Breaking Night

by

Liz Murray

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Daddy / Peter Finnerty Character Analysis

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 in selling drugs to his wealthy college friends than there is in pursuing an advanced degree. By the late 1970s, he’s become a successful drug dealer—a decision that arguably ruins his life. He becomes increasingly dependent on drugs, to the point where he doesn’t seem to care about anything else, and shortly before Liz’s birth, he’s arrested for selling drugs and sentenced to three years in prison. For most of Liz’s memoir, Daddy is a mysterious and sometimes sinister presence in Liz’s life. Liz knows that he has a daughter from a previous relationship, Meredith, who he abandoned when she was only two years old—and this makes Liz afraid of her father and hesitant to trust him. For many years, Liz barely sees or talks to her father—they have even less of a relationship than do Liz and her mother. Following Liz’s mother’s death, however, as well as Liz’s acceptance to Harvard University, Liz begins to reconcile with her father. She doesn’t forget his neglectful behavior or his emotional callousness, but she also makes an effort to respect him and support him as he struggles with the symptoms of AIDS. Toward the end of the book, Daddy writes Liz a note saying, “Thank you for making us a family again.”

Daddy / Peter Finnerty Quotes in Breaking Night

The Breaking Night quotes below are all either spoken by Daddy / Peter Finnerty or refer to Daddy / Peter Finnerty. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Hachette Books edition of Breaking Night published in 2011.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I raised my arms into the air, and gave a singsong, 'Al-l-l do-ne."
Taken off guard, Ma paused, leaned in and asked disbelievingly, "What did you say, pumpkin?”
“A-l-l-l done," I repeated, delighted at Ma's sudden interest.
She yelled for Daddy. "Peter, she knows! Look at her, she understands!"

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Ma / Jean Murray (speaker), Daddy / Peter Finnerty
Page Number: 13-14
Explanation and Analysis:

Lisa and I dined on Happy Meals in front of the black-and-white TV, to the sound of spoons clanking on the nearby table, chairs being pulled in—and those elongated moments of silence when we knew what they were concentrating on. Daddy had to do it for Ma because with her bad eyesight she could never find a vein.

Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

I don't recall Daddy ever talking about Meredith at home or in front of Ma. She never came to visit. Sometimes it felt as though I made up the memory of her, but I knew I hadn't. And every now and then Lisa and I would talk about how we wanted to meet Meredith again, and get to know our big sister. But no one talked about Daddy's other life before us, or our other sister.

Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

When Ma was plastered to the couch, flies buzzing over her head, cigarette butts floating in her nearby bottle of beer, it just didn't seem right to tell her that I’d spent my day at a picnic or at the pool, playing in the sun, eating home-cooked meals with Rick and Danny's family. The same went for Daddy and Lisa. Any joy I managed outside of our home felt, to me, like a form of betrayal.

Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

I stared at Meredith's face as a baby and compared it to Daddy's. Taking in her complete vulnerability as an infant, I wondered where she was now, and how Daddy could have left her behind, and why we never talked about her. It filled me with a deeply unsettling feeling to wonder what else he was capable of doing.

Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

If he was tap-dancing his end of the conversation, so would I. Why tell him I was absent all the time from school? Why confront him? If he couldn't do anything about our problems, then what would be the point in venting at Daddy? It would only stress him more, and I didn't want to do that to him. It felt mean. So I decided to censor my life from my father, and to have him think everything was just great.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Daddy / Peter Finnerty
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

So I let go of my hurt. I let go years of frustration between us. Most of all, I let go of any desire to change my father and I accepted him for who he was. I took all of my anguish and released it like a fistful of helium balloons to the sky, and I chose to forgive him.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Daddy / Peter Finnerty
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

"Lizzy, I left any dreams behind a long time ago, but I know now that they are safe with you. Thank you for making us a family again."

Related Characters: Daddy / Peter Finnerty (speaker), Elizabeth “Liz” Murray
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Breaking Night LitChart as a printable PDF.
Breaking Night PDF

Daddy / Peter Finnerty Character Timeline in Breaking Night

The timeline below shows where the character Daddy / Peter Finnerty appears in Breaking Night. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: University Avenue
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Sex and Power Theme Icon
Liz’s mother, or Ma, tells Liz’s father (named Peter Finnerty, but referred to throughout as Daddy) that she is pregnant. At this time, Daddy is in prison. Ma snorts lots of... (full context)
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Ma meets Daddy in the mid-1970s. At the time, Daddy is witty and charming. His parents are middle-class... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Daddy gradates from college “in the heart of New York City.” He begins getting high more... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
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Daddy and Ma love each other, but they express their love by doing drugs together, including... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...pharmacy, and soon the police come to take her jail. Shortly afterwards the police arrest Daddy, confiscate his drug supply, and send him to jail on numerous counts of fraud. At... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
With Daddy in prison, Ma rents an apartment in the Bronx, at the time one of the... (full context)
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
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Daddy returns from jail when Liz is three years old. In the following months, Ma becomes... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
...qualifies for relief because she’s legally blind, due to a degenerative eye disease. She and Daddy spend their relief money on drugs, electricity for their apartment, and food. Narrating in the... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
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...a great day. She and Lisa feast on Happy Meals from McDonald’s, and Ma and Daddy inject drugs into their veins using their “spoons.” (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
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Daddy supports his family partly by going through other people’s trash. He travels into Manhattan and... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
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As Liz grows up she learns how to behave around her father. Daddy likes to ridicule things for being too weak and “girly,” and as a result Liz... (full context)
Chapter 2: Middle of Everything
Family Theme Icon
Lisa bullies Liz when Ma and Daddy aren’t around. She pulls pranks on Liz, and tells elaborate lies about what Liz should... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
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...dollars from Liz to buy drugs. The five dollars were a gift from Liz’s grandmother (Daddy’s mother). Liz sees Ma take her money, and screams at her to give it back.... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
...bike courier, but has to quit after she gets into not one but two accidents. Daddy is also robbed or mugged many times. He risks his safety to go to dangerous... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Sex and Power Theme Icon
...Ma at Tara’s apartment every Sunday. Instinctively, Liz knows not to talk about Ron while Daddy is around. Liz also notices that Ron will look “up and down Ma’s and Tara’s... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
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Sex and Power Theme Icon
...touch.” Liz adds that this place was one “where, even if no one believed it, Daddy had never touched me.” Afterwards, Liz bleeds from between her legs, and she cries, “unable... (full context)
Chapter 3: Tsunami
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
In Ma’s absence, Daddy does a good job of taking care of his children. He learns how to stretch... (full context)
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
In 1990, Ma and Daddy are at a low point in their relationship—not coincidentally, a time when they’re using more... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Liz says that she still thinks about a faint memory of Daddy. In this memory, Liz is about six years old. Daddy is walking by a park... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
In 1990, Ma begins sleeping on the couch instead of with Daddy. Sometimes, when Ma and Daddy fight, Lisa and Liz lock themselves in their separate rooms.... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
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...she returns to her own home. One night when Liz returns, Ma tells her that Daddy is “not a caring man.” Liz tries to convince Ma that Daddy loves her, but... (full context)
Chapter 4: Unraveling
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
...Leonard Mohn. He and Ma pop pills, which Leonard procures with the money Ma and Daddy give him. Liz despises Leonard, and Leonard seems to hate her in return. Once, Liz... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Liz barely goes to school. But she reads Daddy’s books, and is smart enough to pass her year-end exams without going to class. More... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...time with this other man, saying, “You deserve better.” Liz is furious: Leonard smiles in Daddy’s face and yet behind his back tells Ma to find someone better. In the two... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Sex and Power Theme Icon
...hands over Brick, and realizes that in her entire life, she’s only seen Ma and Daddy kiss twice. (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
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...into the house, adding, “It’s simple if you really want that.” Ma points out that Daddy will continue bringing drugs to the house, but adds that she’s thinking of leaving him... (full context)
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...Liz to come with her. Lisa goes with Ma, but Liz chooses to stay with Daddy. (full context)
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...she hasn’t been using cocaine and that she loves Brick’s apartment. Meanwhile, Liz’s life with Daddy is sad. Daddy doesn’t complain about Ma leaving, but he continues to use drugs every... (full context)
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Sex and Power Theme Icon
...he looks very serious and intelligent. She also finds old letters from her grandmother, informing Daddy that she’s wondering how long he’ll be in California. Finally, she finds a photograph of... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...after Liz turns thirteen, Child Protective Services finally takes her into custody for her truancy. Daddy signs the papers turning Liz over to the state of New York. Authorities take Liz... (full context)
Chapter 5: Stuck
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
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Liz learns that Daddy is going to lose his apartment. Liz and Sam go to the apartment, looking to... (full context)
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
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...arrive at the apartment, only to find that it’s been boarded up. She wonders where Daddy has gone, or if he’s even alive—she’s visited only once since being moved to live... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
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...further, to the point where she vomits many times a day. One day, Liz visits Daddy at his homeless shelter. He seems pretty cheerful, explaining that he gets three meals a... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Motels
Poverty Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...a call from Lisa: Ma has died. Liz rushes to the hospital, where she finds Daddy. The two of them cry together and feel their “hearts breaking.” Liz leaves the hospital... (full context)
Chapter 9: Pearls
Drugs and Addiction Theme Icon
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Liz tells Ma that Daddy kissed her on the mouth just before Ma’s death—then, the nurses scolded him for doing... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Wall
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
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Liz brings Daddy to register her for classes at HPA. She hasn’t seen her father since Ma’s funeral.... (full context)
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After Daddy comes in to HPA, he and Liz catch up. He tells Liz that he’s been... (full context)
Chapter 12: Possibility
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
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...sees her family, but it’s always very uncomfortable. She spends some holidays and birthdays with Daddy and Lisa, and stresses over even the smallest details of these celebrations—for example, what kind... (full context)
Epilogue
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During Liz’s time in college, Daddy quits drugs, but HIV continues to ravage his body. One day freshman year, Liz gets... (full context)
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Daddy visits Liz at Harvard and leaves a card for her. The card reads, “Lizzy, I... (full context)