Study Guide

Breath, Eyes, Memory Setting

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Haiti (Croix-des-Rosets and La Dame Nouvelle Marie); Brooklyn, New York

There is a huge contrast between Sophie's home in Haiti and Martine's in New York. Sophie notes the difference in the colors—the vibrant greens and reds of her homeland versus the monochromatic palette of the city. In Haiti, there are rainbow butterflies, yellow daffodils, and the red of the Caco bird. In New York, there's Pizza Rat.

Sophie also makes comparisons between the landscapes of her two homes: the gray, soul-killing atmosphere of the city subways awaken her memories of the trains that shuttle between the fields of sugar cane to the larger coastal cities.

Sophie associates emotions with geography. Haiti is home for her, a place where she felt secure and happy with the love of her grandmother and auntie in their neat homes. This feeling does, um, not convey to her life in New York.

But Danticat shows us another side to Haiti as well. We see it when Sophie journeys to Port-au-Prince and encounters violence by the side of the road. When she returns as an adult, she witnesses firsthand the violence and power of the Tonton Macoutes, who kick Dessalines to death in the marketplace.

And for Martine, Haiti's a land of nightmares. She can never forget the violence of this place because she lives with it every night in her tortured dreams. Though she's made a life for herself in gray New York, she can't leave the terror of the lush cane fields behind her.

On balance, Danticat offers us a dynamic picture of Haiti: it's a place of poverty, violence, and political instability, but it's also the land of stories, family, and light.

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