Breaking Stereotypes

In Exit West, it is pretty clear that Saeed, Nadia’s family, and most of the people from their hometown practice the religion, Islam. From a western perspective and through mainstream media, it seems that Islamic countries show a patriarchal society mostly because of tyrannical leaders who may interpret the religion in a biased way. Either way, ideas like Women shouldn’t make important decisions regarding their own lives, a male guardian should approve women’s marriage or divorce, and more are integrated into the society.

Exit West is very refreshing because it not only breaks common stereotypes of women in the whole world, it destroys stereotypes of women in the world of Islam. This is shown through the character Nadia. Right from the first time the reader meets her, they see that she is not like most women portrayed in literature and media as “she donned a black motorcycle helmet… straddled her ride, and rode off” (5). She wears a concealing black robe but her reason (“so men don’t fuck with me”(17)) sets her apart from most women. She moves away from her family to live independently and unlike Saeed doesn’t miss home when they leave.

I like that these types of books exist so that women can feel more empowered when they read about Nadia. Especially, a world that consistently tries to oppress them. After reading these types of books, it feels easier to live the life you want and fight back with the life that others want you to live.

A Changed Man?

The first lines of The Stranger seem to be very well known in the literary world and rightfully so; “Maman died today. Or yesterday, I don’t know” (3). This is how the reader is introduced to Meursault and throughout the first half at least and even 3/4ths of the book this same indifferent and detached person is what we get. He through life with the understanding that whatever he does, doesn’t matter because it doesn’t really change his life. I think it’s important to note that before going to prison he really only thought about HIS life and how it really didn’t matter how it turned out to be. Because when he does go into prison he starts to have trouble accepting his inevitable death. All he cares about is “escaping the machinery of justice, seeing if there’s any way out of the inevitable” (108).

But soon into chapter 5, We see that Meursault in fact does realize deep deep down under all that hope and contradictory thoughts that “since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter”(114). Only then can Meursault accept that there is no need for hope for his appeal. Yet I don’t think he fully understands and fully accepts his death.

I think it’s his outburst with the priest, when we finally get to see Meursault’s beliefs and thoughts come together. From this encounter he finally understands that the universe and world is also indifferent and that no one persons actions changes anything because the world keeps living without a worry about anyone. He is able to recognize that whatever happened to him, he would be in the exact same position as now. Meursault feels free at the end by his death. He likes that he lived his life his true authentic way without the standards of society influencing anything, as a stranger.

“To Shoot or Not to Shoot”

The end of part one ends with Meursaults overkill of “the Arab.” I was confused as to why Meursault even shot the Arab once because the second time Raymond and he encounter him, Meursault keeps Raymond from shoot by saying, “It’d be pretty lousy to shoot him like that” (56). This seems to be one of the first times, if not the first where we see an ounce of morality in him. He understands that it would be wrong for Raymond to kill this man both because the man doesn’t deserve to die and it Raymond would face consequences.

However, once Meursault is handed the gun for safekeeping, he suddenly has this big realization that whether he kills the man or not kill made no difference in his life or in the world with the line, “It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot” (56). Although I want a different answer this line seems to show that Meursault killed for no apparent reason at all. He was indifferent to the shooting.

Except why 4 more shots?? He say’s it was like “knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness”(59). Maybe in this instance Meursault was trying to feel some sort of feeling (unhappiness) for what he had just. He knows that his indifference to everything is not normal and deep down wants to feel something even if it’s negative.