How Exit West Confronts the Inevitable Changes that Come With Time

At the beginning of Exit West, it seemed to be, for the most part, the typical story about a boy and a girl, falling in love, and facing challenges together as their love evolved. Saeed and Nadia met during a time of crisis in their country. Together, they faced war, death, and countless other challenges that seemed to bring them closer. They relied on each other to get through this time of great turmoil. I really expected their love to grow as they faced more and more challenges. But as the book continued, I realized I was wrong.

As they transported to different places around the world, they seemed to gradually grow apart. The crazy new places changed each of them in different ways and by the end of the book, they found it best to go their separate ways. This made me sad because it is not typical in a book for two lovers to grow apart in this way. In fact, I found this story even more sad than tragedies in which one or both of the lovers die. It wasn’t some external source that suddenly prevented them from being together. It was simply the passage of time that prompted their falling out of love. It was nothing that either of them did wrong. Life happens. Change is inevitable.

In Exit West, magical doors take our lovers to new destinations. Although there are no magical doors in real life, there are a countless amount of things that have a similar impact. For example, moving to a new house, or getting a new job. Changes like these are to be expected. But what people are scared to accept is that they have a drastic impact on who we are as people. We have to learn to accept that with time comes change. We will constantly be losing old friends and gaining new ones. There is nothing we can do other than adapt.

In a World of Technology…

The one element about Exit West that never really processed correctly in my brain, was the time period it took place. This may be naive to say, but any story I’ve read involving a period of war and suffrage have always been stories of our past. And while I know that there are people in very similar positions as Saeed and Nadia to this day, I have yet to read a book from a fairly present time, during a state of war, until now.

With this comes the age of technology. The incorporation of the characters having phones and internet access made the reality of war all the more real to me. I found myself more “in the shoes” of the characters than I’ve ever experienced while reading before. The concept of war has always been something I’ve read about from the past or briefly heard of in the news. This was the first time that I was truly able to sympathize with the characters and I believe this is merely because of the time period the story takes place and the world of technology they characters were formally submerged in.

Escape in Exit West

In the story Exit West, the main character Saeed and Nadia both have different ways of releasing themselves from the present and just forget about what is going on around them.

For Nadia, she enjoys rolling joints and smoking weed to help her cope with the stress of the wars and riots going on around her as it calms her down and brings her joy.

For Saeed, it becomes very important to him to pray more once he has left his hometown and it seems to become a way for him to escape from the refugee camp and enter his own world where he can feel connected to his family, especially his father.

The ways that these two characters choose to cope with their stress and guilt of all that has happened around them is very different, which may be a reason for why their relationship started becoming more and more distant.

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.

Phones – connecting disconnectors

Image result for connected world clipart

In Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West,” one of his focuses is the effect of smartphones in the human and migrant experience. In the novel, Nadia and Saeed differ in their relationships to their phones: Saeed tries to limit his use to an hour a day as to not get lost, and Nadia fills her loneliest time.

The phones are both a tool and a problem in our lives. We are infinitely connected to all parts of the world, can instantly reach out to friends, and have knowledge at our fingertips. However, they also isolate us socially from the physical world around us, serve as crutches when people forget how to small talk, and a source of stress for those who suffer from “Nomophobia”(the fear of being without a phone).

In their phones were antennas, and these antennas sniffed out an invisible world, as if by magic, a world that was all around them, and also nowhere, transporting them to places distant and near, and to places that had never been and would never be

– Mohsin Hamid

Nadia’s strong affinity for the internet may also have been the reason why she was able to adapt better than Saeed to the new places they lived. Yet, also a way that the couple distanced themselves, finding it too tiresome to try to interact when they were together, opting to scrolling the web. Thus, Hamid argues that in the migrant experience phones are both useful distractors, and also disconnectors at a time when one needs to find a community.

Vignettes, Questions, Themes, and Life

To begin with, I think the use of the vignettes throughout the book were really neat. I didn’t really value, or understand, them until I finished the book and reflected on what I read. The first vignette, about the lady in Australia, actually threw me off. I thought that we were going to learn about the lady at the end of the book, or that scene would be resolved and I would have an understanding as to what happened. I came to realize that there would be more of these scenes, and they would never be resolved, leaving me with questions. Like I said earlier, I didn’t really like this aspect of the book, but I now feel like I have an understanding as to why Hamid did this. Obviously the vignettes are scenes of people going through doors and entering a new life, but there is an underlying theme of all of them, that relates to a theme of the book.

First off, I think that the reason that the vignettes are left unfinished and unresolved is because that is what life is like for every person in them. I always had this feeling of confusion, wondering what’s going to happen, how does this get resolved. I think Hamid was trying to put the reader in the mind of the immigrant. There is no guarantee of what will happen next, and there’s no way to know how everything will end up. On top of that, the fact that in all the different vignettes there were different short term outcomes, like the man leaving England for Africa, which made him happy. Or the family who made it out of their city, only to be taken aback by an unknown group of people likely the books form of ICE, or something along those lines. That shows that the outcome can have many different forms. This theme of not knowing, a cliffhanger, is throughout the whole book. To show this, the final words of the book are ” They rose and embraced and parted and did not know, then, if that evening would ever come” 231. The ending of the book leaves another cliffhanger to the reader. I think this novel shows the overall mystery in life, and how nothing can be promised, that there is no guarantee as to how things will end up. To finish though, I think Hamid did an amazing job with this novel, because it shows the mystery of the displacement of people, and life itself.

Traditional American Movies vs Woman At War


After watching Benedikt Erlingssons bewildering Woman At War it became extremely apparent that movies in America, carry a traditional format. There are numerous do’s and don’t that they typically follow in order to get those ratings up and awards won. Although Woman at War taking place in Iceland, brings a new and fresh perspective that we as Americans should follow. 
This film captures the double life of 50 year old Halla, a free spirited choir teacher as well as passionate environmental activist. As her passion for the earth grows, her acts become more bold with the intentions of halting Islandic negotiations with a new aluminum base company. In the midst of her already chaotic life, her past creeps up heaving a curveball that essentially forces her to prioritize. As she faces this internal struggle of motherhood and fighting for her beliefs, she decides to pursue one final mission. 
Erlingssons creates this exotic experience for viewers using his resources instrumentally and geographically along with the incorporation of dramedy. His admiration for Halla is transparent, as are his activist sympathies, as they are scattered throughout and make for an overall thrilling experience. Not only this but the story dissects what it means to look, sound and act like a hero without playing into stereotypical hero and gender roles. Focusing on her roles of activism, Hallas environmental stance is not something you would typically see from a women. 
I personally loved the movie. You never saw what was coming next, which is rare. From start to finish I was left on my toes, especially the ending. I found that the instrumental aspect helped me feel more, which I’m sure was the point. Being able to see the band and singers making their music, and react just as I was, was a different and positive experience. It acted as a break to reflect on what had just happened in the film, but its like you’re sharing it with them as well. I also appreciated the importance of family as it was stressed through those interactions with her sister and cousin. Along with the sacrifice her sister makes and the lengths Halla herself goes through to pursue this dream of motherhood. The humor aspect was appropriately distributed and I found the jokes are easy to comprehend and most importantly, actually funny. Overall, this is definitely something I would recommend and invest myself in watching again.