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Breaking Night

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Rachel Lathangue

on 14 April 2014

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Transcript of Breaking Night

1. Liz Murray- author and motivational speaker

2. use of imagery and figurative language throughout the book

3. purpose- to motivate others through any type of hardship

4. audience- teens, people in poverty, people looking for information about life in poverty
In her memoir Breaking Night (2010), author and motivational speaker Liz Murray proves that any hardships can be conquered with strength and perseverance. Murray mostly captures her struggles by using vivid imagery and figurative language for example when describing, “The intuitional green paint, the flickering light that bounced that green onto everything in the room, on to my hands as they worked daily to remove the blood, urine, and waste from the tiles.” (Murray 176); the author applies metaphors to conclude her experiences and the lessons she learns from them such as “People see pearls as beautiful, perfect gems, but never realize that they actually come from pain- from something hard or dangerous getting trapped inside an oyster where it doesn’t belong.” (Murray 228). The purpose of this book is to motivate others, and relay the message that with every dreadful thing that has happened, you can find a way to make it through in order to be the best you can be. Murray’s audience could be slacking teens procrastinating going to college, adults searching for inspiration, and those struggling with poverty or would like to relate with someone who has.
Rhetorical Precis
Some may say that when a family member is addicted to drugs it affects the family enough to where living with them is unbearable. For new found drug addicts, this may be true. If you are born into a drug abusing family, it becomes a part of your environment, almost a way of life; using drugs is just another daily routine. Liz Murray, the main character in Breaking Night, is a perfect example of a child who despite her mother and father’s addictions, loves her parents and remains close with them. “The four of us together… Ma and Daddy, twitching and shifting just behind us, euphoric.” (Murray 18). All Murray had ever known growing up was drug abuse, so as she aged she knew the effects of drugs and managed to remain drug free throughout her teen and adult life. When people are brought up around addicts, it is possible to carry on normally with their lifestyle like a regular, non-drug abusive family.
1. In the book Breaking Night by Liz Murray, the main character meets many people and befriends several of them. “Because boarding the elevator meant saying good-bye for the night, it was a task that we stretched out for half an hour, time filled with eagerly made plans for when we might see each other next.” (Murray 175). Liz has an inner battle when letting people in to her life. Write an essay on how distrust affects relationships.

2. In the book Breaking Night by Liz Murray, the Murray’s struggle with poverty and drug abuse, but they manage to stay close as a family. “The four of us together… Ma and Daddy, twitching and shifting just behind us, euphoric.” (Murray 18). Defend, challenge, or qualify the claim that despite the downfalls in one’s family members, the family can survive in a healthy environment.

3. In the book Breaking Night by Liz Murray, the main character, Liz, lost her mom. “That’s what death did, Ma-robbed us of the things we still have left to say.” (Murray 228). When a loved one is near death, should you drop everything to say your last words or do you continue on with your regular schedule? Take
a position and write an essay on the claim.

4. In the memoir Breaking Night by Liz Murray , Liz finds self-motivation to find an education. “On one side of the wall there was society, and on the other side there was me, us, the people in the place I came from.” (Murray 248). Defend, challenge, or qualify the claim that one’s self-motivation is more powerful than motivation by others.

by Liz Murray
Breaking Night
Although using government assistance isn’t the ideal way to support your family, many families in America use it to get by. According to America’s census, 1,626,833 families in 2011 received government assistance. In the book Breaking Night , Liz Murray, her family bought groceries using the government’s money. “When I saw the blue uniform appear over the hill-- an urban Santa Claus pushing his matching cart-- I could not wait to announce him” (Murray 15). Murray refers to the mail man as Santa because the welfare check being delivered was a present. It provided them with food and brought the whole family joy and happiness. Even though that welfare check is not much money, it proves that families can get by in poor living conditions.
R: government assistance
When a family member is experiencing something tragic, it takes a toll on the family as a whole. R.T. Sperry portrays this in his image Homeless and Friendless. In this picture, a young boy in tattered clothing sits depressingly on a stair case. You can tell by his hunched over body language that something horrible has just happened. Homeless and Friendless shows the initial reaction of horrible news: sadness, fear, depression. In the book Breaking Night, however, Liz Murray exhibits her family’s progress following the announcement that her mother died due to HIV/AIDS. “We helped each other forget you guys, the mothers and fathers who used to tuck us in, sing at our bedsides. The stars of our dreams and the basis of our reasoning. We banished you with the help of one another” (Murray 230). With the support of her sister, father, and friends, young Murray tries to move on from her mother’s deadly illness in order to handle the situation with her family. Through the support of loved ones, people can make it through tragic situations and build stronger relationships with their family.

This image represents the toll of not having a proper home and healthy parenting has on children and teens.

• black and white- sets depressing, lonely, ashamed tone
• character’s body language tells possible story- where are his parents? why is he alone? death? Sickness? Drugs?
• body language also sets a depressing, lonely, ashamed tone
• the building appears to be old-abandoned or closed

Homeless and Friendless is the title of this image. Although it is a very broad title, it leaves the viewers with opportunities to create a story about this child. How did he become homeless? Where are his parents? Without an exact publishing date, by looking at the building he is sitting at, it seems that this image is older, perhaps the 1940’s. Also, by the looks of the boy’s clothes, it appears that he lives in the country in a warmer southern state because his pants and shirt are ripped and he doesn’t seem phased by the temperature.

• The boy is hunched over with his face covered because he is ashamed and sad and possibly scared. He is sitting alone in tattered clothing. Liz, just like this boy, felt ashamed when sitting at the train station because she could feel people looking at her and judging her for her clothing. This image is a symbol of one of the physical and emotional hardships of being homeless.
• The artist chose an old building for the boy to sit at because it symbolizes the boy’s own appearance. Both the building and the boy look dirty and worn.
• Black and white is used to establish the tone. The artist wanted to suck the light out of the situation (both literally and metaphorically). The dark colors draws attention to the harsh reality of being homeless.
• The artist chose to put the boy by himself because quite often children in unstable homes run away due to poor parenting or abuse. Liz runs away and becomes homeless at age 14 because she felt living on the streets was more tolerable than living with her parents who were addicted to cocaine.


The image Homeless and Friendless made by R.T. Sperry shows it’s viewers that being alone in poor living conditions affects young children emotionally and physically. Although this image appears old to the eye, it is still relevant because homelessness among children is still an issue across the world. This image provokes viewers to feel certain sadness in order to grasp the artist’s full purpose. Not only does Sperry aim to make the viewer understand the reality of homeless children across the world, but urge viewers to help others in this unfortunate situation. Child homelessness is a problem; Homeless and Friendless calls attention to the harsh topic and makes those who are interested take a step back and think.
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