Focusing on Faten’s Personal Choices as Presented in Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami Essay (Critical Writing)
Updated: Apr 30th, 2019
There is an assumption that our society and culture can determine the choices of individuals. However, sometimes people’s choices are based on personal considerations and moral principles shaping character’s identity. Social status, individual characteristics, and moral assets, therefore, predetermine a personal choice.
Within this context, Lalami’s book Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits is an account about difficult choices made by the protagonist to achieve their own purposes. Faten, the main heroine and a determined girl, tries to challenge the host society. In the pursuit of options, opportunities, and dignity, she expresses her superiority over other people. While focusing on Faten’s identity, the heroine makes personal choices to get respect and attention in a new society.
Many might believe that Faten is a very eccentric and hypocritical girl who is reluctant to accept alien culture and society. However, she makes a personal choice to wear all religious and cultural attributes of Moroccan culture to get attention and respect in Spain. Hence, Faten’s first appearance in the book allows the reader to understand the extent to which Faten is committed to her goals and faith: “She wore a gray, pilled sweater and an ankle-length denim skirt, and her hair was covered in a headscarf” (Lalami 23).
While presenting Faten through the prism of Larbi’s view, the author, apparently, tries to capture the full grasp of her personality. Faten becomes a religious fanatic to resist Larbi’s position. Hence, from Amrani’s point of view, Faten is an arrogant girl who refuses to shake his hand.
Being reluctant to acknowledge Faten as full-fledged personality, Larbi is determined to consider Faten “the wrong type” of people who should not communicate with his daughter (Lalami 25). As a result, the man destroys her future and dooms the main heroine to living a dissipated life. For the first time, Faten realizes that her personal freedom is limited to the choices made by other people with power and money.
In the pursuit of dreams, some people can stat that Faten, a determined and rebellious girl, opposes the bureaucratic system of education in Spain, but in fact, the heroine just strives to gain recognition by promulgating Morrocan culture. The protagonist, thus, explores the limits of individual choices and concludes that education and perseverance are powerful means to opportunity, dignity, and choice.
After immigrating, Faten, a pious idealist, deliberates on her personal choice to wear the hijab at the university in Morocco and the circumstances that have made her take it off in a host country. The girl wonders about Noura, her rich former friend, whom Faten convinced to wear the hijab: “Noura was probably still wearing it. She was rich; she had the luxury of having faith. But then, Faten thought, Noura also had the luxury of having no faith” (Lalami 138).
While Noura’s beneficial connections protect her from wrong decisions, Faten’s socioeconomic circumstances, as well as religious learning, work against her in the world where money “give you choices” (Lalami 139). A matter of choice, therefore, was confined to the power of money, but not to the main principles of morality and faith.
Many might agree that Faten made a personal and deliberate decision to abandon her morality, personal values, and beliefs. In fact, Faten, the Muslim fanatic, understands that difficult choices must be made to survive in a cruel world. These choices, however, lead to the frustration of her dreams and faith in a better life.
With no credentials and respect, she encounters similar problems to those she encountered in Morocco. Fantasizing about what she could have achieved after graduating from university and understanding that reality is far more severe than she imagined in her dreams, Faten realizes she is the one to rely on because “ no one gives anything for free” (Lalami 43).
In the pursuit of dignity and respect, Faten encounters indifference of other people to recognize her beliefs and positions. Living in exile is the price that Faten has to pay for upholding her moral positions and remaining faithful to herself. The Eid holiday was not a veritable event to celebrate anymore, although it made the heroine nostalgic about the times when she lived in Morocco. It was just a reminder of the sufferings she had to overcome on the way to her dreams.
Despite all the adversities, however, Faten cooked a meal because it was the only means of restoring her self-image. At a glance, Faten’s decision to cook the dinner can be seen as an act of despair. However, Faten chooses to celebrate to challenge the opposition and remain faithful to herself. Though being opposed by others, this is the only thing that allows her to make choices and influence her future.
There is a false assumption that a person’s fate depends solely on the decision he/she makes. However, personal choices can make individuals witness strong opposition, particularly when those individuals face the resistant majority. Inability to accept other cultures and social conditions does not allow Faten to follow her personal choices. Her arrogance, confidence, and a strong feeling of superiority prevent her from reaching her goals.
Being a complex character, Lalami decides to depict Faten through the lenses of Larbi to better define the dimensions of her character and explain what factors made her choose the life she led. In fact, because Faten thinks of herself as a very religious and honest person, she still cheats at her exams and, later, she enters a life of degradation.
In conclusion, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits embraces the problem of personal choices, as well as the extent to which they influence life of individuals. Within this context, Faten is a unique character, a heroin who struggles against Western stereotypes to prove her identity and right to self-expression.
She desperately opposes indifference and ignorance of the European world in the pursuit of accomplishing her utmost dreams and gaining respect and attention. In reality, the host culture neglects Faten’s attempts to follow her principles. Thus, she has had a potent impact on Noura’s decision not to attend New York University; she has also shared her political views on the bureaucratic system of education which prevents talented and skillful children from entering a higher educational establishment.
As a result, she becomes the victim of the Western corrupt world and her personal choice to resist the host society. Faten faces a difficult decision while experiencing a life outside the campus. Lalami, thus, presents Faten as a very complex character and, therefore, she chooses to describe her intention and features through Larbi point of view to understand her veritable goals and choices in life.
Lalami, Laila. Hopes and Others Dangerous Pursuits. Washington, PA: Harvest Book. pp. 19-51, 127-145.
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Updated: Apr 30th, 2019 There is an assumption that our society and culture can determine the choices of individuals. However, sometimes people’s choices are based on personal considerations and moral […]