Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits Summary & Study Guide

Laila Lalami

Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits

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Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 50-page guide for “Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits” by Laila Lalami includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 2 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Hope and the Immigrant Experience and The Effect of Socioeconomic Status on Decision-Making.

Plot Summary

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits is a work of fiction written by Moroccan native Laila Lalami and published in 2005. The narrative is comprised of nine stories involving the lives of four major characters, all of whom attempt to emigrate illegally from Morocco to Spain in order to have better lives. Despite the fact that these stories are separate from one another, the book does not represent a short story collection in the classic sense; rather, it has a single thread that ties all of these disparate stories together: the trip these characters attempt as they cross the Strait of Gibraltar together, witnessed in the first story of the narrative.

The narrative may not adhere to the classic Western concept of the novel, as it favors a more communal aspect of narration. Although it does seem to privilege the perspective of Murad, as he is the only character to whom three stories are devoted, the author seems to use Murad as a mechanism for the telling of these communal stories. In this way, the focus is not necessarily on Murad himself but upon his role as the storyteller of these communal narratives. All the stories, including those of Murad, are told from a third-person point of view, creating a kind of meta-narrative within the concept of communal storytelling.

The narrative is divided into three sections, beginning with the group’s inflatable boat trip across the Stair of Gibraltar as told by Murad. The audience is introduced to all of the major characters in “The Trip,” as well as to Murad’s perceptions of both them and himself. The boat motor breaks mid-trip, causing some panic among the younger travelers, notably Faten, but Aziz is able to fix it. The captain refuses to take the passengers to shore, instead making them swim to the beach, and Faten almost drowns. Once on the beach, all except Aziz are caught by the Spanish civil guard and taken to jail. Aziz and Halima return to Morocco with a kind of qualified hope, while Faten manages to trade sexual favors for her freedom.

The next section, “Before,” entails the lives of the various characters before the boat trip. It begins with a story told from the point of view of a wealthy bureaucrat, Larbi, whose daughter befriends Faten. Larbi blames Faten for making his daughter more religiously conservative and eventually finds a way to get Faten out of his daughter’s life by expelling her from school and getting her in trouble with the police. The next story in this section deals with Halima’s abusive relationship and how she tries two methods to end the cycle of abuse in her marriage. First, she tries to make him fall in love with her via a love potion and then to bribe a judge into giving her a divorce, both of which are unsuccessful. Aziz’s story is next, essentially demonstrating how negatively all his friends and family react to his decision to emigrate illegally. Aziz details the hardships associated with getting a job in Morocco, as well as the hopelessness he feels staying there. The last story in this section is Murad’s, which depicts a day in his life as he tries to make money as a tour guide. Murad demonstrates how negatively he is perceived by his friends and family for his lack of employment. These perceptions often make him feel invisible, and he ultimately decides to emigrate illegally.

The final section, “After,” begins with Halima’s story of her blessed son who saved her from drowning during the boat trip. She has returned to Morocco and found agency in her separation from her husband, who eventually gives her a divorce. Faten is the subject of the next story, which details her sex work, focusing on her exoticization by the Spanish men she services. Although Faten successfully stationed herself in Spain, the tragic reality of her situation is only mitigated by her fond memories of her past. In the penultimate story, Aziz demonstrates how much he has been forced to forget about his old life in order to be successful in Spain. He returns to Morocco for a few weeks but finds that he no longer fits in, realizing he has no space for his past in the new life he has built. In contrast, Murad’s final story illustrates the importance of remembering one’s past in order to know who one is. Although he was unsuccessful in his emigration to Spain, Murad now works in a shop and finds solace in the community he is a part of. Through interacting with two white female customers, Murad realizes his calling as a storyteller and finds hope that he thought he lost.

As suggested by the title, the narrative primarily examines each character’s relationship with hope. Although these characters come from extremely impoverished and oftentimes violent situations, they all still maintain the hope that they can change their lives for the better. Surprisingly, the ones who are able to maintain this hope are Halima and Murad, the two characters who are unsuccessful in their emigration to Spain. Halima and Murad seem to be happier than Faten and Aziz as they are able to gain agency even within the poverty of their communities. In this way, the author suggests that hope resides not in environmental improvement but in finding one’s calling within given situations.

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