Within the novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, there is a focus on two characters Saeed and Nadia in an unnamed location within a country full of war. They meet in an adult education course where they quickly learn more about each other. Saeed resided with his parents (like most religious people in their country did) and Nadia lived by herself in an upstairs apartment. Eventually the war begins to takeover, and these two characters attempt to escape their homeland in search of a better life. Nadia and Saeed are provided with a few methods of escape throughout the novel including, the internet, recreational drugs, and mysterious magical doors. The author does a great job at bringing attention to the struggle of migration in this novel, as it is something that many people continue to struggle with worldwide.
In today’s society the internet serves as a way to escape from reality and view the world in all different perspectives. Both characters have different feelings about the emerging technology. Saeed choose to resist the “pull of his phone”, believing that the technology was too powerful and at times felt as if he was “stuffing himself, until he felt dazed and sick” when he would overindulge in this form of escape (Hamid 40). In contrast, Nadia realized the full potential that the internet obtained and planned to use it to its extent. She felt that a limitation wasn’t necessary. When she was stranded in her home due to the continuous fighting she could escape to social media and view endless videos of “women exercising, men copulating, clouds gathering, waves tugging at the” instead of focusing on where she actually was in reality (Hamid 41). Without the internet provided in the form of a handheld cellphone, this form of escape wouldn’t be so readily available to Nadia or Saeed. After the curfew was placed, it became increasingly harder for them to meet up. They were forced to depend on the internet to bring them together and distract them from their everyday lives.
At some point, Nadia and Saeed reach out to recreational drugs such as marijuana, and magical mushrooms to experience a different reality than the one in front of them. Although the drugs don’t stop anything going on around them, they provide an experience that will take them out of their usual state-of-mind resulting in an escape from reality. During the first occasion, in which Nadia and Saeed take shrooms together, Saeed begins to appreciate and analyze the meaning of a lemon tree in a clay pot on Nadia’s terrace. He experienced an overwhelming rush of happiness and, “suddenly felt such gratitude, and a desire for peace, that peace should come for them all, for everyone” forgetting for a moment about the reality around him (Hamid 47). Nadia would often suggest smoking a joint when hanging out Saeed. Of course, it seemed more likely for Nadia to indulge in recreational drug use than Saeed since she believed that limitations weren’t necessary. Although these drugs supplemented their need for escape, it would never make a difference on the things occurring in the world around them.
Eventually, magical doors are revealed that can take them away from
the danger presented in their country. These doors best signify a form of
escape because it’s a depiction of migration. Each door they encounter takes
them to a different place, in a different part of the world. The author uses
the mysterious doors as a way to embody immigration without having to explain
all the mess that it comes with. Immigration is nothing new, in fact, we all
began as immigrants and, “most scientists believe that human beings first came
to America over the Bering Straits about 20,000 years ago” and continues to
grow in its diversity (Immigration Timeline). In other words, most of America
was created by individuals that initially came from diverse places all over the
world. Nadia and Saeed ultimately begin their escape through the magical doors
after they meet with an agent to assist in smuggling them out of the dangerous
country. Once they travel through a magical door they become migrants to wherever
they may be, which means they get treated like an outsider. The first door took
them to Mykonos, Greece where they would quickly find a refugee camp that made
them feel more comfortable within migration because, “everyone was foreign, and
so, in a sense, no one was” and this helped to welcome then into a new place
(Hamid 106). The author describes how they are judged and criticized by others
based off of their physical appearance, and grouped with others that are proposed
to be similar to them. This relates to immigration in today’s society because
individuals tend to group people that have come from other countries and look at
them from a negative aspect.
Overall, the circumstances in which Nadia and Saeed were provided to find an escape throughout this novel were substantial. Whether it was getting lost in internet interaction through social media, letting loose with some recreational drugs or making a major change and traveling through a mysterious door an escape was to be found. Although, they were faced with many challenges throughout their travel, they ended up making it out of the country full of war in the long run, and alive at that. It is believed that the author used this novel as a way to bring attention to migration and why it is ultimately necessary.
“Immigration Timeline.” The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, The New Colosus, 2019, http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/immigration-timeline. Accessed on 6 March 2019.