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Dreams of Trespass

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Dream of Trespass was a book written by Fatima Mernissi in 2002. And it is a true reflection of her life as a child. The tale starts at her tender age and ends when she was approximately eight years old. In order to exhaustively reflect her ideas and opinions, the author discusses her family’s personalities, her hopes and dreams. Having been brought up in a harem, the author tries to describe many rules which were used to govern the society at her time. She did this by portraying her questionable character, despite her being innocent and of tender age. The book has a domestic setting and its argument mainly revolves around how the society viewed women. Although the book narrates of a personal winning story, it assists us to feminize a stereotyped society and religion. The book has a number of themes, among them feminism and concepts of freedom for a girl in a harem.

Since the main theme of the book is the desire for freedom, the author fully described some of the rules which are infringing women’s freedom. In the first chapter of the book the author narrates how her father used to tell her how each group should respect the prescribed limits of the other. The father pointed out that trespassing could lead to sorrowful and unhappy life within the society. But despite this being the stand of her father, she still felt that she needed to be free from this depriving rules. She termed these rules as boundaries which govern the space people were to operate within. And as a small girl she was not supposed to go out into the courtyard unless her mother was not asleep (Mernissi 14).

She however fight with this odd belief by chasing her happiness, even though it meant her trespassing on others’ rights. She does this by deviating from the norm which she says is depriving as far as women are concerned. Despite of being raised in a different harem with her cousin Samir, she felt that she deserved to be happy as the rest of the kids. According to her the children from the other frontier enjoyed their freedom while those in her frontier lived a segregated and lonely kind of life. Although she was a young girl she constantly questioned the rules which separated children through harems. Here the author cleverly demolishes the notion of having natural or divine rules and categorize these rules as the mind of the powerful to suppress the weak. Although her mother and father argued that deviating from tradition only caused misery and havoc to the victims, she felt that people’s happiness surpassed traditions by far.

It is because of this reason the author argued against restrictions which tend to deny people’s happiness. She emphasized on the need to pursue happiness in life since that is what really matters. Fatima categorized the restrictions as either physical or implied. But her situation was physical as there was a gate with a door keeper who was supposed to ensure no woman left that harem. And in order to overcome this, women designed their own mechanisms of attaining happiness. The author was much dissatisfied with the rules which were enforced in her harem, she once pointed out that being stuck in a harem signified loss of freedom of movement to the women. She also noted it as a misfortune since the woman was forced to share her husband with others (Mernissi 34). She disliked the whole idea of restricting women and as she pointed out, even the French people did not imprison their wives behind the walls, but they let them run wild and have fun, nevertheless it did not bar them from performing their duties (Mernissi 42).

The author is therefore noted to be one of the leading people who advocate for women’s right in the Muslim world. Her insightful commentaries on the social and political issues in the Muslim world also enable her to bring out her ideas well. By her writing the book she was able to express the actual cultural behavior in the Muslim world. And as she points out in the book, women were kept outside the family and the public. And although the move was aimed at ensuring their safety, it prompted feelings of isolation and frustrations amongst women. 

It’s from these challenges the author felt that she needed to get out of that cage and the only way to do it was through studying. And this is the feeling of the many women in this cultural background to trespass the boundaries set before them and realizes their dreams and aspirations in life. As the author noted, one should not exchange the happiness with an oppressive tradition.  There were instances of outright rebellion in the book such as trying to run out of the gate without permission, though this was counter-checked by the door keeper who forced them back into the harem. Although it’s not clear to us whether women were finally able to free themselves from the harem confines, we are able to note the discontent of women in this society. The tag of war between the boundaries and women of the time symbolized their dissatisfactions and indicated their determination to free themselves from those rules. Having written the book in the first person’s perspective, the author finally freed herself from the confines of harem by pursuing her dream of being a scholar.

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