Throughout the book Exit West, we see Nadia and Saeed grow together throughout their very long and tiring journey. They start at square one and from there slowly build their relationship as they continue forward. They face many hardships and many challenges along the way yet they always make sure that they stay together. Even though they stayed lovers throughout the whole journey in the end they still only ended up being friends. Their relationship was never built around love but rather the idea that they felt they had to stay together to survive. In the story, it was said, “But while fear was part of what kept them together for those first few months in Marin, more powerful than fear was the desire that each see the other find firmer footing before they let go, and thus in the end their relationship did in some senses come to resemble that of siblings, in that friendship was its strongest element, and unlike many passions, theirs managed to cool slowly, without curdling into its reverse, anger, except intermittently¨(204). The elements of the relationship were more of a best friend or sibling type of correlation and really never resembled lovers. What interests me is why they didn´t realize this earlier. From the start of the book, you could tell that some of their morals and beliefs were different and I think that is what really separates people, is the things that they believe in and have passion for. I think that this can have a big correlation to society now. So many people get divorced now because they realized that they are much better off as friends rather than lovers. But how do you realize this so early? It’s a tough thing to do definitely because it takes time to really get to know someone and realize if they are really the one for you. In my opinion, people now should start getting married at a later age and just date their lover for a longer amount of time until they know if they are a real true love or if they are just a really good friend in the end. This will help lower the insanely high divorce rate that we have currently. Nadia and Saeed are an example of this idea that you can be so close with someone that you love them, but not a lover way, rather more as a friendship way.
The United States is a country with a checkered past with regards to immigration. From Columbus’s treatment of Native Americans to the border wall, this country has both been attacked by migrants and then attacked migrants. The world currently lives in a refugee crisis, where people seeking a peaceful place to live away from the persecution of their own countries have fled to parts of the world that don’t want them. In Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, this is taken to a new extreme when magical doors appear around the globe that transport migrants away from their home countries. This allows the migration process to speed up rapidly, and simultaneously the discrimination against them to rise.
Why does this discrimination exist? Why have immigrants turned themselves into natives, and now discriminate against others who are trying to do what they once did? It boils down to a few things: nativism and “the other”. In Exit West, this appears when some of the Londoners protest the influx of migrants in Chapter 7. This is an example of nativism, and its existence in the United States is oddly paradoxical. Since it is a nation made of mostly immigrants, how can nativism exist? Wouldn’t the nativism necessarily persecute those who are promoting it the most?
The idea of “the other” is also prevalent in both Exit West and the current refugee crisis. In the novel, the London government plans to set up a “halo city” for the migrants. By separating the migrants from “regular” Londoners, they inherently “otherize” them. “The other” also embodies why the nativist mob exists in the first place: they are fearful of the changing landscape of their city and what the migrants might bring with them (culture, violence…), resulting in acts of violence.
Nativism and “the other” are powerful forces acting on everybody. People are fearful of that which is different, so violence occurs. The solution is to find, through conversation, that the two sides are, in reality, not all that different.
Humans, as a general whole, do not like change. Change scares us, it threatens our sense of normalcy, and worst of all, its impending and inescapable nature causes the consistency in our lives to be forever fleeting. As a result, as humans, we cherish the stable, unchanging moments when we can find them. We avoid the uncomfortable and the unknown so when they come to our doorstep we run, hide, or fight. An example, highlighted within the novel Exit West, is the constant migration of people to other countries. When we see other people coming into the place we call our home we, as a general whole, run, hide, or fight. Those who choose the option to run will move themselves in an attempt to avoid the new flow of people. Many white people used this tactic in the form of white flight when people of color, who they saw as different and therefor a threat, were moving into their neighborhoods. Those who choose to hide ignore the reality of the situation in an attempt to preserve their sense of normalcy. People often use this tactic when they encounter those without a home. They would rather ignore them and pretend that they weren’t there than acknowledge them as fellow human beings. Lastly, we are left with the third response. Fight. Those who choose to do so fight the influx of new people, ideas, or situations in a futile attempt to resist change. Life, however, is in a constant state of evolution. Nothing remains unchanged and, as seen in Exit West, that change can be, and often is, positive. As a result of the doors, people from all over the world blended together and moved to new places, bringing their culture with them. Marin became a hub of different and new things all coming together to create “a great creative flowering in the region” (217). When we come together as humans and embrace the change and our new circumstances, instead of being destructive towards ourselves and one another, we can create beautiful new things and share our unique experiences with each other, as they did in Marin, creating a better, more accepting and united society.
In the textbook The Modern Middle East, historian and author James Gelvin describes the history of the Middle East as a “global story told in local vernacular” — which is to say, the region’s history of modernization, colonization, development, and role on the world stage is reflected similarly in other regions across the world. In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid takes a similar approach in telling the global story of immigration with local vernacular, focusing on the single story of Saeed and Nadia and their experiences of emigration (coincidentally, from a country implied to be in or near the Middle East) and resettlement and adaptation while still holding on to their past.
Yet, Hamid also interjects the book with vignettes into different regions of the world, from Australia to Dubai to the Mexican-American border. Some find love, like the elderly man from Amsterdam and the wrinkled man from Rio de Janeiro (173-176), while others find new life, like the suicidal accountant from London (129-131). Some find a cause to fight for, like the young woman in Vienna (109-111), while others use it as a means to act for cause they are willing to die for, like the second man who is implied to be a terrorist from Saeed and Nadia’s home country traveling to Vienna (66-58). Even those who don’t immigrate are faced with immigration all around them, such that they end up in a place very different from the one in which they started, like the old woman in Palo Alto (207-209). The characters of these vignettes are all unnamed, with the implication being that their experiences are representative of the varied yet similar experiences of all humans.
Hamid tells of the global possibilities of the effects of immigration through individual, localized stories written from individual perspectives. It seems that Hamid intends to say: everyone is affected by migration, and though each individual’s experiences are unique, they are all comparable.
NOTE: I took the “global story in local vernacular” quote by James Gelvin from his textbook, which is used in Mr Wolman’s Modern Middle East History course.
Throughout the novel Exit West, Saeed is influenced by many different people, altering the decisions he makes and the way he acts. Most notably, his love for Nadia pushes him to protect her at all costs, ensuring their prosperity together. However, Saeed is also influenced by his family, and his connection and longing for his parents throughout the novel. Saeed is pulled apart by his two devotions, and must make compromises.
Saeed truly cares about Nadia, and it is evident in his actions. For example, Saeed decides to leave his hometown with Nadia, because he cares about her safety. By doing this he is valuing Nadia over his family, as he is leaving his family in his hometown that is ravaged with war and revolt. He also will be unable to see and connect with his parents after leaving with Nadia. Hamid writes, “‘You go first,’ but Saeed, who had until then thought he would go first, to make sure it was safe for Nadia to follow, now changed his mind, thinking it possibly more dangerous for her to remain behind while he went through, and said, ‘no, she will.” (103). Clearly, Saeed is always thinking about Nadia, and how his decisions will impact her.
In addition, Saeed is impacted by his family, even though he is not with them. This is clearly seen in his devotion to prayer and how he feels connected to his family through praying every day. Hamid writes, “When he prayed he touched his parents, who could not otherwise be touched, and he touched a feeling that we are all children who lose our parents, all of us” (202). Undoubtedly, Saeed’s connection to his family is very strong.
Often people are forced to choose between devotion to a significant other and family, and this is a choice that Saeed has to deal with throughout the novel.
Nadia, a main protagonist in Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, explored her own freedom through living by herself in her apartment and moving away from her family. Fulfilling some of her personality, Hamid writes in details and moments that portray her power and individualism. She rides a motorcycle, controls her own vision in front of males so they do not mess with her, and chooses the restaurant Saeed and her meet at (17-23). Specifically, I want to focus on the collection of records described that Nadia chose and filled part of her apartment with. One time when Saeed came into her apartment, Nadia picked one of her records of an old American woman soul singer and let it play (28). At first, I thought this was not that important but later on, when the records came up again I was curious. Now I realize that the records were part of the key in understanding how Nadia develops her own image and identity through her choices.
Further, how the ability of Nadia’s record collection can serve to satisfy or offer to readers a glimpse into who she is and what she values. Later on in the book when Nadia is living with Saeed and his father she got the records and the player back from her apartment but kept the music hidden because it was forbidden by the militants who would search their homes (84). At first, an act of hiding can be seen as cowardness but upon a closer look, it is evident in this case that even taking the time and risk to retrieve the albums and the player and choosing to hold them in a place illustrates Nadia’s subtle strength. From the simple records, readers can see that Nadia individually still combats conformity by not following all the rules and supports her adventurous nature in exploring herself whether it be through records or a speedy motorcycle. Also, how even the selection of her records including an American singer conveys that Nadia is open to and appreciates global aspects of the world and wants to expose herself to them. Overall, I think the records are a little detail that makes all the difference in composing Nadia’s character throughout the book by giving her her own self-identity development and strength to hold onto aspects of that identity if she wants to.
People travel all the time to try new things in their life and in this instance in the book “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid the reason the people were migrating was for love. People were migrating through the doors to find safety. But while Saeed and Nadia went through the door to find that safety, they also went through to find their new life of love. Like in chapter 9 the Brazilian man kept going back and forth between Brazil and Amsterdam till he found love with the Dutchman, he was travelling for love and found it just like Nadia and Saeed were searching for. While searching for that love and new life while migrating Nadia and Saeed break apart. The novel ends with Saeed and Nadia each happy in their new lives, which signals the peace that can be found in change and letting go of old places. Showing that the new migration life they were looking for didn’t maybe go as planned they still found the happiness in their new life even without falling in love with each other.
“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”.
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.
In Exit West, we see the change in Nadia and Saeed’s relationship. It goes from friendship to romantic and back to friend ship towards the end of the book. No matter how their relationship was going they always stayed together and protected one another. Saeed and Nadia both thought that they were each other’s soulmates and that they were meant to be together, so much so that they thought they would get married. But as they started to grow as individuals they grew apart from each other, realizing that they were more different than they thought they were. Saeed desperately wanted a romantic relationship with Nadia, while she felt more or less neutral about. As their situation worsened and they traveled from place to place, they met new people as well as experienced lots of new things. This opened their eyes and hearts up to the idea that maybe they were not meant to be in a romantic way but in a different more platonic way. This wasn’t a good or bad thing but it was hard to deal with. They felt like they had promised each other that they would stay together no matter what, but when they started to feel safe and grow it became too much work to uphold. They reminded each other of their places of birth, the things they had lost, and the things that they missed. In the end they were always with each other in spirit, which was strong enough to sustain them, and they were able to never leave off on bad terms because they mutually agreed on going their own ways.
In Exit West, Nadia and Saeed are two very different people. Saeed is very religious and is more conservative, while Nadia is more modern and is not religious. As we move throughout the story we can see the differences between the two as Nadia rides a motorcycle, does not pray like Saeed, and wants to have sex with him before they are married. The two get along well together despite their differences but over time it seems they grow apart.
After leaving their country, both describe feeling tension and feel a coldness towards each other. At the same time, Nadia seems to be finding a part of herself she had been keeping down. To me, Nadia was obviously less traditional than Saeed and many other people, but she put on an act for the society she used to live in. After leaving her home, Nadia started to let more of herself show to others. The narrator describes how she thought of the girl she met in more than just a platonic way and was thinking of her romantically. Nadia and Saeed ended up going their separate ways. Saeed was comfortable with his own traditional beliefs but Nadia seemed to be discovering new things about herself in her new home and seemed to embrace herself more.
I think a huge part of this book is how traumatic events and change, in general, can change us, and even though it can be hard and painful, sometimes it is necessary to discover our true selves. Nadia needed to move on from her home country and even from Saeed in order to truly embrace herself. People and places are not always going to last forever, and sometimes they are just there for our journey, to guide us to the right path to finding happiness and love for ourselves and others. No matter if we are moving from one place, person, or time in our lives to another, we are all migrants searching for a home and searching for ourselves.
In Exit West, technology is used as a way to connect with the outside world and to find an escape in other countries. The use of social media and the internet plays an essential role in the lives of young people in the city as they are able to distract themselves from the war that is happening before their front door by exploring the different parts of the world.
Saeed and Nadia use their cell phones in different ways but they both use them to connect with each other and with the outside world. “Nadia and Saeed were, back then, always in possession of their phones. 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” (39). The phones allow for a new world to exist, one that is very different than the one that they are currently experiencing.
The cell phones allow Saeed and Nadia to travel and to experience different cultures without having to leave their home and family. The technology allows for these parts to connect and become a part of something that is larger than themselves.
In Exit West, Nadia is definitely her own person. She moves out from her parents while unmarried, which is culturally abnormal for her. From here, it could be inferred that the role of women in Exit West could be a traditional one. The robe is “conservative and virtually all concealing” (16). Saeed thinks it to be related to Nadia’s faith. After he inquires, “If you don’t pray, why do you wear it?” (16), Nadia responds with the brusque “So men don’t f–k with me” (17).
This is one of my favorite lines in the entire book. It is made even more important through Hamid’s commitment to long, flowing prose. I know this is a character speaking, and not Hamid’s narration, but the contrast is still there. Besides, Hamid could have written the whole novel with punchy little sentences like these. Then, maybe, this line would not be more memorable. I digress. All the same, what really makes this statement work is all the meaning packed into Nadia’s words.
When Nadia expresses the desire to be liberated from male advances, it ties into the patriarchy. There is a big question, though: is she wearing this robe as someone who feels bound by such ideals, or as someone who is independent but does not want any questions asked therein? The argument for the former hinges on the idea that such a robe looks like a patriarchal construction. It swallows Nadia whole and could make her look meek and submissive. Or it may not. We know Nadia is a strong, independent woman, so perhaps she is wearing this robe to avoid all the prodding that would come with her outwardly breaking norms by, say, wearing skinny jeans and a crop-top. She is merely playing a role, does not want anything to do with anyone, and has to get on with being her own self.
People strengthen bonds from going through experiences together. In Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Nadia and Saeed relationship blossoms through every treacherous obstacle they are forced to step over. The two are faced to emigrate to several new countries, leave family behind, and escape the dangerous at home. Nadia and Saeed having gone through this have a stronger connection than if they had stayed at home forever. The comfort of having someone to go through these tolling events can keep someone going. Nadia and Saeed’s connection is romantic. The reader watches the connection develop into a more emotional going farther and farther from surface level. Since these two had to grow this connection over dire times they only know how to connect at dire times. It isn’t until they arrive in Marin where Nadia realizes that she doesn’t know how to further connection and there is no spark.
In Marin, Nadia and Saeed weren’t forced to hide and run as they had to in the past. Instead they joined the community with others and started being apart of something. Nadia got a job and started returning to what is seen as a “normal life”, it is then when she realizes she doesn’t need the comfort of having Saeed anymore. She leaves the home they have and starts sleeping in the vacant room at her workplace. Saeed and Nadia still have love for each other, just the spark and need for each other is missing because they don’t need each other anymore. It seems that when they had so much going on they had this spark that kept them together, but when they have security in themselves its not there and it’s what causes Nadia to leave. Hamid writes “they grew less worried of each other”(223), by saying this he communicates that the situation isn’t as severe but also they have grown apart.
I do still believe that Nadia and Saeed still love each other, however are not in love with each other. When they meet again, they bring up their past relationship and mention the sexual aspect. I do believe that they still have this attachment to each other however they are too apart. For Nadia to even correct him and say they “were having sex”(230) proves that the care is still there. They may have lost the spark that was so powerful for a heavy period of their life, but they definitely will always remember the time they spent together.
The novel Exit West follows Saeed and Nadia, a young couple living in a country that is becoming more war-torn by the day. They then leave their country through magical doors, eventually ending up in Marin County, California. From the beginning of the story, it was evident that Saeed and Nadia would not have a normal relationship, but the lack of normalcy throughout the story allows for a deeper understanding of what it really means to be in a relationship.
As the story moves forward, Saeed and Nadia’s relationship blossoms, and after a certain amount of time, they are all the other has. Throughout the novel, we as readers are taken on the journey with Saeed and Nadia, and the narrative perspective, as well as the amount of descriptive detail, really puts you into the perspective of Saeed and Nadia. We see their arguments, their good moments, as well as aspects of their relationship that occur individually. Due to the nature of their country as well as their lives at the beginning of the story, the couple became a sense of security for each other, the one consistent thing in an ever-changing world. It is only when Saeed and Nadia individually develop their own rhythm that we see the couple’s dynamic change.
Due to their new jobs and meeting of new people, it is evident that Saeed and Nadia do not explicitly need each other anymore. Still, in a long-term relationship such as theirs, love and care can still be present even when other aspects of the relationship are not. Sometimes things do not work out, but dwelling on the past takes up space in the future. Exit West teaches us about endings in a way, and that oftentimes what we may see as the end may not be so. For example, at the end of the story, Saeed and Nadia reunited after decades, and after time apart we see the love and care is still present, “for they were former lovers, and they had not wounded each other so deeply as to have lost their ability to find a rhythm together”(230).
In his novel, Exit West, author Mohsin Hamid asserts love cannot be fixed by time or excitement. This is seen through Saeed and Nadia’s relationship throughout the story, and is emphasized as their relationship struggles in London and falls apart in Marin.
When Nadia and Saeed are in the early stages of their relationship, they are extremely emotional with each other, and after Saeed asked Nadia to marry him very early in the relationship, Nadia “felt great tenderness well up in her for him at that moment”(65). However, Nadia and Saeed’s relationship soon starts to deteriorate after their migration to London, and soon after they disagreed where to stay, Nadia “brought her face close to his that night, close enough to tickle his lips with her breathing, [but] he was unable to muster the enthusiasm to bridge the tiny distance it would have taken to kiss”(153). Saeed and Nadia’s relationship has fallen to the point where when they once would have felt intimate, they no longer have those feelings, and Saeed chooses to not kiss Nadia even though he easily could. This is the first sign of the deterioration of their relationship.
It becomes clear Saeed and Nadia start to completely lose these feelings after they move to Marin in an attempt to rekindle their old love, but fail miserably. Soon after moving, Nadia stands at the door with her bags packed, and Saeed and Nadia “did not embrace or kiss then, they stood facing each other at the threshold of the shanty that had been theirs, and they did not shake hands either, they looked each at the other, for a long, long time, any gesture seeming inadequate”(215). All feelings of love and intimacy between them had dissipated, and now they seem like strangers to one another.
Through Saeed and Nadia’s relationship, Hamid is asserting that love cannot be healed solely by time or change, and this is seen as their love continues to fail despite their effort and patience with it, moving from city to city and giving it over a year in an attempt to find feelings again. Hamid does this through his long sentence structure when describing their feelings, and through his use of asyndeton, using almost 20 commas in the sentence on page 215 where Saeed and Nadia finally leave each other. These literary devices strengthen the effect of his writing, dramatizing and emphasizing the harsh words between Saeed and Nadia, and leave the reader with a feeling of despair as their love depressingly fails.
As I closed the book on Friday afternoon, I felt a profound sense of melancholy. Hamid’s articulation of the complexity of human relationships is beautifully done, and left me feeling nostalgic about relationships in my own life where the passage of time caused irreversable change. The clever and subtle hints of a divide between Saeed and Nadia are placed carefully long before their physical separation occurs, and the truth and humanity in those hints is what makes Hamid such a great writer. Even though that truth caused me to revisit regrets of a past life, I was not worse off for the opportunity to reflect. It must be said, however, that the change that comes with the inexorable passage of time is not always something to fear or to cry over.
When Nadia walks by the musicians in the migrant camp, she says that people were calling this time the “new jazz age.” The magic doors of the new world of Exit West have thrown people from all around together, and Nadia witnesses the creation of new and exciting music as a result. Although the circumstances of the substantial migration in Hamid’s novel are very different to the forced migration of African-Americans during the Atlantic Slave Trade, who of course created the blues, out of which came swing, bebop, hard bop, and post bop (jazz is a problematic word that generalizes this music but that is a separate issue), the beauty and innovation within the music is what connects the past with the future that Hamid has created. This scene in particular gave me hope for the future, however uncertain that future may be. The inevitability of change as time passes, in this case, is positive and wonderful to behold to both Nadia and the reader.
Whenever a novel or film concludes with a distinctly happy result for the protagonist/main character/Matt Damon I am reminded that the great escape from real life is over. It doesn’t matter that I know that Frodo and Sam will succeed, I will still read with bated breath as they make their final ascent to Mount Doom, and put the book down with a smile on my face after Wormtongue slays Saruman (putting off the sadness that is bound to engulf me when Frodo leaves Middle-Earth). Days after finishing Exit West, though, the conversation between Saeed and Nadia in their home city still pervades my thoughts. Navigating human relationships, in a world of chaos, is hard, and Hamid illustrates this constant struggle in a way that makes me consider the choices I have made and will make in my own life.
Being a human being is complicated, and while there are certainly times when I would rather watch Daniel Craig shoot bad guys with his Aston Martin than reflect upon my existence, I’m grateful that I read this novel.
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.
In Mohsin Hamid’s novel, Exit West, two different types of openings in buildings become meaningful symbols in Saeed and Nadia’s home. Doors are symbols of hope and prosperity, while windows are symbols of panic and death.
Windows reminded civilians of the inevitable destruction of their city. Since windows are translucent, they exposed the violence in the streets. As the fighting became worse, stray bullets commonly entered homes through windows. Or, bullets could break windows, and glass shrapnels can be deadly. As a result, residents begin placing household items, such as bookshelves, in front of windows. Nadia claims that her own windows looked like “amorphous black works of contemporary art” (72). She sees them as shapeless black modern symbols of destruction. Although they have many negative aspects, the people of the city depend on windows. They need them for light and for warmth.
Doors became an escape route for the citizens of the falling city. Since they shielded residents from the outside world, doors created the illusion of stability. Magical doors that transported a person to another part of the world existed in rumours. Most people thought that the rumours were nonsense, but “began to gaze at their own doors a little differently” (72). Unlike windows, people did not depend on doors. They were a privilege.
By showcasing minor characters with the freedom to migrate instantaneously through doors, Exit West shows that people immigrate to other countries to find possibility, which often takes different forms. One is that is demonstrated is love.
Early in the novel, the people who go through the doors follow the classic narrative of the endangered refugee in search of safety. What we see with Saeed and Nadia, life in their own city became impossible, without freedom, privacy, or financial opportunities there was no opportunity to deeply love and thrive together. The two travel through a door to a new beginning in hopes of growing their love, but also in search of safety together.
Later, in Chapter 9, the wrinkled Brazilian man goes back and forth between Brazil and Amsterdam until his relationship with the Dutchman turns into a romance: “A week later a war photographer…[was] a witness to their first kiss, which she captured, without expecting to, through the lens of her camera, and then deleted, later that night, in a gesture of uncharacteristic sentimentality and respect” (176). He migrated to find love.
Or even the maid in Chapter 11 chooses not to migrate at all because she assumes nowhere else in the world can accept her and no possibilities exist outside her community. Even the love and support of her daughter can’t convince her to begin the journey to a new life. Whatever the initial motivation behind migration, the characters in the novel all search for new possibilities, which can mean safety, opportunity, or love.