Summary: Violence and Displacement Throughout the Mohsin Hamids Novel

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Exist West by Mohsin Hamid was published in 2017 and portrays a vivid picture of violence and displacement throughout the novel. The protagonists, Saeed and Nadia live in an Islamic city that is being taken over by the militants. Power over others is present as they must leave their home as war increases because it is no longer safe to stay. They hear about doors that transport people to other countries and they decide to go through one. The vivid imagery of the struggles the characters face has impacted the way I view migrants and refugees as it shows me the emotional toll it takes on someone to flee a hostile living environment. As they embark on a journey through several countries, they face the challenges of displacement, change within themselves, and the struggle to find a safe home.

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As this novel expresses the major challenges refugees encounter, it portrays the contemporary/post modernism era trait of social issues. Nadia is always using her phone as a tool to escape her reality and many other people are affected by this virtual world especially “children who went to sleep unfed but could see on some small screen people in foreign lands consuming feasts of such opulence”. This style of using the trait of social issues contributed to my understanding of the book as it parallels to the poor living conditions of 3rd world countries today. Mohsin also incorporated the mood of empathy with this trait as he makes the reader feel for his characters and more importantly for the actual people who face these challenges of hunger. As the trait of social issues is prominent in this novel, it enhanced my perspective on problems that people in poorer countries have to deal with and changed my view on refugees who just seek for a safe environment.

Even though social issues is a prominent trait in the novel, the author’s style of intense atmosphere makes the book more dramatic as Saeed and Nadia travel through the doors to other countries. When they arrive in London they find themselves in a huge mansion with many other refugees, as time passes soldiers surround the place that “suggested an unstoppable efficiency, an inhuman power, and evoked the kind of dread […] like a rodent before a snake”. The development of this technique makes the plot grow more intense making me scared for Saeed and Nadia as they just escaped violence from the militants. I appreciate this writing style because of how dramatic the author makes the chapters when violence is impending on the characters. As the intense atmosphere draws out the fear you feel for Saeed and Nadia’s safety, it makes you want to help them yourself as they struggle with the natives of London just because they want a home without the threat of violence.

Just as the intense atmosphere made the style more dramatic, the contemporary/post modernism era trait of globalized is a main idea in the novel as more migrants are entering and exiting countries across the globe because of these magical doors. The setting is very chaotic as the doors are constantly transporting people from their unsafe environment to a new country making “the news those days full of war and migrants and nativists it seemed as everyone was coming together everyone was also pulling apart” . The author used this trait to portray the idea that people are traveling all over the world through these doors whether natives from other countries like it or not. This style shows how people in the novel are not only fleeing their country but finding a better home in a safer environment with stable living conditions. All in all, the trait of globalized makes you wonder what it would be like if people could really transport that fast out of a country and also Mohsin’s work emphasizes the idea of accepting one another in a chaotic world.

As the author uses traits and intense atmosphere to enhance the novel, major themes are prominent as it challenges problems that migrants face into today’s society. Power over others is a common idea because of how Saeed and Nadia are controlled by the violence of not only the militants in the city that they were forced to flee but with the natives they encounter along their journey to other countries. Just when they believe they are safe in London “the fury of those nativists advocating wholesale slaughter was what struck Nadia the most so much like the fury of the militants” that she had in her own country”. This type of power is represented in this book to show how the characters are not only controlled by other people’s violence but by the fear that they bring over the migrants. Another theme that is present is the idea of change and how one has to adapt to their surroundings in order to survive. Towards the end, Saeed and Nadia grow a part as their experiences made them into different people as “staying in touch took a toll on them, serving as an unsettling reminder of a life not lived”. They changed from their intense journey and are better with each other as they no longer want to dwell on the past and want to move forward. Even though in the end the characters grow apart, the power over others and theme of change serves as a sense of reality as the world is harsh and it is up to you to learn how to adjust to it.

Overall this novel has influenced me to have an open mind when it comes to migrants and the laws that pertain to them as this is a controversial topic today. The themes in this work not only made me realize the hardships that refugees face but how they are relatable as they just want a safe living environment. I would recommend this to a friend as people need to read this novel to see the point of view from characters who live the horror of becoming a refugee and should see the heartbreaking emotions Saeed and Nadia went through. As this novel has impacted my views on immigration, it makes me appreciate my home and I hope that someday we as a society can break down the barriers to find a better system for these people who seek help.  

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