Currency and Border Crossings: The Role of Social Class in Exit West and Girl at War
Girl at War by Sara Nović and Exit West by Mohsin Hamid both tell the stories of characters in war-torn countries that are trying to survive day by day. In these novels, there are many physical and intangible borders that impact the main characters’ lives in significant ways. Ana Jurić from Girl at War is a Croatian girl from the former Yugoslavia who lives in poverty in the midst of a civil war at just 10 years old. Exit West follows young, working-class couple Saeed and Nadia from an unspecified country who are experiencing a violent war within the streets of their city while also trying to navigate their forming romantic relationship. Although Exit West differs significantly from Girl at War due to its elements of magical realism, the two novels are very similar in that they both show that money can be used to cross borders. Class borders and the importance of money to go from one place to another play a key role in these novels and in the main characters’ lives. A lack of money also creates a border for these characters in many ways. In addition, Ana, Saeed, and Nadia are all moving westward throughout their journeys out of their countries; borders become more restrictive and more dependent on money to cross. This paper will focus on comparing the experiences of Ana Jurić from Girl at War and Saeed and Nadia from Exit West and how these characters use money to cross borders and escape the traumatic living conditions of their home countries, how the lack of money impacts their lives and ability to cross borders, and the connection between the western world and the importance of money in border crossings. Furthermore, Girl at War and Exit West both suggest that resources and opportunities should be more accessible to everyone, not just the affluent, and that wealth distribution would secure the well-being of the working class.