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Reading Group Discussion Questions
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The questions, discussion topics, author biography, and suggested reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory. We hope they will bring to life the many themes with which Danticat builds her story of a young Haitian woman's coming to terms with her country, her mother, and her own identity.



  1. Edwidge Danticat has said that in Haiti, "Everything is a story. Everything is a metaphor or a proverb." How does the character of grandmother personify this tendency? How do some of the proverbs and tales she tells Sophie relate to the events and themes of the novel?
  2. As a young girl, Martine's favorite color was daffodil yellow; in middle age, she is obsessed with the color red. What significance and associations do these colors have for her? In what way does the change from yellow to red symbolize the change in Martine's own character? Does Danticat use color symbolically elsewhere in the story?
  3. Martine once hoped to be a doctor; later, she transfers her ambitions to Sophie. "If you make something of yourself in life," she says to her daughter, "we will all succeed. You can raise our heads." (p. 44) Why does Sophie consciously reject her mother's ideal of high achievement? Why does she choose to become a secretary rather than, for instance, a doctor?
  4. Atie says to Sophie, "Your mother and I, when we were children we had no control over anything. Not even this body" (p. 20). How does this knowledge help Sophie shape her life? In what ways does Sophie take control of her own life as her mother and aunt never were able to?
  5. Atie says to Sophie, "Your mother and I, when we were children we had no control over anything. Not even this body" (p. 20). How does this knowledge help Sophie shape her life? In what ways does Sophie take control of her own life as her mother and aunt never were able to?
  6. In the graveyard, Atie reminds Sophie to walk straight, since she is in the presence of family. Grandmother If® plans carefully for her death, which she thinks of as a "journey." (p. 195) How do Haitian attitudes toward death and the dead, as illustrated in this novel, compare with American ones? How does each culture attempt to foster a sense of wholeness, of continuity, between the generations?
  7. Sophie feels that Haitians in America have a bad image as "boat people" and "stinking Haitians." Are her efforts to assimilate, to become "American," in any way related to her physical self-loathing ("I hate my body. I am ashamed to show it to anybody, including my husband?" (p. 123]) How does her bulimia express such self-loathing?
  8. Breath, Eyes, Memory is primarily a story of the relationships between women: mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters. But there are two significant male characters in the novel, Joseph and Marc. Does Danticat depict Joseph and Marc as full, rounded-out characters, or do we see them only through Sophie's slanted point of view? How does Sophie express her ambivalent feelings about both of them? Why is she so angry with Marc after her mother's death? Do you feel that her anger is justified? Is it possible that Sophie's aloofness from both these men stems from her upbringing in an almost exclusively female world, where "men were as mysterious to me as white people?" (p. 67)

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