Unveiling ‘Reality’ behind ‘Social Reality’: Breaking Gender Stereotypes and Reconstructing Identities in Hamid’s Exit West
Keywords:Reality, Social Reality, Gender, Stereotypes, Performativity, Identity.
The present paper is aimed at uncovering the fact that people’s gender identities which appear as ‘real’ turn out to be society’s predefined notions about men and women. Therefore, this study is intended at unveiling the existence of diverse gender realities hidden behind the socially constructed realities with reference to Hamid’s novel Exit West (2017). In order to analyze this perspective on gender in the said novel, Butler’s (1999) concept of ‘performativity’ serves as a valuable lens. Her concept of ‘performativity’ revolves around the importance of ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’ in defining one’s gender identity. By putting an emphasis on this notion of ‘doing’, the present research focuses on the analysis of the central characters namely Saeed and Nadia in Hamid’s novel. Maintaining Butler’s (1999) view, this study explores that Saeed and Nadia’s gender identities depend on what they ‘do’ in different contexts, rather than on what they ‘are’. It exposes how the protagonists have to assume certain roles under the compulsion of social norms in order to fit in the society they live in. In this sense, this research paper determines that Hamid’s novel not only unmasks certain gender stereotypes, but also breaks them by depicting its protagonists’ performance of alternative gender roles in different contexts. In the light of analysis done with the implication of Butler’s (1999) concept of
‘performativity’, the paper also suggests that Exit West (2017) can be regarded as an important initiative to redefine and reconstruct the notion of gender identities through text.