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Breaking Night: A Memoir Of Forgiveness, Survival And My Journey From Homeless To Harvard

The following paper analyzes the aspects of the relationship with the context of a memoir written by Liz Murray in 2010 and titled “Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard.”

Murray presents the account of her life and says that at the age of fifteen, she used to live on the street, but through her persistence, she made a way to Harvard. The chronicles assert the significance of different relationships in one’s life and highlight the uncaring family crisis throughout the life of Murray. Regardless of all the circumstances, Murray did not lash back and kept pampering her dear ones. The following content elaborates on her feelings for her family, specifically for her mother, through the symbol of a photograph.

The book employs the gestures of symbols rarely; nevertheless, the notion of a photograph of Liz’s mother is a substantial one. It is the photograph of “Ma” and depicts Liz’s mother at a young age; the picture is black and white and creased from all the years. Liz explicates that it was “one photo of her, the black-and-white one from when she was a teenager, living on the streets.” (Murray, 2010) Liz’s mother was a drug addict and used to live on the streets, and she met Liz’s father through a deal of drugs. Their homelessness, Liz recalls the street life of her mother, and she sees her mother in herself. The subject allusion to parallel, in turn, compels Liz to keep a picture of her mother always with her.

Evidently, despite the tough and difficult relationship with the family, Liz loves her parents and sister. No doubt, her parents neglect her to a criminal extent and are not always there to give adequate care to their daughters because of their drug addiction routines. However, Liz never ceases to show that she cares for them, and the symbol of a photograph of her mother is evidence that she wants to keep her mother close to her. The symbol of keeping a photograph of Ma is also supported by the concern Liz; she demonstrates comfort to her mother when her father is away from home, and it occurs frequently.

The photograph of Ma also works as a lesson in Liz’s life; at times, she despises the drug-addicted demeanor of her mother. However, her temper and rage never overtake the love she has for her mother; however, life’s failures and difficulties encourage her to go on a different path than her mother. Once Ma sells out their coat, Liz, just to satisfy her addiction needs and to acquire the drugs, even pledges her daughter’s well-being. Such harsh experiences prevent Liz from becoming her mother, and despite being homeless and living on the street, Liz does not opt for the way of drugs; instead, she finds a path to salvation through education. Her mother’s photograph stays with her as a souvenir and recalls her never encountering a similar destination regardless of utter resemblances.

By analyzing the above content, it becomes evident that relationships play a vital role in creating or destroying a person’s life. The symbol of Ma’s photograph explains the strong connection a child has with his or her parents. Despite all the unfortunate, harsh, and tragic experiences, Liz finds herself unable to disconnect herself from her family. On the other hand, it was the failure and melancholy of her parents that led her to build new ways for her. She never wants to end up like her mother, and for this reason, she sets aside all the resemblance and eventually becomes a Harvard graduate. Therefore, when she leaves the home, she still gets the picture of her mother with her. In short, the photograph portrays the caring and ambitious aspect of Liz’s personality and also demonstrates her close connection with her parents.


Murray, L. (2011). Breaking Night. Cornerstone.

Kellaway, K. (2011, January 30). Breaking Night by Liz Murray – review.



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