Exit West

by

Mohsin Hamid

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Cellphones Symbol Analysis

Cellphones Symbol Icon

Throughout Exit West, Saeed and Nadia turn to their cellphones in order to connect not only with one another, but with the outside world. In fact, they get local numbers immediately upon arriving in Mykonos. This way, they don’t have to wait long before they can reach out to people they know, tell them they’ve made it through the doors safely, and access the internet. Sitting next to one another on the ground after setting up their tent, they scroll through the news on their phones and read about “the various routes and destinations migrants [are] taking and recommending to each other.” In this way, their cellphones become portals into a universe of information that is directly applicable to their current circumstances—an ethereal community of refugees that can communicate over vast distances without any hindrance, thereby transcending the borders that otherwise separate migrants from each other. However, Saeed and Nadia’s phones also help them to escape from everyday life and, eventually, from their relationship. Indeed, although they rely heavily upon text messaging in the early stages of their courtship to build their bond, it isn’t long before Saeed and Nadia willingly distract themselves from one another by peering at separate screens. As such, depending upon the context in which they’re used, these devices take on the dual power of uniting and separating, essentially representing the tenuous, fragile ways humans connect with or push each other away.

Cellphones Quotes in Exit West

The Exit West quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cellphones. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Connection Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead Books edition of Exit West published in 2018.
Chapter 3 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Saeed, Nadia
Related Symbols: Cellphones
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Exit West LitChart as a printable PDF.
Exit West PDF

Cellphones Symbol Timeline in Exit West

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cellphones appears in Exit West. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
...women, he angles the telescope into the sky, where he finds Mars. Taking out his phone, he compares what he’s found to an application that charts constellations and gives information about... (full context)
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...Nadia why she wears long black robes even though she doesn’t pray. Both of their phones are on the table, resting face-down between them “like the weapons of desperadoes at parley.”... (full context)
Chapter 3
Escape Theme Icon
While Saeed uses his phone quite often to contact Nadia, he limits himself when it comes to browsing the internet.... (full context)
Love and Connection Theme Icon
While Saeed and Nadia are high on mushrooms, Saeed’s phone dies, meaning that his parents are unable to reach him. Panicked, they call and text... (full context)
Love and Connection Theme Icon
...the time in the office, where Nadia spends the majority of her days on her phone. In the midst of all this, Nadia and Saeed start meeting during the day, often... (full context)
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Lying in bed together, Saeed shows Nadia photos on his phone of famous city skylines with all the lights turned off and bright stars overhead. When... (full context)
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
A week later, all cellphone service in the city vanishes. An announcement is made on TV that the government has... (full context)
Chapter 4
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
...home, a “brave man” not far from Nadia’s neighborhood stands in the light of his phone’s flashlight listening to the same gunshots as Nadia. He’s in front of a door, “a... (full context)
Chapter 5
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
...along a beach boardwalk, past tanning vacationers. The family drifts in and out of the cellphone frames of people taking selfies, making their way through the strange resort area until they’re... (full context)
Chapter 6
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
...their fellow expatriates that almost anything is attainable in this settlement, “from sweaters to mobile phones to antibiotics to, quietly, sex and drugs.” The people, they’re told, are mostly nice and... (full context)
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
...Saeed buy water, food, a blanket, a backpack, a tent, and local service for their cellphones. After doing this, they set up the new tent on the fringe of the camp,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
Certain migrants find ways to siphon energy to charge phones, enabling Saeed and Nadia to read the news. For Nadia, this is an unsettling experience... (full context)
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
...only recognizes her because she has “seen her on electronic displays, on the screens of phones and computers.” The next day, the mother and daughter bid goodbye to the others in... (full context)
Chapter 9
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
...could barely speak.” Instead of spending time with one another, they pay attention to their phones, because “phones themselves have the innate power of distancing one from one’s physical surroundings.” (full context)