Hamid’s Style of Writing and How, Really, It’s Much Different Than What We’re Accustomed to, and That Adds to the Story As a Whole, Specifically, His Use of Overly Long Sentences to Stress a Point and Keep Us Engaged.

I loved Exit West. I think the way Hamid writes adds another layer of engagement to this story because he keeps us tethered to his characters and their thoughts. Had he ended his narration with short, choppy sentences, it wouldn’t have felt as free flowing. It’s almost a type of third person stream of consciousness, which is unlike anything I’ve read before.

In terms of keeping the reader engaged, the tiny voice in our heads that reads is out of breath by the time it stumbles upon a period. We have to keep reading because the sentence hasn’t finished yet. Even when that sentence is a page long, we naturally want to finish it because the thought it incomplete.

Many times, we confuse simplicity with quality. The simpler something is, the better and more profound it can be. One of Hamid’s sentences struck me hard:

Saeed was grateful for Nadia’s presence, for the way in which she altered the silences that descended on the apartment, not necessarily filling them with words, but making them less bleak in their muteness

(82).

That sentence is one of his shorter examples, yet it is still just as profound. He manages to clarify himself before the reader has time to object in “not necessarily” as if he is speaking this to us and can see our face change as if to speak and he corrects himself before we can get a word in.

I could go on forever about Hamid’s style but I’ll wrap it up here before I end up writing a page long sentence.

Meursault and Matthew: An Examination of how Existentialism Varies Between The Stranger and Trust

Meursault seems to care about no one but himself and nothing but his physical needs. I will argue that Matthew is a direct foil for Meursault. 

Matthew loves Marie and fixing radios. He is also passionate in the inverse: he hates his dad and fixing televisions. Yet Matthew is still an existentialist. He makes rash decisions like inviting Marie into his home, and has a blase attitude about death by carrying around a hand grenade “just in case”. As we’ve seen in The Stranger, Meursault holds little value to marriage, expressing to Marie that he would marry any other woman who asked. Matthew, on the other hand, outright proposes to Marie several times, even conceding that he loves her by agreeing that respect, admiration, and trust equal love. 

Had Meursault been at the kitchen table with Trust-Marie’s mother, he would have agreed that he probably would’ve gone for Peg since she’s prettier. I’m a bit worried about Meursault having access to a hand grenade though, so let’s journey away from this plot-crossing. 

I would say that Meursault’s existentialism is “every man for himself” whereas Matthew’s is based more on living how he wants to live by picking and choosing which parts of society he wants to live by. 

Narrative Focus in “Cariboo Cafe” and “The Elephant Vanishes”

In ‘The Elephant Vanishes’, the reader encounters a narrator obsessed with a problem he can’t solve. An elephant has disappeared, along with its keeper. However, the keeper quickly fades from the forefront of the story and the elephant seems to be the only one missing. In ‘Cariboo Cafe’, the last narrator essentially kidnaps Macky and Sonya, but Macky is her only focus. Sonya is so far removed from the situation that she’s only referred to as “the young girl”.

  1. Sonya is to Macky what the Keeper is to the Elephant.
  2. Both narrators are kidnappers.

Let’s start with the latter. In ‘The Elephant Vanishes’, the narrator treats the disappearance as something only he cares about. The story has permeated every aspect of his life. This obsessive nature blinds him to reality. However, we as the reader barely know the reality. The narrator tells us that the disappearance is his and only his problem. To some extent, he has “kidnapped” the elephant and its keeper, denying the response of the officials and presenting his own theories. In ‘Cariboo Cafe’ the opposite structure creates a similar issue. We have multiple narrators/perspectives on the story at hand, yet there’s much still implied. At the end, the final woman has the same obsessive blinders on.

The boy she found must be her son. The elephant must have shrunk down.

Returning to my comparison, Sonya is the keeper because she is not the focus of the narrator, but is crucial to the matter at hand. The keeper looks different in comparison to the elephant, so the elephant must have shrunk. Sonya was there with Macky, her brother, yet she is not the narrator’s daughter. Macky is the elephant because he is a mystery to many. To the cafe owner, he is reminded of his own son, just as the woman from ‘Elephant’ shared a sort of excitement about the mystery.

As a reader, we should be vigilant to the narrator’s priorities as it can often tell us a lot about the characters.