Breath, Eyes, Memory

by Edwidge Danticat

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Student Question

How does Breath, Eyes, Memory link national identity and child-parent relationships?

Expert Answers

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Link national identity and child-parent relationships by talking about the relationship between Sophie, her mom, Martine, and Martine’s mom (Sophie’s grandma), Ifé.

When the novel starts, Sophie isn’t living with her mom. She’s living with her aunt (her mom’s sister) in Haiti. This arrangement indicates that national identity isn’t necessarily dependent upon a close child-parent relationship. At this moment, Sophie doesn’t have a solid relationship with her mom, yet she is cared for in her own home country nonetheless.

When Sophie is reunited with her mom in New York and removed from Haiti, trouble seems to follow. It’s as if the separation from Haiti and her national identity jumpstarts her tribulations.

Conversely, one could argue that her issues are the cause of her national identity and the sexist norms that propel Martine to “test” for Sophie’s virginity, just as Martine’s own mom, Ifé, did to her.

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