Exile and Self-Actualization in Pauline Kaldas’s “He Had Dreamed of Returning” and “Airport”

Nisreen M. Sawwa, Shadi S. Neimneh


Against common pessimistic readings of exile in postcolonial fiction, this article employs the notion of “self-actualization” that argues for people’s desire to accomplish everything they are capable of and their need to realize their potential. Within a comparative context and using identity theory and diaspora studies, the article illustrates how self-actualization keeps the immigrants from experiencing exile in two Arab American short stories by Pauline Kaldas: “Airport” (2009a) and “He Had Dreamed of Returning” (2009b). This article shows how the main characters of “Airport” and “He Had Dreamed of Returning,” Samir and Hani respectively, fulfill the American Dream and how Hoda, Samir’s wife, pictures America as the place where she can realize her ambitions. However, Nancy, Hani’s wife, achieves her potential in Egypt rather than America, where she feels needed as a teacher. Thus, Samir and Hani do not get dislocated in America, and Nancy has a sense of belonging in Egypt. Hence, the article utilizes the American Dream and a reverse side of it, and it shows how Samir’s, Hani’s, and Nancy’s self-actualization is a counter to feelings of exile. In other words, the three characters do not experience loss of identity and displacement in the countries they emigrate to. Rather, they fulfill their dreams there and find/create new identities which have been suppressed in their hometowns, which enhances a view of identity as fluid rather than fixed. Briefly put, this article presents the self-actualization of immigrants in new locales as a counter to different levels of dislocation and exile.



Pauline Kaldas, “He Had Dreamed of Returning,” “Airport,” Arab Americans, exile, self-actualization, identity, immigrant literature

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.6n.2p.207


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