Breath, Eyes, Memory

Breath, Eyes, Memory Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Granmè Ifé and Sophie return from the market, Tante Atie decides to go out. Granmè Ifé warns her about the violence at the market and tells her that they attacked a coal vendor named Dessalines. Tante Atie, however, insists her trip to the market can’t wait, and goes anyway.
Tante Atie is so desperate to get out of the house that she doesn’t even care about the violence happening in town, suggesting that her experiences have led her to become desensitized to trauma.
Themes
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Granmè Ifé and Sophie spend the afternoon cooking and playing with Brigitte. The kite boy from the market comes by their yard, and Granmè Ifé, addressing him as Eliab, offers him some water before he heads out again. By suppertime, Tante Atie still hasn’t returned home. They eat without her, and after the meal, Sophie feels heavy and guilty. Eliab and two friends come back, and Granmè Ifé gives them some food to eat.
Tante Atie’s frequent and prolonged disappearances show that she is unhappy being stuck in the village of her youth with only her mother for company—she longs for more, just as Sophie herself did when she began her relationship with Joseph.
Themes
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As the boys eat, Granmè Ifé asks Sophie why she came to Haiti with no warning—and why she didn’t bring her husband. Sophie confesses that she is having some trouble with her marriage. Her grandmother asks her if she is unable to “perform,” and Sophie admits that sex is very painful for her. Though Joseph is a good man, she says, she has no desire for him, and feels sex is “evil.” Her grandmother asks her if Martine ever tested her. Sophie condemns the practice of testing, stating that she hates her body and is unable to feel truly connected with her husband as a result of enduring it.
Sophie answers her grandmother’s questions by admitting, angrily and frankly, that her entire life has been derailed by the process of testing—and that she is unable to function because of the violence perpetrated against her in her youth. Although Granmè Ifé did not directly hurt Sophie, it’s clear that Sophie blames her somewhat for her trauma, since the abuse her grandmother inflicted on Martine ultimately led Martine to inflict the same brutality on Sophie.
Themes
Mothers, Daughters, and Generational Trauma  Theme Icon
Virginity and Violence Theme Icon
Related Quotes
That night, in bed with Brigitte, Sophie listens through the window as Granmè Ifé tells Eliab and the neighborhood boys a story about a lark who, upon spotting a pretty little girl, convinced her over the course of several days to fly away with it, only to reveal that it was bringing her to a faraway land where she’d be fed to a king who eats little girls’ hearts. The girl avoided capture by claiming she’d left her heart at home, forcing the bird to return to the village, and hiding from it amongst her family.
All of the stories that Sophie has been told or overheard throughout her life are stories of men seeking to perpetrate violence against women, or to steal their purity and their very hearts. It makes sense, then, that the Caco women have long been obsessed with ensuring their daughters’ virginities, since their society seems to value this expectation above all else.
Themes
Mothers, Daughters, and Generational Trauma  Theme Icon
Virginity and Violence Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and the Past Theme Icon
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