“Put Your Records On”

Nadia, a main protagonist in Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, explored her own freedom through living by herself in her apartment and moving away from her family. Fulfilling some of her personality, Hamid writes in details and moments that portray her power and individualism. She rides a motorcycle, controls her own vision in front of males so they do not mess with her, and chooses the restaurant Saeed and her meet at (17-23). Specifically, I want to focus on the collection of records described that Nadia chose and filled part of her apartment with. One time when Saeed came into her apartment, Nadia picked one of her records of an old American woman soul singer and let it play (28). At first, I thought this was not that important but later on, when the records came up again I was curious. Now I realize that the records were part of the key in understanding how Nadia develops her own image and identity through her choices. 

Further, how the ability of Nadia’s record collection can serve to satisfy or offer to readers a glimpse into who she is and what she values. Later on in the book when Nadia is living with Saeed and his father she got the records and the player back from her apartment but kept the music hidden because it was forbidden by the militants who would search their homes (84). At first, an act of hiding can be seen as cowardness but upon a closer look, it is evident in this case that even taking the time and risk to retrieve the albums and the player and choosing to hold them in a place illustrates Nadia’s subtle strength. From the simple records, readers can see that Nadia individually still combats conformity by not following all the rules and supports her adventurous nature in exploring herself whether it be through records or a speedy motorcycle. Also, how even the selection of her records including an American singer conveys that Nadia is open to and appreciates global aspects of the world and wants to expose herself to them. Overall, I think the records are a little detail that makes all the difference in composing Nadia’s character throughout the book by giving her her own self-identity development and strength to hold onto aspects of that identity if she wants to.

Peaking Thinker, But Still Normal

Throughout the book The Stranger by Albert Camus, Meursault is seen as a kind of strange and detached character. And only through further close reading do readers notice the existentialism connections between Meursalt and his surprising presentness and acceptance of the absurdity of life (including his willingness to give up on some illusions). However, towards the end of the book I think he finally lets go completely and reaches the peak of existentialism that we talk about in class. I think before that he was not fully there yet. When he brings up his Maman, I originally thought it was gonna be about him playing into his bond to her or a profound comment about them and their relationship. Camus instead steers along this questioning path and talks about how Meursault begins to understand his mom, “playing at the beginning again” and how Meursault, “opened myself (himself) to the gentle indifference of the world” (122). I think the realization of Meursault, after the aggressive confrontation earlier, confirms to readers that he truly/fully started to free himself of the burdens of illusions in the book only towards the end. Additionally, it prompts the discussion of how people like Merusault’s mom decide on how they want to live their lives and freely change their path if they desire something different.

Another part of the book I would like to comment on is the times where Meursault does not just come across as this existentialist being and instead more like a normal person living and thinking. When he is waiting for his sentence to be acted upon he describes that he must distract himself and tries to look at the sky and find something interesting about it (112). The stressful waiting situation Meursault is in has put his reactions to the forefront and I think they exemplify that he does not feel nothing about death and instead is trying to process his fate anxiously. As humans I think we all have been in extreme situations that get us on edge and I think it is important that we acknowledge Meursault as a human and not just the ideas of believing in nothing at all. The anxiety he has while waiting as he describes hearing himself breathing, “like a dog’s panting” illustrates the normal behaviors he has, like anyone else would while waiting for their looming fate (113). And other times throughout the book when he wants ways to waste time whether to distract himself from his emotions or use it as an excuse to feel nothing, I think most everyone has a part of themselves that feels this way at times. Although it might be a flying thought that people want to dismiss, it still occurs at times when we simply wish something would end quicker so maybe we stare at a clock to waste time. The normal tendencies in Meursault are interesting to note and I think do not diminish his other strange actions but combine as a whole to form this complex character. And I wonder if in existentialism death is another illusion to diminish or if it is to be accepted as an absurdity of life. 

Rebellious Curiosity in Shady Meursault

Throughout part 1 of The Stranger by Albert Camus, the main character Meursault seems evasive in confronting what he feels or even dealing with the people around him. The repetitive phrasing of Meursault internally thinking or verbally expressing, “it didn’t really matter” makes readers think that he is a person without a personality (41). Despite the book being told from the character Meursault’s point of view, Camus places a cloak of perception on who the narrator really is and how he may be deeply feeling at times. The lack of clarity in his emotions gives readers confusion and the feeling of following someone down a rabbit hole of complicated expectations barring the truth.

Despite the tone sometimes being flat in the text there are sneak peeks throughout the passages that clue readers into details about the main character. When Meursault was talking about moving to Paris for his job with Raymond, he explains that he used to have ambitions in life but realized they did not matter after he had to quit his studies (41). The first time his studies came up was in this context but granted to readers with the mystery of why he had to quit his studies unexplained. The elusive nature of the writing entails readers to strive to want to learn more about the curious nature of the main character. And in peculiar moments we see the shift from the monotone character that seems to lack security and present himself as indifferent to a subtle personality resurfacing after his mothers death. 

In some events of part 1 Meursault initiates actions that deter readers from believing that he is truly indifferent or conveniently “didn’t have anything to do” (43). The indifference of Meursault falls short on a couple occasions. When the main character follows the apple faced woman from the dinner and leaves after a while there is a humorous tone to the action (43). The humor stems from readers being surprised by the unpredictability of Meursault shifting from one minute being the type of person to keenly observe and follow a stranger, to also being the type of person who flatly expresses repetitive daily life actions. The rebellion of details in this story paints a different picture of the character than what readers initially expect. When there was the physical conflict with Raymond, Masson, Meursault and the Arabs at one point, Meursault smokes to avoid explaining and then at another he blatantly disregards the aggressive nature of Raymond wanting to sulk alone by following him anyways (54-55). And at other times he even describes Raymond as, “repulsive” (47-48).  While also adding earlier in a passage that he does not like the cops without reasons as to why (36-37). There is a rebellious hint to the actions and thoughts Meursault sometimes has that as readers we need to snatch onto. Camus writes the book with unexpected rifts in indifference and sets up Meursault as a challenge for readers to learn, try and discover who he may be or stand for.