The relationship between a mother and her daughter is something that is crucial to the development of a daughter’s life. Traditionally the mother is not only the provider for her daughter she is the teacher and care taker. In the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory By the protagonist, Sophie Caco, is a young girl from Haiti that was brought up by her grandmother and her aunt until the age of twelve when she is reunited with her mother in New York. The generational relationship between mother and daughter in the Caco family is both nurturing and stifling. Mothers in traditional Haitian families are both perpetrators of their daughters and they are nurtures. The culprit for this ambiguous relationship is the traditional demand for purity in Haitian culture. Sophie’s mother was a victim of rape at the young age of 16 and from that event gave birth to Sophie.
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Sophie is a constant reminder to her mother of the man that raped her and as a result of this the mother puts Sophie through a Haitian tradition called “Testing”. She would do this to make sure that Sophie did not lose her virginity. In Haitian culture it is encouraged to value a women’s virtue and virginity. Her mother would test her vagina often to make sure she was still a virgin. These test would leave a scar on Sophie and her conscious even after she gets married later on in the novel. The further in the novel you get the more you see how the relationship between mother and daughter start to deteriorate. With her mother “Testing” her so much Sophia gained a phobia of having sex and was not able to have sex with her new husband Joseph. The process of testing is one of the book’s most difficult Haitian rituals.
It originated in a rural villages, where a woman’s womanhood was her honor, testing for Sophia is continued in her trip to her new life in Brooklyn. The act itself is a symbolic violation that mimics the act of rape, something or someone forcing a women to do an act against their own freewill is traumatizing and the fact that Sophia has repeatedly gone through this has had a tremendous effect on her. The Idea that is embodied in the novel is that female virginity is not only a symbol of purity but it is also a symbol of her family’s and husband’s pride, worth, and honor in which the women’s body is anything but her own.