Breath, Eyes, Memory


"Testing" has been a Haitian tradition for centuries. During earlier times, Haitians associated the idea of virtue with a woman’s virginity. A young woman growing up in a Haitian household is encouraged to value her virtue and virginity. The novel describes how family values and virtue of women are very important to the Haitian culture. The main character, Sophie, is shattered throughout the novel, due to the traumatic experience of her mother’s continuous tests. Her mother would often test her vagina to make sure she was still a virgin. These tests leave a dynamic scar on Sophie even after she marries Joseph. She has low self-esteem as a result of these tests. The tests also lead to a deterioration in the relationship between mother and daughter. When she marries Joseph, she is unable to have sex with him because she has a phobia of sex. The only way she is ever able to make love to him is through “doubling”: She must pretend she isn’t really there because the very act of sex so repels her.

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