Immigration Nation

The United States is a country with a checkered past with regards to immigration. From Columbus’s treatment of Native Americans to the border wall, this country has both been attacked by migrants and then attacked migrants. The world currently lives in a refugee crisis, where people seeking a peaceful place to live away from the persecution of their own countries have fled to parts of the world that don’t want them. In Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, this is taken to a new extreme when magical doors appear around the globe that transport migrants away from their home countries. This allows the migration process to speed up rapidly, and simultaneously the discrimination against them to rise.

Why does this discrimination exist? Why have immigrants turned themselves into natives, and now discriminate against others who are trying to do what they once did? It boils down to a few things: nativism and “the other”. In Exit West, this appears when some of the Londoners protest the influx of migrants in Chapter 7. This is an example of nativism, and its existence in the United States is oddly paradoxical. Since it is a nation made of mostly immigrants, how can nativism exist? Wouldn’t the nativism necessarily persecute those who are promoting it the most?

The idea of “the other” is also prevalent in both Exit West and the current refugee crisis. In the novel, the London government plans to set up a “halo city” for the migrants. By separating the migrants from “regular” Londoners, they inherently “otherize” them. “The other” also embodies why the nativist mob exists in the first place: they are fearful of the changing landscape of their city and what the migrants might bring with them (culture, violence…), resulting in acts of violence.

Nativism and “the other” are powerful forces acting on everybody. People are fearful of that which is different, so violence occurs. The solution is to find, through conversation, that the two sides are, in reality, not all that different.

What Does Love Mean to Meursault?

The meaning of love is something that humans struggle with, and trying to find it usually results in one person in the back yelling out “42!” to end the discussion. But, in Camus’ The Stranger, Meursault takes a different approach.

“…she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so.”

The Stranger, Page 35

He appears to reject the concept of the discussion altogether, describing it as meaningless. In other words, he does not debate the meaning of love, instead he argues that there really is no meaning. Meursault describes the world with a flat, blank, tone, and this is the same approach he takes to love.

“…Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her. ‘So why marry me, then?”…Then she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing. I said ‘No’.”

The Stranger, Page 42

Expanding on what he said earlier, Meursault continues to avoid discussing love at any length, simply staying noncommittal. He pins the decisions on Marie instead of contributing his own input.

The real question is “Why?”. Why does Meursault believe the way he does? I believe that something happened to Meursault earlier in his life to make him the way that he is: noncommittal, perpetually neutral, an “outsider”, and appearing to be devoid of emotion and love. An event in his life made him commit to a person or a relationship for a long period of time, and then that person betrayed him. That left Meursault emotionless, cynical, and afraid of commitment.

I think that even though Meursault appears to the other characters and to the reader as a neutral body, simply going through life on one note, he has emotions that he has simply buried (and continues to bury as they come up). To Meursault, love means self-reflection and digging up his old memories and reliving them. Therefore, expresses to others that love is foreign and meaningless instead of confronting his true feelings.