Breaking Night


Liz Murray

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Breaking Night can help.

The Photograph of Ma Symbol Analysis

The Photograph of Ma Symbol Icon

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

The Breaking Night quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Photograph of Ma. 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.
Prologue Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Elizabeth “Liz” Murray (speaker), Ma / Jean Murray
Related Symbols: The Photograph of Ma
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

"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."

Related Symbols: The Photograph of Ma
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Breaking Night LitChart as a printable PDF.
Breaking Night PDF

The Photograph of Ma Symbol Timeline in Breaking Night

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Photograph of Ma appears in Breaking Night. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Family Theme Icon mother.” The narrator, a young woman named Liz Murray, keeps a small, creased, black-and-white photograph of her mother, taken when Liz’s mother was sixteen. Liz sees that she, Liz, looks... (full context)
Chapter 6: Boys
Willpower and Independence Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...and Sam decide to leave their homes for good. Liz packs some clothes and the photograph of Ma as a teenager. She’s ready to leave Brick forever. (full context)