Adapting to Migration

In the novel Exit West, through Saeed and Nadia, Mohsin Hamid shows two ways in which people may react to migration. When Saeed and Nadia travel through the magic doors to Mykonos, London, and Marin, we see how they react to their new environments. As I read, I questioned how Nadia and Saeed’s backgrounds, or past experiences from their home, would affect how they reacted to migrating.

Saeed struggles in their pursuit of a new home. When Saeed and Nadia are in Mykonos, Saeed is much more hesitant than Nadia. In London, it is especially more of the same, as Saeed feels so unsafe and afraid that he resorts to leaving the house they are occupying for entire days to visit people in another home that are from his country. I think that this reaction is best explained by Saeed’s past. Saeed had a much less independent life than Nadia did in their home country. Saeed had more that he had to leave behind. Saeed had to leave his father, family, home, friends, and memories of his mother behind. And the fact that he and Nadia struggled to find a permanent home probably made him question if his new situation was much better than what he had before. However, Saeed finally seemed to have found happiness and comfort once he met the preacher’s daughter and separated from Nadia. I think that Saeed was happier once he and Nadia separated because he was finally able to put his past aside, and didn’t have to be reminded of everything he left behind.

Nadia finds migration much easier. She fits in and is more comfortable every time they move. Nadia was independent before they even entered a door. She lived by herself, away from her family. And, while she still did have to abandon her family, she did so much before she would have been forced to when traveling through a door. The circumstances in which Saeed had to choose whether or not to leave his family were much different than Nadia’s. But Nadia also seems more satisfied when spending time with the cook, away from Saeed. While she had to leave less, she still misses her home and is probably better off without Saeed for the same reason he’s better off without her.

Should we imitate Meursault’s mindset?

While Meursault may be happier than most with his emotional indifference, there are elements of his mindset that are not the best to mimic. There is one specific thing I hope to emulate from Meursault’s mindset. Meursault views everything as if he is removed from the situation. This skill adds to Meursault’s happiness because he observes natural beauty and lives in the moment. When looking out on a rainy day Meursault finds it to be, “a beautiful afternoon. Yet the pavement was wet and slippery, and what few people there were were in a hurry” (21). Even when others don’t seem happy, or the day itself isn’t actually that beautiful, Meursault is able to see the best in almost every situation. I hope I can take after Meursault and learn how to do this, because appreciating every moment I have would only add to my happiness.

However, Meursault also has habits that I would not want to replicate. While removing himself from situations adds to his happiness, it would diminish my own. Meursault is too distant. He is distant all of the time instead of when he should be. For example, at Maman’s funeral one of Mamans friends is crying. Instead of showing support to his mothers friend, he “[wishes he] didn’t have to listen to her anymore” (10). This tactic may work for Muersault, but if I felt this way it would add to my guilt rather than happiness. Meursault’s lack of empathy allows for him to feel happy because he doesn’t feel any guilt or remorse. But the average person does feel these emotions, which is why Meursault’s mindset is not one that I would conform to.

Meursault and the Sky

So far, throughout Part 1 of The Stranger, Meursault describes the sky above him most often as something that brings him dread. In chapter 1, Meursault states, “The glare from the sun was unbearable” (page 16). Also near the end of Part 1 he mentions, “The sun was the same as it had been the day I buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me…” (page 58). It’s a pattern for Meursault to be bothered by the sun physically, but the sun also reminds him of solemn events such as his mother’s funeral.

Meursault also uses the sky, intentionally or not, to foreshadow another grave event. He describes the sky as having “the same dazzling red glare” (57), and as a result of this glare, “the blazing sand looked red to [him]” (53). He foreshadows how the sand on the beach went from looking red because of the blazing sun to actually becoming red, from both the blood of Masson’s stab wound and the gunshot wounds of the Arab man who was after Raymond. As we continue to read onto Part 2, I’m curious as to how the sky will continue to affect Meursault and if a deeper meaning of the sky will continue to form.