Migrants of Love

“We are all migrants through time” (209). This quote in Exit West can serve as an overall theme throughout the story. Whether it is through Saeed and Nadia’s relationship fading away with time or migrants having to accept change with time. There are many examples of this in the book. One example is Nadia, accepting the fact she loved Saeed in some ways, but not in a romantic way. She wasn’t comfortable with the responsibilities and family dynamics that came along with being faithful to Saeed. She was in her head too much and couldn’t accept the change. In the same way, migrants may or may not be able to accept the fact that they have to leave their hometown because it is not safe. In the book’s example of this being, although Saeed and Nadia eventually begin loving in their new relationships, the slow process that is required for them to pull apart from each other reflects how their breakup for a major life change, just as migration did. Coming from this is the fact that humans can never unlove. We can never unlove a human or a place. When a breakup is accepted that doesn’t mean someone is forgotten. That is why Saeed calls Nadia on the second night of their separation to make sure she’s safe. It is also the same reason fifty years later, Nadia returns to her native city to find it restored and renewed. A place or human you once loved will ever be forgotten just as a migrant never forgets their home.

The second example is the old lady from Palo Alto. “The world had moved, and she barely recognized the town that existed outside her property” (207). She loved her “old” home too much to accept the fact that her “old” home has changed. Just as migrants don’t want to accept their change in “homes”.

Don’t Judge

There is a speech Benedict Cumberbatch performed that I often watch over when in need of inspiration. The speech he is performing is between pioneering American artists Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse. In 1960, pioneering American artists Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse met for the first time and became close friends. In 1965, Eva found herself facing a creative block during a period of self-doubt, and told Sol of her frustrating predicament. Sol replied with this letter. The main part of the speech I always focus on is the following,

learn to say F*ck you to the world every once in a while, you have every right to just Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!…”

As we recently read The Stranger by Albert Camus my mind kept coming back to this speech, especially toward the end of the novel.

Throughout the entire passage, Meursault in many ways lives his own world. Like I said above I often look to those words in the speech to think to do better in my own life. So why do we often judge how Meursault lives his life? Throughout the novel he undoubtedly, doesn’t overthink, he doesn’t worry and he doesn’t fear. He does what a lot of people in this society wish they could do, JUST DO IT. Whether it was taking care of the Arab man without hesitation, not judging his peers for their abusive lives, or being 100% honest in his romantic with Marie, he doesn’t overthink anything in life, whether good or bad. Speaking specifically to his relationship with Marie most when faced with the question “I love you” just give an unmeaningful response back, the easy way out. But not Meursault. He knew his feelings and is very self-aware. He told her straight up that he didn’t love her. He throughout the novel is entirely self-aware with his decisions and feelings, which is something I respect. I will never understand why most readers’ first thoughts of Meursault is to judge his lifestyle rather than respect it. The average person does not feel the emotions he feels and is nowhere near as self-aware as he is, which is why Meursault’s mindset is one to be respected not judged. 

A Healthy Observer

Throughout the first part of The Stranger Meursault plays the role of the detached observer. In my eyes, I feel many overlook the fact that Meursault is living a healthy lifestyle. When discussing The Stranger many feel the need to judge Meursault by giving him a diagnosis of a disorder because of the way he interacts. That is straight up the most wrong thing you can do to a character at the beginning of a novel. They try to judge him without giving him any empathy. Readers will judge him for not crying at his mother’s funeral without knowing the true relationship he and his mother shared. I feel there is an abstract point of view no one touches on and that is that the way Meursault lives his life in such organization and normalcy, that in his way is healthy.

Throughout the first part of the book, Meursault will go into this deep Rome of observation. Whether it is a character he meets or just how he feels the temperature in the room is too hot, he is very self-aware about how he feels the world around him is going. There are many points where his brain will go on random sprees of feeling the need to go into great detail about such a little event. Some examples being, when he was randomly observing the movie watchers he noticed things like “They look more serious. They were still laughing, but only now they seemed tired and dreamy.” Another time is when the “robot” lady sat with him at dinner and he was able to describe her every move from the exact tip to the way she was eating. When most analyze his observations they explain them as a way of weirdness and obsession but in my eyes, they are a great skill. I am amazed by the way he can keep in his brain one thing at a time so precisely that he can think and observe for as long as he can.

Another way readers judge Meursault is how lack of care for the world around him. While I agree yes the way he doesn’t seem to care about his mother’s death is very odd to me, I feel there is more than the reader does not know so I won’t be focusing on that piece of it. More of the way he interacts with his peers. Most readers think of it as anti-social ness but I think it is the very opposite. An anti-social wouldn’t follow a lady on a walk after he was interested in the way she ate, an anti-social wouldn’t listen to an abusive boyfriend and be able to not go off on him, and anti-social wouldn’t be able to have a clear structure to the way he feels in his sexual relationship. I feel rather than this showing he is anti-social it more shows how amazing Meursault is at controlling his feelings. I feel that isn’t talked about enough. Every decision he makes in the first 5 chapters he does so easily. He knows he doesn’t love the girl, he knows he is only going to listen to Raymond and not go too far for him, he knows how he feels the lack of need to worry about his mom’s death.

In many ways, while this may not be the popular viewpoint on how to take in the first part of the novel it is a viewpoint that had to be talked about. Just keep in the back of your mind as a reader that maybe he isn’t just weird and uncaring but instead so ahead of his thoughts and feelings that he does not feel the need to barge into anyone’s business but his own.