Breaking Night

by

Liz Murray

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Elizabeth “Liz” Murray

Liz Murray is the author, protagonist, and narrator of Breaking Night, the story of her life leading up to her acceptance to Harvard University. Liz grows up in the Bronx in the 1980s and… read analysis of Elizabeth “Liz” Murray

Ma / Jean Murray

Jean Murray—who Liz Murray always refers to as “Ma”—is a complex, tragic character. A attractive and intelligent young woman, she comes from a family with a long history of mental illness, and at several points… read analysis of Ma / Jean Murray

Daddy / Peter Finnerty

Peter Finnerty—who Liz refers to throughout as “Daddy”—is a clever and witty but troubled man. An excellent student, who at one point pursues a graduate degree in social work, Peter decides that there’s more money… read analysis of Daddy / Peter Finnerty

Lisa Murray

Lisa Murray is Liz Murray’s older sister. Though Lisa is a peripheral character in the later chapters of the memoir, she’s an important influence in Liz’s early life. As the older sister, Lisa sometimes… read analysis of Lisa Murray

Carlos Marcano

Carlos Marcano is a charismatic but somewhat sinister character, with whom Liz quickly becomes enamored. A handsome, confident young man, he dazzles Liz, as well as Sam, with his humor and intelligence. Carlos claims… read analysis of Carlos Marcano
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Samantha / Sam

Sam is probably Liz’s best friend, and certainly one of the most important people in her life. The two girls meet in middle school, where Sam is a popular student and Liz is new… read analysis of Samantha / Sam

Perry Weiner

An English teacher and the head of the Humanities Preparatory Academy in New York, Perry Weiner is a dedicated educator who believes that all students, without exception, can benefit from a good education in literature… read analysis of Perry Weiner

Grandma

Jean Murray’s mother and Liz’s Grandma, she is a notable influence in Liz’s early life. Though Liz only meets her grandmother a handful of times, she’s struck by Grandma’s gentleness and attentiveness: unlike… read analysis of Grandma

Ron

Although Ron only appears in one chapter of the memoir, his presence looms over the rest of the book. Ron is a friend of Jean Murray’s: he gives her free drugs, and often invites… read analysis of Ron

Rick Hernandez

One of Liz’s oldest friends, Rick Hernandez is a friendly boy who, along with his brother Danny Hernandez, spends lots of time with Liz in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (i.e., when… read analysis of Rick Hernandez

Danny Hernandez

One of Liz’s oldest friends, Danny Hernandez is a friendly boy who, along with his brother Rick Hernandez, spends lots of time with Liz in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (i.e., when… read analysis of Danny Hernandez

Brick

New Yorker and security guard with whom Jean Murray, Liz, and Lisa go to live in the mid-1990s. Liz doesn’t provide a tremendous amount of detail about Brick’s life or personality, but she… read analysis of Brick

Bobby

Bobby is another good friend of Liz’s; as with Sam, he meets Liz when Liz begins going to a new school. While Liz doesn’t provide much detail about Bobby’s personality, she writes that… read analysis of Bobby
Minor Characters
Meredith
Meredith is Peter Finnerty’s child from another relationship. Peter abandons Meredith when Meredith is only two years old. Though Liz only sees Meredith once, the encounter leaves her frightened that her father will abandon her too, just as he’s done with Meredith.
Leonard Mohn
An addict who befriends Jean Murray and encourages her to abandon her husband. Liz describes Leonard Mohn as a singularly unpleasant person—especially because he goes through the motions of being polite to Daddy, even though he says nasty things about Daddy in private.
Tara
A friend of Jean Murray’s who shares Jean’s fondness for cocaine, Tara is instrumental in introducing Jean to Ron.
Matt
An Encyclopedia Britannica salesman.
Kevin
A friend of Rick Hernandez and Danny Hernandez, who helps the young Liz find work.
Doctor Eva Morales
A condescending doctor with whom Liz meets during her time at the Saint Anne’s Residence for troubled children.
Auntie
A gruff, severe woman who runs the Saint Anne’s Residence for troubled children, where Liz briefly stays.
Talesha
A teenage girl who befriends Liz during their time together at Saint Anne’s.
Oscar
Sam’s boyfriend during middle school and high school.
Jamie
A high school friend of Liz’s.
Paige
A friend of one of Liz’s friends, who encourages Liz to go back to high school or get her GED.
Ken
A handsome, confident young man with whom Liz works the summer before she begins her high school education at the Humanities Preparatory Academy.
Susan
One of Liz’s teachers at the Humanities Preparatory Academy.
Doug
One of Liz’s teachers at the Humanities Preparatory Academy.
Caleb
One of Liz’s teachers at the Humanities Preparatory Academy.
Elijah
One of Liz’s teachers at the Humanities Preparatory Academy.
Eva
A close friend of Liz’s at the Humanities Preparatory Academy, Eva is a thoughtful, creative student. She and Liz work on school projects together, and she (along with other top HPA students) accompanies Liz on the trip to Boston that eventually inspires Liz to apply to Harvard.
James
Liz’s boyfriend during her time at the Humanities Preparatory Academy.
Jessie Klein
Liz’s high school guidance counselor, who encourages her to apply to great schools but also to prioritize scholarship applications.
Liz Hernandez
The kind, loving mother of Rick Hernandez and Danny Hernandez.
Ms. Cole
Truancy officer who threatens to send the twelve-year-old Liz to a state-run home.
Dalai Lama
The spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, whose cryptic reply to Liz Murray’s question is discussed in the memoir’s epilogue.