The Victory of Community | Teen Ink

The Victory of Community

August 28, 2022
By Hi-I-am-Jason GOLD, Brookline, Massachusetts
Hi-I-am-Jason GOLD, Brookline, Massachusetts
11 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Humans are social creatures; They become stronger and better when they unite together. This social ability has given humans the ability to form empires, dynasties, and civilizations. Amidst the turmoil of history, humans have always survived together and are not alone. The theme of community plays an integral role in Exit West, including the thematic clash of community versus oneself. In Exit West, selfish motives drive Nadia and Saeed out of their community, searching for a new “home.” In the end, the communities in Exit West always prevail against self-interest because it creates a counteracting force and strengthens itself through each door the migrants travel through. 

In Exit West, while the results of selfish interaction are driving the plot, the resolution to each event in the storyline was always a community or connection forming to help people survive through the hardships in the book. Soon after their neighbor was assaulted, this self-interested act of denominal purge resulted in fear and chaos in Saeed’s home which resolved to a deeper bonding between Saeed and Nadia when “Saeed entered Nadia’s room and they were unchaste there for the first time.” (Hamid, 85) Similarly, when Nadia and Saeed stayed in London, there were many acts of resistance from the government in an attempt to pressure the migrants to return. One such measure included the severing of electricity in the migrants’ neighborhood. Order and peace would not have been achieved had two events not occurred in the book. First was the formation of the Council. The Council was a crude governing system, “making decisions on room disputes or claims of theft or unneighborly behavior …” (Hamid, 148) Amongst the many acts of threat and terror adopted by the British government, and amongst the selfish actions of theft and misdemeanor within the migrant community, the migrants stayed together and found ways to keep order. Nadia was even permitted to remain in the Council (which was dominated by Nigerian migrants) showing the leniency of inclusivity when people are in challenging situations. The second event was the acts of kindness given by some of the British neighborhoods, despite the government’s stance being clear. They ignored the government’s attempt to pressure the migrants back by cutting off electricity and making their electronics die. Although it is only a “trade in electricity” (Hamid, 157), the locals permitted the migrants to hang around places with signals and charge their phones. Although it is unknown how happily or willingly they accepted the situation, the local neighborhood had embraced the migrants into their community and life to some degree. Through this feeling of being supported and surrounded by others, the migrants can fend off and prevail against others and their selfish motives. 

Mohsin Hamid also shows how the community prevailed against selfishness by the connection becoming stronger each time migrants moved through a door. At the beginning of Exit West, both the migrants and locals had either indifferent or hostile reactions towards each other. The first displaced migrant we see in the book “wished only not to be heard” (Hamid, 9) and did nothing to the woman sleeping in her bedroom. The first reaction the locals show to the migrants in the book is a Shinjuku man who “slipped into a walk behind them, fingering the metal in his pocket as he went.” (Hamid, 31) When doors first appeared, the sudden connection made both parties push away the connection between each other. The migrants refused to let their presence known, while the locales were xenophobic towards the migrants. However, as the story went on, more connections were made between the refugees and the locals. These connections can be seen from the communal Council and the locals willing to trade electricity explained in the last paragraph. By the end of the story, it feels like the problem of assimilation and belonging has been resolved. Both Saeed and Nadia have both, to some degree, accepted their new neighbors. Saeed went back to his homeland, married the preacher’s daughter, and brought her with him. Nadia did not return until roughly fifty years later. Hamid uses this discrepancy between the start and the end of the story to portray how although the community is not a strong power at first, as time goes on, it will prevail against selfish deeds by establishing amicable connections between migrants and locals. 

Exit West is a story about two people losing their community due to selfish motives and their journey with each other to find their new community. The theme of self-interest versus communal interest is an actual conflict in the story. The community was not as strong at the story’s start since only Nadia and Saeed were just there. However, the community won against self-driven interests because of how the former’s unifying force was able to combat the latter and how the connections between the characters increased in strength after each migration. Like John Locke’s social contract theory and Thorin Oakenshield’s quote, communities are bettered by people giving up their self-interests and greed for communal connections and benefits. The victories of social power allowed society to develop to the current extent, and why being able to connect is the greatest treasure to all humans.

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