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Through generational relationships one young Haitian woman comes to terms with her country, her mother, and her own identity. In Breath, Eyes, Memory author Edwidge Danticat portrays the relationships between three generations of women as the roots that help them learn to survive many strifling adversities. Danticat’s heroine is Sophie, who has spent a happy childhood in Haiti with her grandmother and her beloved aunt, who raised her as their own child. Sophie lives with her relatives until her mother who lives in New York sends for her and forces Sophie to leave the only home and family she knows and begin a new life in a strange country with a mother she hardly remembers.
As Sophie overcomes her initial fears and becomes closer to her mother, she learns that her mother has for many years been tormented by the memories of the anonymous man–Sophie’s father–who violently raped her when she was a teenager; this has brought upon verges of terror and guilt on Sophie which makes life unbearable to cope.
Sophie elopes with an older man and has a baby to make a new life, but even so she still suffers from the haunting emotional problems brought on her by her mother. In an attempt to come to terms with her past and her family, she takes her infant daughter to Haiti, and there the generations of women finally come to understand one another, and while life tragically ends for Sophie’s mother, Sophie is able to go back to her American life with a new strength.
The whole plot was motivated by conflict.
There are many instances of conflict in this story. One example of conflict is between Sophie’s love for her aunt and her loyalty to her biological mother during her move to New York. Sophie wanted to stay with the family she loved but she knew she should go to the mother who gave birth to her. Another example of conflict in the story is between Sophie’s mother and her horrible past. Her mother is constantly haunted by her past, and though she tries to live peacefully, her past eventually draws her to take her own life. One more example of conflict is between Sophie and her mother when she lives in New York. She loves her mom, but she can’t stand to live with the emotional stress her mom puts upon her. Conflict as well as setting has helped the reader further understand this story.
The setting helps the reader to better understand the story in many instances. One example of the role of the setting is when Sophie is walking down the common streets of Haiti with her grandmother. The reader gets the feeling that there is warm love between the families because the houses in Haiti are placed close together which creates warm cooperation and love between the families. Another example of setting influence occurs when Sophie faces trouble and confusion in moving from warm Haiti to confusing New York City. Because Sophie is moving from the warm setting of her small Haitian home to a large and bustling town, the reader feels the large conflict that lay ahead in her life. One more example of setting influence is when Sophie leaves her troubling life in New York to find relief in her comforting Haitian home. The reader views New York as big, advanced, and full of trouble and views Haiti as having warm family communities. This helps the reader understand why Sophie has a need to retreat from troublesome New York back to her Haitian home. The settings in this story have played a big part in helping the reader to better enjoy the story.
The use of Haitian dialect that was tied in with the English was a very affective way to portray the culture. The vocabulary of this book was adequate and enjoyable to an average to above average level of reading. A reader of these levels would not have to keep stopping to look up words in a dictionary. The dialogue used especially by the grandmother and the aunt showed their Haitian culture as well as their lack of education. In an over-all view I would say that I thought this book was wonderful and worthy of being read by women of all ages.
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