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Breath, Eyes, Memory

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Naomichi Yamamoto

on 10 April 2017

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Transcript of Breath, Eyes, Memory

"From the time a girl begins to menstruate to the time you turn her over to her husband, the mother is responsible for her purity. If I give a soiled daughter to her husband, he can shame my family, speak evil of me, even bring her back to me" (156)
Breath, Eyes, Memory
Edwidge Danticat

Significance of the Title:
a person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved
-Understanding the strength in exercising agency to achieve an end goal.
-Ability to exert agency through the length of the phrases
-Think of Martine and Sophie in relation to agency.
Martine escapes her problems through avoidance rather than facing them.
Meet the Author: Edwidge Danticat
Author of
Krik? Krak!
Born in Haiti; raised by aunt and uncle while parents moved to New York
As an immigrant teenager:
She felt discomfort because of her disorientation with her surroundings
Turned to literature for solace
Writing was her way of expressing herself (feelings)
Aaron Mahal | Melvin Hernandez | Jerry Torres
In response to society’s expectations of women, Martine tries to escape through avoidance whereas Sophie counters these expectations by exercising agency to achieve self-acceptance.
Deeper Meaning Behind Thesis:
Breath, Eyes, Memory
“I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like the hair on your head. Where women return to their children as butterflies or as tears in the eyes of the statues that their daughters pray to. My mother was a brave star at dawn. My mother was like that woman who could never bleed and then could never stop bleeding, the one who gave in to her pain, to live as a butterfly. Yes, my mother was like me.”
Analysis of the Title:
Breath, Eyes, Memory
Parable of the rich man and the poor black girl.
Fulfilling her role as a woman to her husband.
Taking on a role of the mother when she is incapable of doing so.
Brief Analysis
Key Ideas
“I know I should get help, but I am afraid. I am afraid it will become even more real if I see a psychiatrist and he starts telling me to face it…"
(Danticat 190).
Allowing social expectations to dominate vs Exercising agency
“It was up to me to avoid my turn in the fire. It was up to me to make sure my daughter never slept with ghosts, nightmares, and never had her name burnt in flames.” (203)
"After my marriage, whenever Joseph and I were
, I
" (203).
Experiences strengthen women
Allows women transition into their next chapter in life
The breath and eyes symbolize women’s experiences
The gender inequalities that makes their lives difficult and uncomfortable
The memories are a symbol of lessons used to overcome challenges
To tackle on their new future lives
To escape from the expectations that women are faced with.
Importance in the idea of
Sepaaration of mind and body.
to meet society's expectation's of her role as a woman.
These expectations have been internalized over generations.
Similarities between Sophie and Martine:
Temporary fix to a perpetual problem
"I am his wife. There are certain things I need to do to keep him."
"The fear of abandonment. You always have that in the back of your mind, don't you?" (210).
(Danticat 234)
Darren Ma | Naomichi Yamamoto | Steven Lai
Universal Lesson
-In order to accept oneself, one must face his or her fears.
Martine continues test Sophie to avoid societal scrutiny for not following the expectations of women
Parable of the rich man and
the poor black girl. (154 - 155)
Haitian men, they insist that their women are virgins and have their ten fingers. (151)
Sophie challenges social expectations and exercises agency when deciding to protect her daughter from the tradition of testing, doubling, and expectations for women.
She does this by defying Martine and Grandma Ife's rituals and avoidance
Grandma Ife and Martine's avoidance represents conformity to social norms and lack of agency
“It was up to me…”. Repetition shows exercise of agency in accepting her own idea of motherhood in defiance of social expectations.

“You feel she was only pretending to be happy….That’s always how she’s survived. She feels that she has to stay one step ahead of a mental institution so she has to hold it together at least on surface”
(Danticat 218).
"'Someone like me, you see me happy, you know I'm pretending,' she said" (188).
"'I am very worried about her state of mind,' I said. 'It was like two people. Someone who was trying to hold things together and someone who was falling apart'" (218).
"I don't need an aphrodisiac. I need a little more understanding."
"I do understand. You are usually reluctant to start, but after a while you give in. You seem to enjoy it" (196).
"Joseph could never understand why I had done something so horrible to myself. I could not explain to him that it was like breaking manacles, an act of freedom" (130).
Sophie's desire for understanding
You get candy
“Did you find an aphrodisiac? I don’t need an aphrodisiac. I need a little more understanding. I do understand. You are usually reluctant to start, but after a while you give in. You seem to enjoy it.”(196)

-Not reaching womanhood
-she cannot change her body, causing to have a personal shame of it
-Does not want flaws to be known
-Wants to keep her facade that she is normal
Full transcript