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Nadia is one of the two protagonists of
Exit West, a free-spirited and rebellious woman who embraces migration as a journey to a new life. Unlike Saeed, Nadia grows up with a family that doesn’t understand her and criticizes her inquisitive nature. Furthermore, after moving away from home, she faces a life that operates within a constant threat of violence and censure because of her status as an unmarried woman. Nadia develops a tough and cold exterior in order to keep herself safe, symbolized by her black robe. Therefore, she doesn’t lose as much as Saeed when she leaves her home country for Mykonos. Because Nadia never had a sense of belonging in her country, she approaches every place on her journey as somewhere with an opportunity to find people to connect with. Once the Mykonos girl shows her kindness, Nadia pursues a friendship. She opts to attend the elder’s council, the lifeblood of the London house, so that she can understand the people she’s living with. In Marin, Nadia has the space to discover herself, as symbolized by her realizing her bisexuality. Nadia has never shied away from sex, but the freedom to meet new people from different cultures allows her to expand her understanding of herself.
Nadia grows apart from Saeed because outside the context of their country, his slightly conservative nature reminds her too much of what she enthusiastically left behind. She feels attracted to Saeed during their first date when he talks about wanting to visit Chile, which Nadia interprets to mean he has an adventurous spirit. She then feels secure in their relationship when he accompanies her to her cousin’s grave and prays while allowing her a moment of secular mourning, revealing that he respects her lack of religious beliefs. Because he respects her desires, need for independence, and her atheism, Saeed originally appears extremely progressive to Nadia. However, after they leave their country, Saeed’s need for familiarity in the form of religion starts to stifle her, albeit unintentionally. When Saeed tells her she can’t stand in the hallway with a towel on their first day at the London house, she immediately interprets his words as him trying to control her or critique her lack of modesty. She begins to think of Saeed’s religiousness as a “rebuke,” not because Saeed has tried to force religion upon her but because of the way it reminds her of the rebukes of her youth.