In Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Nadia and Saeed continue to drift apart as they begin to build their new lives after leaving their home country. Eventually, once in Marin County, CA, they make an official break from each other and go on to live their own separate lives. Although this initially seems like it is a sad ending because the main characters don’t end up together, I think it was the perfect way to end the book. Realistically, not all couples end up together. Usually in novels when this happens, either someone dies or the characters end up hating each other once the relationship has ended. However, I think that the beauty of Nadia and Saeed’s relationship is that they still cared for and supported each other after the split. Just because they had broken up didn’t mean that they had to disappear from each others lives. In fact, after they first split, Nadia and Saeed met to go on walks and would communicate through text and phone calls because they wanted to ensure the other was okay. After a little while they wouldn’t talk on the phone or meet up as much until all communication completely stopped, but it still took them time to fully break off. There was also no malice in this break because it happened naturally and they both had their new lives to live. They had both cared so much for the other while in their relationship, so even though it had changed from being romantic to more platonic, they were still friends that wanted the best for the other. When they meet up about half a century later in their birth country, Saeed and Nadia found easy conversation “…for they were former lovers, and they had not wounded each other so deeply as to have lost their ability to find a rhythm together…” (230). I think that their reunion shows that even though they didn’t end up together, they still appreciate each other and are friends above all else.
In part 2 of The Stranger, Meursault is on trial for murdering the Arab man. The government prosecutor tells the jury about how Meursault did not cry at his mother’s funeral, went out with Marie to see a comedy movie the next day, and also helped Raymond beat up his ex. I have no issue with all of these points that the prosecutor brought up, in fact I think they all make a great case against Meursault. However, it is later that I have an issue when the prosecutor states that Meursault lacks a soul. The prosecutor tells the jury that they cannot complain he has no soul, however they can punish him for it “Especially when the emptiness of a man’s heart becomes, as we find it has in this man, an abyss threatening to swallow up society” (101). I find an issue with this argument because who is to determine which people do and do not have a soul. Additionally, a soul is an abstract concept that has many different definitions. Although his argument was effective with the jury, I do not believe the prosecutor should have been allowed to use the idea of a soul as part of his judgement. Yes, Meursault seems to have great indifference to many things in life and does things most “normal” people do not, I do not think that means he has no soul.
Really, what is a soul? Why should the government prosecutor be allowed to use it in his argument against Meursault? I think that if the prosecutor had defined his definition of a soul, I would not have had this big of an issue with it. Then the audience would have had a more concrete idea of what the prosecutor was actually accusing Meursault of. From there, the prosecutor could have provided specific examples of Meursault’s lack of soul that fit into his definition. That way, the concept of a soul would not have been such an abstract argument against Meursault.
In part one of the novel The Stranger, the main character Meursault shoots one of the Arabs that followed Raymond to the beach house for no apparent reason. I was left completely perplexed as why he would do such a thing. However, after thinking about Meursault’s lack of care for the world or the people in it, I realized that shooting or not shooting really made no difference to Meursault.
Throughout the previous chapters of The Stranger, Meursault never shows any inclination that he actually attaches meaning to the events that occur around him or the people he sees. When his neighbor Raymond says that he wants to beat up his ex for cheating on him, Meursault sees no issue with this and even ends up writing a letter to the ex for Raymond. From this interaction, I think it is quite obvious that Meursault does not feel or think of things the same way that most people do. I think that he detaches events from the effects they could have on other people.
I believe this detachment is what led Meursault to killing the Arab. Meursault didn’t have a reason for killing the Arab because to him, the question ‘why would you shoot’ and ‘why not shot’ have no real meaning or difference. Meursault even says “It occured to me that all I had to do was turn around and that would be the end of it. But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back. I took a few steps toward the spring”(58). Meursault understands that a conflict will occur if he gets closer to the Arab but still does it because he’s hot and wants to cool off at the spring instead of at the house. He doesn’t actually care about the consequences, because he already believes life has no meaning, so what does one little fight really mean. And using Meursault’s logic, if one fight means nothing, then why not just shoot the Arab, since that doesn’t mean anything either.