Breath, Eyes, Memory

by Edwidge Danticat

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Student Question

How does migration affect Sophie and Martine in Breath, Eyes, Memory?

Quick answer:

Migration affects Sophie and Martine in Breath, Eyes, Memory in that it means they cannot have a normal mother–daughter relationship when Sophie is young. The fact that she is a migrant means that Sophie must face discrimination later in life, and it also means that for both women, their lives are always somewhat divided in two: the American part of their lives and the Haitian part of their lives.

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In this essay, you could talk about the fact that, thanks to migration, Martine and Sophie have two different lives: they have a life in Haiti and a life in New York.

For Sophie as a young child, migration led to a lack of understanding of who her mother was. Having been raised by her Tante Atie, she was rebuffed when attempting to give Atie a Mother's Day card. Sophie's mother, Martine, was a stranger to Sophie at this stage, and this was due to migration, because Martine had left Haiti for the US in order to pursue a better life.

For Martine, the fact that she has migrated and left her daughter far behind means that she has even less chance of recovering from the fact that this daughter was brought into the world as a result of her being raped.

Part 2 picks up the story once Sophie has started college, and as a migrant, her mother is still working her fingers to the bone to eke out a living. Sophie must deal with the racist attitude of her fellow students towards Haitians.

Part 3 introduces us to Sophie as a married woman and mother, returning to Haiti and her roots to visit her aunt and grandmother. It is during a time of marital strife that she has fled, showing that, as a migrant, she still sees her life in two separate parts: the Haitian part and the American part.

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