Hope’s another character I never thought I would like, and it’s easy to see why. Hope is a fourteen year old boy who has hard enough time just being a fourteen year old boy, thrusted into a journey he couldn’t even comprehend. He’s dependent, clingy to women/mother figures (his mother, Lightning, Vanille), tends to resent older male characters (Snow and his father), takes everything he was taught by the Sanctum as fact, doesn’t know how to handle pressure, passive, struggles with self-confidence, and has a problem with bottling things up until it explodes. It’s not that he’s a bad kid, he shows he can be very respectful to the people he idolizes, he’s a quick learner, he understands his faults, but he hasn’t matured yet.
He fares the worst out of the entire party, partly because of this immaturity. But it’s also important to remember Hope is the only person who ended up in the Purge completely by chance. Everyone else went into the Purge knowing what would happen, Lightning and Sazh both decided to go as a way to make it into the Vestige, Snow went to liberate people, and Vanille thought it would take her back to home. Hope was completely blinded sided, and was utterly unable to cope with the death of his mother, his entire life destroyed, his future gone.
He completely broke down. He’s misdirected all of his anger to Snow, vocally distressed at his own helplessness, and terrified about everything. Hope is so young he doesn’t even question Sanctum brainwashing, he believes l’cie (and therefore himself) no longer to be human and because of this knows that he’ll never be safe as long as he lives… and “as long as he lives” probably isn’t much time at all. He’s so unconfident, he tries to bring up his anger with Snow and always falls short, because he just wasn’t able to take the initiative. And his own weakness served to fuel his anger more.
In comes Lightning, and he looks up to her the way any fourteen year old kid in trouble would look up to her. She’s cool, and strong, and knows what’s she doing- he doesn’t quite understand that she’s struggling with her own immaturity and darkness. He follows her because he thinks this is the best way to get stronger, and he begins to learn from her- both the bad and good lessons. At this point, Hope is so lost that he uses the only really strong driving force left in his life to become his sole motivation- his rage at Snow.
A lot of people use this against him and say it’s unreasonable. Of course it is unreasonable, at this point every character in XIII is handling their fates dreadfully. Hope knows his anger was futile as well, he has conversations about Lightning about it, but with nothing else left but anger it’s the thing that consumes him. When Lightning gives him advice on how to remain focus, he says “I’ll take anything that will get me through this.” Hope needs a definable, obtainable goal to get him through hell. Couple his torment with Snow’s almost delusional optimism in the face of all of Hope’s tragedies and it was a recipe for disaster.
Hope almost kills Snow in his hometown, even though attacking him risked his own survival. Because that’s the only way he knows how to cope emotionally. When Snow admits that he was running away from thinking about the consequences of his actions, Hope realizes that he was using his anger as a way to run away from thinking about his pain. And that’s not what being strong is, that’s not survival. So he throws it away.
At this point, Hope is mature enough to reconcile with Snow and his father, whom he previously wrote off as a man who didn’t care about him because he was always busy. But by now he’s able to empathize and really talk out his issues, and even defends Snow from attacks that would kill him.
A lot of people think that his confrontation with Snow is where he should have gotten his eidolon, but I disagree. While dramatic, his determination to kill Snow wasn’t his desperate point, or the point he was giving up, in fact it gave him purpose. What really cripples Hope is his self-confidence issues, he continuously puts himself throughout the story. These issues never went away; he just learned to be more assertive about his path. Post-Snow, these fears of his weakness are amplified because he was no longer fighting for personal reasons, but for the people around him. It meant that if he is weak, he could put the people he cares for at risk. And for Hope, who watched his mother die to defend him when he was too weak to stand up himself, the thought of more people getting hurt because of him caused him to meltdown. Hope had to learn that he wasn’t weak and wasn’t a burden, and that he was in control of his life. That was what his eidolon fight is about.
Hope’s change is huge, watching earlier parts of the game next to the latter, it’s almost an emotional whiplash. He goes from a kid who constantly lamented about “why me” to being the mouthpiece of one of the major themes of the story; to think, decide, and act on your own terms, to not blindly fall for propaganda, to not give in to misdirected hate, and to never give up. I think a large part of why he becomes the thematic centerpiece is because of his namesake, he is not only the hope of his group, he represents the hope of society. Like I said before, Hope was the only character in the plot that was truly just accidental, he could have been anybody. He represented the worst of what civilization was, naïve, blindly following government propaganda, scared, timid, unsure of himself… but he also represented the hope for human potential- critically thinking, confident, powerful.
I often complain about Hope’s characterization jump from XIII to XIII-2 because let’s face it, him suddenly becoming a scientific world leader is a stretch. But I understood why they did it, Hope IS the direction of human civilization, a continuous drive to do and be better. If Hope represented the best humanity could be, then Hope in XIII-2 naturally took humanity to its best. This is why Godmode Hope exists, because humanity doesn’t have limits. XIII-2 really showed the how people could reach the pinnacle, and Hope thematically is why they could.
This is already too long but I’ll leave this hear as it didn’t fit anywhere else: when you fight the final boss in XIII, your party leader will say a unique line. Hope’s is, “This is for you mom.” You would think this is about finally taking down the entity that was really to blame for Hope’s mom’s death (instead of Snow being the emotional punching bag for every other person in the game). But it’s not, Hope’s story has long since forgotten about revenge. There’s not an ounce of anger in his voice. Instead, it’s about honoring his mother’s memory not with killing, but finally protecting the world the best way he could. What he did for his mom wasn’t more death, it was making sure that society when never fall into the trap of being so toxic it would create another death like hers. And then, he led that society to that dream.