Theme Of Sexuality In Breath Eyes Memory

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Society tells us that women must hide their sexuality and stay pure until they get married. In her novel Breath Eyes Memory, Edwidge Danticat explores the limit of women’s sexuality. She writes of Sophie’s family, the Caco family, in which the women are often “tested” to be sure that they are still virgins. The women lose their freedom because of the testing and other violations to their sexuality. The testing is an example of the societal normalities that entraps their family in the idea of virginity and purity. Such traditions are only some of the problems that the women face in light of their sexuality. Societal traditions are passed down through the women of the family to remind them of their duty as women: to be pure until they are married. …show more content…
For instance, Sophie’s mother, Martine, recalls:
When I was a girl, my mother used us to see if we were virgins. She would put her fingers in our very private parts and see if it would go inside. Your Tante Atie hated it. She used to scream like a pig in a slaughterhouse. The way my mother was raised, a mother is supposed to do that to her daughter until the daughter is married. It is her responsibility to keep her pure. (Danticat 60-61)
This recollection of Martine emphasizes the fear and humility they faced when she and Atie were tested. Danticat uses disturbing imagery to convey the gruesome details of their experiences. The comparison of Atie to a squealing pig exhibits how dreadful the testing was and how it affected the women, physically and mentally. Another instance of sexual restraint is when Sophie comments, “She would test me every week to make sure that I was still whole” (86), which shows how Martine, despite her traumatic experience of being tested as a girl, couldn’t break the tradition of testing her own daughter. Martine’s actions are based on the idea of keeping her daughter “whole”(a virgin) until she is married. In doing so, she denies Sophie’s right to make her own choices and further compromises her by putting her through the shame of testing. Similarly, the harrowing effect of testing is seen when Sophie presses
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For example, Sophie has to go to a sexual phobia group and see a therapist due to her traumatic experience with her testing. She also states, “After Joseph and I got married, all through the first year I had suicidal thoughts”(193). This emphasizes the misery of Sophie because she faces fears and anxieties that are a direct cause of her mother’s testing. The physical and mental scars that cumulated from Sophie’s testing created a barricade that kept her from achieving her full potential. Another example of this is Buki, a woman in Sophie’s sexual phobia group, who had her sexual organs cut and sewn up by her grandmother. Buki wrote a letter of anger to her dead grandmother saying, “You sliced open my soul and then you told me I can’t show it to anyone else. You took a great deal away from me. Because of you, I now carry with me an untouchable wound…. I sometimes want to kill myself” (202-203). This elucidates how the fear of women’s sexuality drove Buki’s grandmother to sew her genitals up, making it impossible for Buki to ever express her sexuality. The agony of Buki is made clear through her letter and describes the detrimental outcome of her deprivation to make her own decisions regarding her sexuality. Through Danticat’s evaluation of the women in her book, it can be perceived that limiting a woman’s sexuality can

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