But into this more hopeful (if only by a small margin) view of Haitian culture as one that is polysemous, Martine reappears. She and Sophie initially reconnect and there is a sense — briefly — that women in Haiti may be able to meet each other without the distortion of mens ideas about womens bodies and destinies. But then Martine becomes pregnant and kills herself, unable to bear the implications of her own fertility and sexuality. Despite the suggestion that a woman can rewrite Haitian cultural values, Martine finds herself overwhelmed by these values. As a Haitian she is enveloped by the rules of a culture designed to privilege those with privilege, which did not include women like herself.
Does Danticat want us to take a sense of encouragement from the fact that it is Martine and not Sophie who is defeated? Does each new generation of women (or other minorities) make it a little farther down the road away from concepts of culture that are homogeneous and speak in the voice of the powerful? Part of the answer of this question takes us back to an initial point of this paper: To what extent is this fiction and to what extent is it autobiograph? For Danticat was also raised by an aunt until the age of twelve in Haiti and then moved to New York to live with her parents.
Two years later she began to write, gaining a voice that a character — or indeed a woman — like Martine could never have claimed. Is the biographical action of writing fiction a way in which culture can be fractured to let in other voices? Danticats contention is a forceful yes.
Charters, Mallay, “Edwidge Danticat: A Bitter Legacy Revisited,” in Publishers Weekly,
August 17, 1998, p. 42.
Danticat, Edwidge. Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York: Vintage Books,.