of her life she had taken a “fiance”, why she had played at beginning again…For the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world, Finding it so much like myself…”(p 122).

Here we see Mersault understand not only his Mom but himself. Given that this is the first time we see Mersault reflect on his mothers death, this understanding shows growth, also seen through his self-reflection that follows.

Emotional breakthrough or instinctual feelings of pain?

In his novel, The Stranger, author Albert Camus develops the characterization of Meursault by implementing a dramatic contrast in the intensity of diction by the end of part one. Readers quickly learn that Meursault is unconcerned with the decisions and events in his life through his indifference to his mothers death, his girl-friends marriage proposal, and the violence exhibited by his neighbor and friend. After Marie asked him if he loves her, he describes his feelings as though “it didn’t mean anything” and that he “didn’t think so” while noting that “She looked sad”(35). The reader understands from this neutral diction that Mersaults emotions are never extreme and Mersault is consistently content and uninfluenced throughout chapters 1-5.

Although this carelessness seems to be permanent, Camus employs a moment of extremity for Meursault at the end of chapter six. For instance, Meursault details his emotions and suffering as “cymbals of the sunlight crashing on [his] forehead”, “The sea carried up a thick fiery breath”, “The scorching blade slashed at [his] eyelashes and stabbed at [his] stinging eyes,” and that it seemed as if “the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire”(59). This is the most expression readers receive from Mersault thus far and Camus exposes Meursaults intense emotions through the symbollically detailed expression of his pain and the hell like world around him. Moreover, through the words, “crashing”, “fiery”, “scorching”, and “slashed”, Meursault exemplifies strong emotions. Even if it is just a result of physical pain, the detail in emotion Meursault conveys is a strong development from the surface level thoughts he expressed in the beginning chapters.