Literature Study GuidesBreath Eyes MemoryPart 3 Chapters 25 27 Summary

Breath, Eyes, Memory | Study Guide

Edwidge Danticat

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Breath, Eyes, Memory | Part 3, Chapters 25–27 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25

As Martine changes into a sundress, Sophie notices the contrast between her bleached face and her dark skin. Grandmè Ifé notices Martine's prosthetic breasts. Grandmè Ifé discusses her plans to see a notary about the papers for her land.

In the evening Martine and Tante Atie look at the stars. They remember stories their parents told them about the stars in their childhood. Martine wonders why Tante Atie never married. Tante Atie says she has "the curse of a girl whose papa loved her best." Martine reflects on how a woman from Haiti can lose her father and her dreams in a single instant.

Chapter 26

The next day Martine and Grandmè Ifé are thrilled when they return from the notary with a new deed. The deed shows the land divided equally between the three women and Brigitte.

After dinner Grandmè Ifé asks Martine to take the moody Tante Atie back to New York, saying Tante Atie remains in Haiti out of duty, not love. Martine says she wants to be buried in Haiti. Sophie will carry out her wishes as she is her daughter, Grandmè Ifé says. At night Sophie sees Martine weeping silently over Sophie and Brigitte's bed.

In the morning Martine tells Sophie she's still having nightmares. Sophie admits she used to blame herself for Martine's nightmares because she looks like her father. Martine says the way Sophie's face looked as a child frightened her, but Sophie's face has changed as an adult.

Suddenly Sophie asks why Martine tested her. Martine says she'll tell her now, but Sophie should never ask again. Sophie wants to ask as many times as she has to because if she understands what her mother did she won't repeat it. Martine says she tested Sophie because her mother had tested her. Martine's rape finally made the testing stop. She realizes the testing and the rape, "the two greatest pains" of her life, are related. She tells Sophie she wants to be friends because Sophie saved her life when she woke her up from the nightmares.

Meanwhile Louise leaves in a hurry without saying goodbye to Tante Atie. Though the family is used to people disappearing, Tante Atie is still upset.

Chapter 27

The night before Sophie plans to return to New York, she and Brigitte sleep in Tante Atie's room. Sophie assures Tante Atie that Louise would have gone away no matter what. As the women reflect on the past, Tante Atie says, "Children are the rewards of life." She thinks of Sophie as her child.

Sophie, Martine, and Brigitte leave for New York the following morning. Sophie watches as Haiti gets smaller in the van window. She observes the hill in the distance, a place Tante Atie calls Ginen, where the family women hope to meet in the afterlife.

Analysis

Parts 3 and 4 explore the fallout of both Tante Atie and Sophie returning to their mothers. The returns affect both pairs of mothers and daughters in ways they didn't predict.

The relationship between sisters Martine and Tante Atie changes too. Chapter 25 foregrounds this relationship as both sisters consider the outcomes of their choices. One sister went to seek opportunity and promise; the other stayed at home to honor tradition. Both are unhappy with the lives they've made and are envisioning their own deaths and grappling with the loss of the lives they had planned. The stars represent bigger, brighter, and more dangerous possibilities they didn't pursue.

Tante Atie is distant from Martine and the rest of the family, keeping the writing in her notebook private. When she reconnects with her sister it's in nature. The stars bring back a common memory, one they share with many other Haitians: hearing stories. They filter complex feelings through folktales, imagining themselves as mythical characters who also experience loss.

While Martine is glad to reconnect with her family, Sophie is ambivalent. As she says, sometimes she claims her mother as a family member and sometimes she doesn't. But the deed for the house binds her to her family in a permanent way. The land itself becomes a connecting thread.

Death is another thread bringing them all together. Grandmè Ifé weaves death into life, planning her funeral and thinking of her great-granddaughter using the land after her. She brings up the role of a daughter in planning her mother's funeral. She and Tante Atie have both separately insisted that only Sophie and Martine can play certain roles for one another. These roles include helping each other navigate major journeys and transitions.

Once Sophie realizes what she means to her mother, she forces a direct confrontation. To break the cycle of pain for her own daughter, she has to understand where it comes from. She considers Martine's own trauma of having a daughter who resembles her rapist.

Both mother and daughter reckon with the ways they ruined and saved one another. Sophie may have been a reminder of rape and violence, but she saved her mother from the nightmares. Martine has given Sophie the greatest trauma of her life, but she has the potential to help Sophie heal.

As Martine talks, she becomes aware she passed down the traditions of the past without thinking about them. Like Tante Atie, she acted out of duty and not out of love, despite her love for Sophie. The explanation resonates with Sophie, who loves Brigitte and is unsure how to parent her as a new mother.

Chapter 27 deals with departure. While Sophie and Martine prepare to leave Haiti, Tante Atie deals with the loss of another daughter figure in Louise. Tante Atie's method of survival is leaving the past in the past. She senses Sophie won't be able to do the same.

Sophie, meanwhile, thinks of another journey the women are preparing for. Her narration presents Haiti as a collection of still images signaling family, blood, violence, and finally death in the image of the mountain. She pictures the mountain of Ginen as a place of reunification, an arrival rather than a disappearance.

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