Memory in Marshall’s "Praisesong for the Widow" and Danticat’s "Breath, Eyes"

Memory in Marshall’s "Praisesong for the Widow" and Danticat’s "Breath, Eyes"

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Memories can in a way define who we are and how we progress through life. Memories can be a pathway to either follow the straight and narrow or to have us decide which fork of the road to take. Past memories can help to identify a person and can effect the future that follows. Through the journy of self discovery, Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow and Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory suggest one must relive past and present memories to find their true identity in the future.

Avey Johnson, Praisesong for the Widow, a financially stable, middle aged widow through the years has somehow lost her identity after her youthful age. Her memories and dream begins to stir her mind as she takes her journey from Tatem, Halsey Street, to Gernada and Carriacou and back to Tatem. Dreams of her Aunt Cuney are first to start in which her aunt is beckoning her to return to the Ibo Landing of where she Avey spend her summers learning about her Ibo ancestors. Her Aunt Cuney is in hopes that Avey will continue the story that she is being told, but she dismisses it not wanting to enter back into that world. “In instilling the story of the Ibos in her child’s mind, the old woman had entrusted her with a mission she couldn’t even name yet had felt duty-bound to fulfill. It had take her years to rid herself of the notion.” (p42) In Avey Johnson’s early adulthood, she takes form of a different identity, one as a wife and mother. Her memories of Hasley Street have postive and negative points as her and her family leaves there. She sees that when she begins to loose her identity, she takes on someone else’s and then a new identity that she does not recognize at all. “The names “Avey” and “Avatara” were those of someone who was no longer present, and...


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...sify and she looses herself even more. She seems that she can only identify herself to the rape and to her illness but nothing more. She starts to think she is unworthy to being the future wife to Marc or the mother to Sophie or the unborn child. “Of course he wants to marry me, but look at me. I am a fat woman trying to pass for then. A dark woman trying to pass for light. And I have no breasts. I don’t know when this cancer will come back. I am not an ideal mother.” (p 189) This passage also shows that she has nothing left for her to identify herself; she is already long gone from her body.

Past memories play a unique role on a person identity and how they proceed in the present and the future. Both Praisesong of the Widow and Breath, Eyes, Memory both show this but in different ways. Memories can also affect others even if they are not a part of them.

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