Becoming A Woman In The Missing Piece

What did you say? Krak! Edwidge Danticat discusses the difficult job women have in a corrupted Haitian social system. “The Missing Peace”, a story she wrote, depicts the different transformations that women must undergo in a corrupted Haitian society. Danticat’s important text shows that sexuality is not synonymous with maturity, that personal development involves learning to cope with loss and putting society, including one’s place within it, into perspective.

Emilie visits Ville Rose as a visitor in order to find her mother. However, her search is mostly to confirm that her mother has died, start the grieving, and accept reality. She tells Lamort that she doesn’t wish her mother to leave. Emilie’s mother is asking Emilie to help her, but she cannot. Emilie’s feeling useless. Emilie visits the cemetery in an effort to find her mother and save her. Though she knows exactly what is going to happen, she still cannot accept the truth. She realizes that, after watching soldiers drag a corpse to the ground, it is impossible for her to physically reach out to her mother. Emilie, instead, works on the quilt of her mother, which helps Emilie to deal with her mother internally. She says: “I lost all my dreams and my mother” (121). Emilie’s sadness is tempered by her acceptance of her mother’s passing. Although she has no way to locate her, Lamort provides her with a temporary maternal figure. Lamort tells Emilie a few wise words that Lamort had heard from her grandmother. Emilie says to Lamort: “You sound just like a writer.” Emilie then feels an instant affinity with Lamort. Emilie mentions her mother’s profession as a reporter later. Emilie and Lamort’s connection grows, and Emilie then asks Lamort for a night-time stay. Lamort is willing to agree, “‘because you know I am afraid'” (121). Lamort replaces Emilie’s mom in Emilie’s dreams because she knows Emilie will be scared to sleep without her.

Lamort changes into a new mother, but until she takes on a new name she does not feel as if she is one. Lamort literally means “the dead”. Lamort doesn’t get her mother’s last name because Marie Magdalene is blamed by Lamort. Lamort thinks her grandmother is in charge of all her decisions, so she doesn’t care too much about the name. Once she takes on the role of a mom to Emilie by helping her to come to terms with Emilie’s death, Lamort feels comfortable living under that name. She then tells her mother, after she has returned home, that “I want to be called Marie Magdalene. She is pleased with her name. It makes her feel closer to her mom. Lamort is called by the name of her beloved daughter, but Lamort knows that it’s not a good thing. Lamort is helping her grandmother accept Emilie’s death in the same way.

Lamort transforms from a man to a woman. Raymond tells Lamort to start the story: “‘I’m sure I can make a girl feel like a lady'” (103). As do other men from the book, Raymond believes that girls become women when they have sex. He asks Lamort, “so what’s the problem?” (103). He does not yet understand how a young girl can become a real woman. He convinces her instead to have sex, knowing that she’s desperate to feel like woman. Lamort hears her grandmother tell Lamort: “You can be pretty” (108). Lamort had not been pretty, the grandmother says. She also emphasizes Lamort being a female. Lamort is only seen as motherly, mature and helpful by the American tourist. Emilie says to her “‘They say girls become women when they lose their mother’. “You, little girl, were born to be a lady” (116). Emilie is from America where girls of Lamort’s generation don’t behave like women. She is surprised by Lamort’s young age, but she still behaves like a lady.

Emilie, like Lamort transforms from a girl to a woman by accepting her mother and becoming a mother. Emilie’s mother dies, but she does not accept it and so refuses to grow up. Lamort comforts and protects her at night just like a young child. She also sews the unfinished quilt left by her mother. In this way, she replaces her mother, just as Lamort takes her mother’s surname. Emilie treats Lamort with the love of a mom and explains that “I did’t fight because I didn’t wanted them to hurt you.” (121). She chose to protect Lamort rather than follow her instincts and fight. Emilie becomes a woman when she accepts and embraces her mother’s death.

The morals of the town also change during all these transformations. Raymond warns Lamort at the beginning of the tale to always remember the password in case she gets into trouble. The password is a way to establish a common moral or goal: “peace”. Toto does not feel this peace as he confronts Lamort, Emilie and the graveyard. Raymond tells Lamort that “the password has changed.” ‘Stop calling it peace'” (119). The main goal that held everyone together, the password, is no longer there. No peace. Lamort, Emilie and their friends feel at peace despite the lack of peace in the world. Women are not anxious in stressful times.

Emilie Lamort change in a different way to become a woman. Both women have lost their mothers and they are united by this. Both women help the other to become woman. Both mothers act as if they are their own mothers, overcoming their immaturity and taking on their motherly roles. They understand that being a woman can be painful and difficult. Women have a lot of responsibilities, and one is to keep posterity. The grandmother explains that women live their lives to keep posterity in mind. Emilie wishes to find out more about the mother she has for posterity. She finds no posterity but herself. She knows that just by living as a female, she can leave a legacy.

The themes of “The Missing Peace”, which are about how to become and act as a female, echo through the entire novel. Raymond, just like many Haitian men before him, attempted to change Lamort’s gender by having sexual relations with her. The act of sex is not enough to make someone a lady. Women provide comfort to others, they are independent and take care of their own children. Women remain calm and steady, even if their world is violent, terrifying, or chaotic. Most importantly, they have an unbreakable bond. They provide strength, comfort and peace when everything else fails.


  • ewanpatel

    I'm a 29-year-old educational bloger and teacher. I have been writing about education for about six years, and I have a B.A. in English from UC Santa Cruz. I also have a M.A. in English from San Francisco State University. I teach high school English in the Bay Area.