. . . but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.

This quotation comes from Chapter 5, when Nadia is upset at Saeed’s father’s insistence that he cannot come with them through the doors. The narrator’s comment adds finality and weight to both Saeed’s father’s decision to remain behind and Saeed and Nadia’s acceptance of his decision. As a result, this quotation reveals the sacrifices inherent in migration, emphasizing that it is not a decision made lightly and, in fact, has tremendous consequences. The word “murder” here increases the weight of the decision because a murder is something committed intentionally, as opposed to a killing, which could be an accident. Therefore, Saeed and Nadia, in agreeing to honor Saeed’s father’s request, make an active choice to erase him from their futures, a terrible, heart-wrenching decision. Just before this quotation, the narrator explains that part of Saeed’s father’s reason for not coming is his fear that he will make the process more dangerous for Saeed and Nadia, meaning that war has placed him in an awful position where he has had to decide to value his son’s future over his own. The unfairness of this situation creates a sense of anger and outrage.

This quotation also furthers the very particular way Mohsin Hamid uses death in the novel, describing things like leaving a place or a break as a death. In Exit West, the narrator regularly compares endings to deaths because they are immutable and inevitable, but they are also, just as actual death, natural and often precede a renewal or new life. Saeed’s father sacrifices his future so that Saeed may have one. Nadia and Saeed’s relationship must end for their new lives in Marin to begin. One of the reasons why so many countries resist the concept of doors stems from the fear that flexible borders would completely change, or murder, their understandings of what a nation looks like. These major shifts, although they result in new growth and change, do necessarily mean the end of an older pattern, connection, or way of being. For this reason, the narrator describes going through the door as both a death and a rebirth, the end of one life and the beginning of a new one. Death can be a terrible thing, especially when premature, but accepting its inevitability also allows a new life to begin.