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The major theme of the story, as the title strongly hints, is hope, along with the related themes of endurance and resolve. The young heroine's decision to change her name to Hope symbolises her positive outlook on life, despite her inauspicious beginnings. Her name change is not any flighty decision on her part, but the result of careful consideration. She is under no illusions that it will be a tough name to live up to:
"People expect things from Hopes that they don't expect from Pattys and Lisas and Danielles. People expect Hopes to be cheerful and positive".
Hope, then, is quite aware of the implications of her name-change, but she faces up to the challenge. It is not easy. Her mother abandoned her and she has never known her father, so that she has never known the security of a settled home and family relationships. But Hope determines to overcome such obstacles.
Other characters also have symbolic names that reflect the theme of hope, most notably Braverman, who comes from a disadvantaged background but is a hard worker and a fighter for the good that he believes in. We can also consider G.T.'s full name - Gabriel Thomas. 'Gabriel' recalls the Biblical angel who brought the good news of Jesus's birth to Mary, but 'Thomas' brings to mind the disciple who was full of doubt about Jesus's resurrection. Therefore it can be said that his name mixes together contrary emotions. Certainly he has had a hard life, and is terminally ill with cancer, but he has great courage and belief, and Hope draws strength and inspiration from him.
The theme of hope in this novel does not refer to a kind of wishful thinking, like Hope's desire to be re-united with her father and to establish a more fulfilling relationship with her mother. It refers to the kind of solid courageous hope which engages with reality. Hope's longing to be part of a traditional family unit with her real mother and father cannot come true. However, she finds great support in people like her aunt, in Braverman and G.T; she is grief-stricken at G.T.'s death, but learns to cope, and to go on hoping for the future.
The story, then, does deal with serious issues, like illness, death, family breakdowns, and not least, political corruption, which for a time threatens to wholly undermine the community. Overall, however, the book is optimistic in its depiction of people who are willing to come together, work hard, and maintain their goals and ideals.
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