Sophie impales herself on the pestle, breaking her hymen, and then hides the pestle and her bloody sheet in a bag. That night she fails Martine's test. Martine begins crying and throwing Sophie's clothes at her saying, "You just go to him and see what he can do for you."

Sophie waits until she hears Martine moaning in her sleep before gathering her things and going next door to Joseph. She asks him to marry her right away, telling herself that she will surely be happy in a place called Providence.


As she grows out of childhood, Sophie's budding awareness of men is set against Martine's implicit terror of them. In Chapter 10, Sophie's declaration of love is followed by her nighttime watch over Martine's dreams, a constant reminder of the problems caused by men in the Caco past. Indeed, Sophie's assertion in Chapter 9 that she has known no men but Marc is not entirely true. Her father, the rapist, is an implicit presence, manifest in Sophie's face and in Martine's nightmares. Against him is set the figure of Joseph, who himself is old enough to be Sophie's father. His gentleness, his reliable presence, and his extraordinary respect for Sophie stand in stark contrast to the rapist's violent disregard for Martine. His Creole and his music suggest access to hidden realms of language, echoing Sophie's own gifts of narrative. When Joseph's saxophone practice lulls Sophie to sleep, he becomes at once her lover and a father rocking her to bed. But even as it helps Sophie heal, Joseph's presence worries Martine. For where le violeur, the rapist, took her virginity, Joseph threatens to take her only daughter. Thus Joseph, for Martine, is in some ways an equally terrifying figure, a man with the power to take what she holds most precious.

In this section, the relationship between Sophie and Martine is crucially symbolized in the events of Chapter 11. Furious and worried at catching Sophie out late, Martine falls back on her mother's own practice of testing, or attempting to insert her little finger in Sophie's vagina in order to make sure that Sophie's hymen is still intact. Though its purpose is different, the mechanics of testing nonetheless suggest the violation of rape. To distract her daughter from the humiliating, uncomfortable process, Martine begins to tell Sophie a story. Though the novel's characters have used stories as a coping mechanism before, this is the first time that the offices of storyteller and violator have merged into one person. Ironically, the story which Martine tells is of the Marassas, two inseparable lovers, and its explicit moral is that Sophie's interest in men would drive a wedge between her and Martine. Thus, though it is Martine whose testing hurts Sophie, her actions reveal her own deep hurt, her fear of losing Sophie, and her jealousy of Sophie's love for Joseph. Sophie is Martine's double, a witness to her nightmarish past. But she is also her mother's twin, a piece of her own body, the savior who wakes her from those nightmares. Sophie is Martine's Marassa, her beloved daughter, her salvation and her destruction. Sophie's birth nearly killed Martine, and her subsequent loss threatens to destroy Martine's world.

Sophie's violent loss of her maidenhood recalls Martine's, with several key differences. Where Martine was forcibly raped by an unknown man, Sophie deliberately breaks her own hymen with an inanimate object. Sophie's act is simultaneously an act of violence and one of will. Paradoxically, it is also an act of liberation, freeing her once and for all from the dreaded practice of testing, just as Grandmè Ifé's testing of Martine finally came to an end with Martine's rape. As she prepares to do it, Sophie imagines the story of a woman who could stop bleeding unless she chose to renounce her human body. The story suggests that the woman's body, her female form, was what kept her soul imprisoned and bleeding, and that she could only find salvation in a different shape. More broadly, then, Sophie's action adds to the novel's continual comparison of violence done to women by men versus violence done to them by other women, by adding a third category, violence done to the self. Insofar as gender is a physical category, Sophie's and Martine's womanhood involves coming to terms with their woman's body. But faced with societal restrictions and norms, such as the cult of virginity, which are directly tied to her female form, a woman may choose to symbolically oppose those norms by doing violence to that most immediate prison and agent of oppression, her own body.