A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The visitors to Nya’s village finish their meeting with the village chief. They walk through the village toward a tree, speaking a language Nya can’t understand. Then, they tell the chief that there should be water underneath the ground, at the point midway between the two biggest trees. Nya finds this unlikely—there’s no water above ground in this area, so why should there be anything beneath it?
The mysterious visitors appear to be designing a well in the center of the village. This well could save Nya huge amounts of time every day, since she wouldn’t have to walk miles to the pond; however, Nya seems skeptical that there’s actually water underneath the village.
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Salva and the rest of the group have stopped to nurse the dying men in the middle of the desert. Salva is tempted to share some of his own water with the men, but Jewiir prevents him from doing so—Salva is too young to give up his water. After a time, some of the men are able to stand and join the rest of the group. But they leave five dead companions behind—there’s no time to bury them beneath the ground. Salva is petrified by the sight of the dead bodies. He wonders if he would have given the men some of his water had he been older and stronger, or if he would have kept the water for himself.
Very bravely, some of the refugees sacrifice their water to help the dying men, in the process endangering their own lives. This is a striking example of how, at times, people choose to do the “right thing” instead of the smart thing—they help others, even if it means hurting themselves. It’s important to note that Salva doesn’t know what he would do if he were older. By the same token, Park suggests, the moral dilemma presented in the passage is too serious to be resolved here.
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On the third and final day in the desert, Salva talks to Uncle Jewiir about his family. He wants to know if he’ll be able to find them, and if his family will be able to find him. Jewiir tells Salva the truth; the village of Loun-Ariik was attacked and burned. He says, “Your family…” but then falls silent. Jewiir then tells Salva that he’s going to take him to a refugee camp, and then go back to Sudan to fight. Salva is shocked, but he also realizes that Jewiir is doing the right thing. Jewiir doesn’t want to leave his nephew, but he knows he has to go back to fight.
Evidently, Jewiir believes that Salva’s parents and siblings are dead. Their village was burned, meaning that most of the villagers who were living there were probably murdered. Salva doesn’t seem to grasp the truth about his family—the notion that his parents and siblings are no longer alive seems too grave for him to accept so quickly. But Salva receives news of Jewiir’s plans maturely: he sees the situation from Jewiir’s point of view instead of begging Jewiir to stay and take care of him.
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The group is on the verge of collapsing. Nobody has eaten anything in days, and there’s almost no water left. By afternoon, the group notices trees and puddles of water, but the water is unfit for drinking. Then, suddenly, a group of six armed men arrives and orders Salva and his peers to surrender. The men demand to know where the group is headed, and if they’re “with the rebels.” Uncle Jewiir denies this, and explains that they’re headed to a refugee camp. The men tie him up and confiscate his gun. The men also force the others to surrender their clothes and possessions.
The presence of trees and water puddles suggests that the refugees are almost out of the desert, and therefore almost to safety. The armed men described in the passage appear to be soldiers from North Sudan (which explains why they ask if Jewiir and the refugees are working with the rebels).
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Salva is terrified, but he hopes that the soldiers will leave now that they’ve stolen everything they can. But one of the soldiers fires three shots at Uncle Jewiir, and only then do the six soldiers run away.
Uncle Jewiir’s death is a horrific tragedy. Jewiir was a kind man who took good care of Salva. Now, it’s as if Salva has become orphaned a second time—after being separated from his parents, he’s lost his new father-figure as well.
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