Study Guide

Breath, Eyes, Memory Family

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Sophie prides herself on the strength of the women in her family. They endure the most difficult human trials: violence/violation, abandonment, poverty, mental illness. They don't always survive gracefully—very often, pain is often passed on from one generation to the next.

But Sophie and Martine find that although the mother-daughter relationship can be torn apart by these complications, it will always be—and will always need to be reclaimed before the family can move forward.

Danticat makes a similar observation about the bond between Haiti and her people. She believes that the land is their mother and every Haitian a daughter. Danticat uses the image of the goddess Erzulie—Sophie's ideal mother—to give us hope that the Caco women (like Haiti) will endure because of their strength, beauty, and passion.

Questions About Family

  1. Why does Ifé insist that Sophie make things right with her mother?
  2. Why do you suppose that Tante Atie's attitude toward Martine seems less than warm when they see each other after many years?
  3. When Sophie speaks to her therapist, she tells her that she doesn't hate Martine. What reason does she give for this?
  4. What's the significance of the goddess Erzulie in this work? What role does she play in Sophie's outlook on the women of her family?

Chew on This

Danticat creates the strong, matriarchal Caco family to counterbalance the destructive male forces around them, including the corrupt and violent Haitian government.

The feeling of duty towards family (and family honor) actually erodes the Caco family instead of helping them thrive.

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