While there aren’t many symbols in Breaking Night, the photograph of Liz Murray’s mother, Jean Murray—which Liz keeps throughout her teen years, even when she’s run away from home—is a notable exception. In many ways, Liz despises her mother, and not without reason. At one point in the memoir, Liz’s mother tries to sell Liz’s winter coat to pay for drugs—just one of the many, many examples of how Ma sacrifices her child’s well-being in order to feed her addiction. And yet, when Liz chooses to leave her family behind and live with friends, she takes only a few souvenirs of her old life, one of which is a faded, black-and-white photograph of her mother as a teenager.
The fact that Liz takes the photograph communicates two very important ideas. First, whatever Liz says, she loves her mother, even if this love is tempered by disgust for her behavior as a drug addict. But second, Liz seems to see a lot of her mother in herself. Indeed, Liz is running away from her parents to live on her own in New York City, just as her mother did before her. In all, the photograph symbolizes Liz’s youthful ambitions, but also her close connection with her family.
The Photograph of Ma Quotes in Breaking Night
I force my thoughts to fade until the details of her face blur. I need to push them away if I am ever to get some sleep. I need sleep; it will be only a few more hours before I'm outside on the street again, with nowhere to go.
"Okay, just one more thing," I told her. "Hold on." I slid a chair over to reach the top shelf of my closet, where I'd hidden Ma's NA coin and that one photo of her, the black-and-white one from when she was a teenager, living on the streets. Opening my journal, I slipped the picture carefully inside and snapped the book shut.
"Now I can go," I said. "Let's just go."