Last Updated on September 25, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 521
The four main characters in Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits all narrowly survive the ten-mile trip on a flimsy life boat from Tangiers, Morocco, to Spain. Laila Lalami based her novel on a news story about fifteen Moroccans who drowned attempting to reach Spain. The characters she focuses on are two men, Murad and Aziz; and two women, Halima and Faten.
Murad is an educated man who studied English in college. He is in his twenties and works, when he can, as a tour guide. As someone who is underemployed, he does not see a clear path to success for himself in his homeland of Morocco. After crossing into Spain, he decides to return to Morocco and finds work in a gift shop that caters to tourists. Murad discovers his gift for storytelling and finds a purpose in telling tourists meaningful tales of his Moroccan culture and history. Murad proves himself adaptable and resilient, as he creates a new life for himself in Morocco when he discovers that Spain isn’t what he thought it would be.
Aziz has mechanical skills, but like Murad, he is underemployed in Morocco. He is married, and his in-laws nag him about his inability to provide well for their daughter. Tired of their haranguing, he sets out on the dangerous crossing to try to prove himself worthy of his wife. Aziz ends up staying in Spain, earning money as a busboy. A few years later, he visits his wife and her mother in Morocco, but he finds that he has to push away memories of the past in order to keep working in the present. Despite his dedication to finding a better life for himself, Aziz is left unsatisfied by what seems to have been a pointless move to Spain.
Halima is a homemaker who sets off on the journey with her three children in order to escape a violent husband and the slums of Casablanca. She has already tried to use a love potion to get her husband to treat her more kindly, but it proved unsuccessful. She also attempted to bribe a judge into granting her a divorce, but this, too, failed. Halima ends up returning with her children to Morocco and spends her energy on her "blessed son,” who saved her from drowning during the journey to Spain. Her life begins to improve, and her strength of character is evident when she is finally able to divorce her husband and is no longer subject to his abuse.
Faten is a young Muslim woman who holds very strict, conservative religious ideas. She is driven out of Morocco by Larbi, a rich bureaucrat who disapproves of her influence on his daughter, Noura. Larbi makes Faten's life miserable by having her expelled from school and immersed in unjust legal trouble. In Spain, Faten hopes to start a new life. When she, like the others, is arrested by the Spanish Civil Guard, she compromises her values and buys her freedom through sexual favors. She survives in Spain as a sex worker, a line of work that appears in stark contrast to her formerly strict moral values.