Breath, Eyes, Memory

Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

When they looked up from their plates, my mother and Marc eyed each other like there were things they couldn't say because of my presence. I tried to stuff myself and keep quiet, pretending that I couldn't even see them. My mother now had two lives: Marc belonged to her present life, I was a living memory from her past.

This quote, from the end of Chapter Seven, takes place shortly after twelve- year-old Sophie's arrival in New York. Marc, her mother's lover, has taken Sophie and Martine out to dinner at a Haitian restaurant to celebrate. The scene is odd on a number of levels. Instead of the real country of Haiti, where she was born, Sophie is in a diasporic restaurant in New Jersey that attempts to re- create a Haitian atmosphere. Having grown up without real parents, Sophie must suddenly play the part of daughter to her newly met mother and her mother's boyfriend, who would never have dated Martine in Haiti due to class differences. And though Sophie is introduced to the waiter as Martine's daughter, the waiter is able to find no resemblance in their faces. In short, the scene falls terribly short, its pieces inauthentic.

Sophie describes this fragmentation in the figurative language of doubling, splitting, opposites and boundaries. Aware that her presence is imposing on Martine and Marc, Sophie retaliates by forcing them out of her world, pretending she cannot see them. Sophie imagines that her mother's life has split in two, and that she and Marc bear witness to irreconcilable parts of it. More broadly, the passage sets up a series of implicit doubles. Marc, the man of Martine's present life, is implicitly compared to the faceless rapist of her past. The past, symbolic of Martine's motherhood and Sophie, is set against Martine's present sexuality and Marc. Finally, given the book's emphasis on narrative, the pregnant silence of Marc and Martine is set against all that could be said.