A Long Walk to Water

Salva Dut Character Analysis

Salva Dut is based on a real person, and one of the two main characters in A Long Walk to Water. Both in the book and in real life, Salva grows up in a small, south Sudanese village. At the age of eleven, he’s forced to flee his village to avoid the ongoing civil war in his country. Salva spends much of the next decade of his life wandering across the country with other refugees, trying to find a safe place to live. Throughout the novel, Salva is a model of bravery and steadfastness. He is often terrified by what he experiences in Sudan—at one point even witnessing the murder of his own uncle—but he manages to summon the courage to carry on and the strength to survive. As he grows up, Salva begins to feel a desire to help others, not just himself. While in Sudan, he leads more than one thousand Lost Boys to a refugee camp. He stays in multiple refugee camps in different countries before being adopted by an American couple in Rochester, New York. As a young man, Salva reunites with his father, Marien Dut Ariik, and feels inspired to found a nonprofit organization to help struggling villages in his country. The organization, called Water for South Sudan, has brought clean drinking water to over three hundred Sudanese villages since 2003. A Long Walk to Water is the story of how Salva survives civil war in his country and grows into a young man and a leader with a strong desire to help those in need.

Salva Dut Quotes in A Long Walk to Water

The A Long Walk to Water quotes below are all either spoken by Salva Dut or refer to Salva Dut. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Survival Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition of A Long Walk to Water published in 2011.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The war had started two years earlier. Salva did not understand much about it, but he knew that rebels from the southern part of Sudan, where he and his family lived, were fighting against the government, which was based in the north. Most of the people who lived in the north were Muslim, and the government wanted all of Sudan to be come a Muslim country—a place where the beliefs of Islam were followed.

Related Characters: Salva Dut
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

The tears were hot in Salva's eyes. Where had everyone gone? Why had they left without waking him?
He knew the answer: because he was a child . . . who might tire easily and slow them down, and complain about being hungry, and cause trouble somehow.

Related Characters: Salva Dut
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

The man nodded and turned to the group. "We will take him with us,” he said.

Salva looked up quickly. A few in the group were shaking their heads and grumbling.
The man shrugged. "He is Dinka” he said, and began walking again.

Related Characters: Salva Dut
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 5 Quotes

The boy was still looking at him. "Your family?" he asked.
Salva shook his head.
"Me, too,” the boy said. He sighed, and Salva heard that sigh all the way to his heart.
Their eyes met. "I'm Salva.”
"I'm Marial.”
It was good to make a friend.

Related Characters: Salva Dut (speaker), Marial (speaker)
Page Number: 29-30
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

As Salva spoke, Uncle nodded or shook his head. His face became very solemn when Salva told him that he had not seen nor heard a single word of his family in all that time. Salva's voice trailed of, and he lowered his head. He was glad to see Uncle again, but it looked as if he might not be much help either.
Uncle was quiet for a moment. Then he patted Salva’s shoulder. "Eh, Nephew!" he said in a cheerful voice. "We are together now, so I will look after you!"

Related Characters: Uncle Jewiir (speaker), Salva Dut
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

Soon he was crying so hard that he could hardly get his breath. He could not think; he could barely see. He had to slow down, and for the first rime on the long journey, he began to lag behind the group. Stumbling about blindly, he did not notice the group drawing farther and farther ahead of him.
As if by magic, Uncle was suddenly at his side.
[…]
Salva lifted his head, the sobs interrupted by surprise.
"Do you see that group of bushes?" Uncle said, pointing. "You need only to walk as far as those bushes.

Related Characters: Uncle Jewiir (speaker), Salva Dut
Related Symbols: Steps
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

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Salva looked at the hollow eyes and the cracked lips of the men lying on the hot sand, and his own mouth felt so dry that he nearly choked when he tried to swallow.
"If you give them your water, you will not have enough for yourself!" the same voice shouted. "It is useless-they will die, and you will die with them!"

Related Characters: Salva Dut
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes
Related Characters: Salva Dut
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

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He knows it will be hard for me, Salva realized. He does not want to leave me there, but he has to go back and fight for our people. I mustn’t act like a bay—I must try to be strong …

Related Characters: Salva Dut (speaker), Uncle Jewiir
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes
Related Characters: Salva Dut
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

How can I go on without them?
But how can I not go on? They would want me to survive. . . to grow up and make something of my life, . . . to honor their memories.
What was it Uncle had said during that first terrible day in the desert? "Do you see that group of bushes? You need only to walk as far as those bushes . . .”
Uncle had helped him get through the desert that way, bit by bit, one step at a time. Perhaps . . . perhaps Salva could get through life at the camp in the same way.

Related Characters: Salva Dut (speaker), Uncle Jewiir (speaker)
Related Symbols: Steps
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

Salva made up his mind. He would walk south, to Kenya. He did not know what he would find once he got there, but it seemed to be his best choice.

Crowds of other boys followed him. Nobody talked about it, but by the end of the first day Salva had become the leader of a group of about fifteen hundred boys. Some were as young as five years old.

Related Characters: Salva Dut
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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Whatever food or water they found was shared equally among all of them. When the smaller boys grew too tired to walk, the older boys took turns carrying them on their backs.
There were times when some of the boys did not want to do their share of the work. Salva would talk to them, encourage them, coax and persuade them. Once in a while he had to speak sternly, or even shout. But he tried not to do this too often.
It was as if Salva's family were helping him, even though they were not there.

Related Characters: Salva Dut
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

The rumor was that about three thousand boys and young men from the refugee camps would be chosen to go live in America!

Related Characters: Salva Dut
Page Number: Book 87-88
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 15 Quotes

Salva stood still inside the terminal doors for a few moments. Leaving the airport felt like leaving his old life forever-Sudan, his village, his family. . . .
Tears came to his eyes, perhaps from the cold air blowing in through the open doors. His new family was already outside; they turned and looked back at him.
Salva blinked away the tears and took his first step into a new life in America.

Related Characters: Salva Dut, Chris, Louise
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 17 Quotes

"I will come to the village,” Salva promised, “as soon as it is safe!”

“We will be there waiting for you,” his father promised in turn.

Salva pressed his face tightly to his father's as they hugged goodbye, their tears flowing and blending together.

Related Characters: Salva Dut (speaker), Mawien Dut Ariik (speaker)
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

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Whenever he found himself losing hope, Salva would take a deep breath and think of his uncle’s words.
A step at as time.
One problem at a time—just figure out this one problem.
Day by day, solving one problem at a time, Salva moved toward his goal.

Related Characters: Salva Dut, Uncle Jewiir
Related Symbols: Steps
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 18 Quotes

The Dinka and the Nuer were enemies—had been for hundreds of years.

“Why would a Dinka bring water to us?” she wondered aloud.

“I heard Uncle and Father talking about him,” Dep said. “He has drilled many wells for his own people. This year he decided to drill for the Nuer as well.”

Related Characters: Nya (speaker), Dep (speaker), Salva Dut
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

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The man smiled. "What is your name?” he asked.
"I am Nya."
"I am happy to meet you, Nya," he said. "My name is Salva. "

Related Characters: Salva Dut (speaker), Nya (speaker)
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

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Salva Dut Character Timeline in A Long Walk to Water

The timeline below shows where the character Salva Dut appears in A Long Walk to Water. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Survival Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
In South Sudan in 1985, an eleven-year-old boy named Salva sits in class, while his teacher drones on about “the Arabic language.” Salva speaks the... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Salva and his brothers spend much of their time herding cattle. The older they get, the... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
Development Theme Icon
Back in the classroom, Salva feels hungry. He imagines going home and drinking a bowl of fresh milk. Suddenly, a... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
...in Sudan. There are rebels in the south, fighting against the government in the north. Salva doesn’t know much about these rebels, but he knows they don’t want to practice Islam.... (full context)
Chapter 2
Survival Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
In 1985, Salva rushes out of the classroom and sees a massive cloud of smoke. He runs as... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
...everyone wakes up and continues walking away from the rebels. But in the early afternoon, Salva sees a group of rebel soldiers in the distance. The rebels aren’t pointing their weapons... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
...in one group, women, children, and the elderly in the other. Because of his age, Salva is placed with the women and the elderly. He’s one of the only children in... (full context)
Social Strife Theme Icon
The next morning, the rebels move on, forcing the group of men from Salva’s village to carry their supplies. When one man refuses to do so, a soldier beats... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
The next morning, Salva wakes up to find that the other people in his village have abandoned him—he’s all... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Back in 1985, Salva weeps: his village has abandoned him. He realizes that the other villagers have left him... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
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Salva greets the Dinka woman, who’s very old, and she nods to him. She offers him... (full context)
Social Strife Theme Icon
Salva stays with the Dinka woman in her barn. He makes a point of doing chores... (full context)
Social Strife Theme Icon
After four days, the woman tells Salva that it’s time for her to leave. The water is drying up, and winter is... (full context)
Hope and Resilience Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
Frightened, Salva tries to decide what to do. Suddenly, he hears voices in the distance. As the... (full context)
Chapter 4
Survival Theme Icon
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Development Theme Icon
In 1985, Salva scans the faces in the group of Dinka villagers approaching the barn. To his dismay,... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
In the coming days, Salva walks farther than he’s ever walked in his life. He’s tired and frightened. Soon enough,... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
One day, the group is walking when suddenly, Buksa stops. In the distance, Salva can hear a loud, rumbling sound. Buksa begins to smile—he tells Salva to gather his... (full context)
Chapter 5
Social Strife Theme Icon
Development Theme Icon
In 1985, Salva, Buksa, and the other wanderers have just been stung by bees. They tried to clear... (full context)
Social Strife Theme Icon
Development Theme Icon
Every day, Salva’s group gets bigger. One evening, Salva accidentally steps on another boy’s hand. The boy is... (full context)
Hope and Resilience Theme Icon
Marial tells Salva that the group is headed into Ethiopia. Salva finds this unlikely, since Ethiopia is far... (full context)
Hope and Resilience Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
It’s been more than a month since Salva fled his village. The group passes through the Atuot region of Sudan. The people in... (full context)
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One morning, Salva wakes up to hear his name being spoken. He turns, and his mouth “fell open... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Salva has just woken up to the sound of his own name. He turns and sees... (full context)
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The group proceeds through Atuot land. Salva and Marial walk together with Uncle Jewiir. One day, the group walks for ten hours... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
That night, Jewiir wakes Salva up. He says, “I am sorry, Salva. Your friend …” (full context)
Chapter 7
Survival Theme Icon
Salva walks with the rest of the group, thinking about what Jewiir has told him. Martial... (full context)
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Social Strife Theme Icon
...the longest river in the world. This also means they’re almost in Ethiopia. Jewiir assures Salva that they’ll all be able to cross the water. (full context)
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...members of the group know how to use reeds to build boats and flotation devices. Salva finds that gathering reeds distracts him from his hunger and fear. After two full days... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Back in 1985, Salva and his group paddle across the Nile River. Salva sits in a canoe with Uncle... (full context)
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As night falls on the island, the mosquitoes come out, tormenting the refugees in Salva’s group. Nobody sleeps that night—“the mosquitoes made sure of that.” The next day, Salva scratches... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...take them three days to cross it. The first day feels like the longest of Salva’s life. The sun is hot, and he has very little water left. At one point,... (full context)
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The next day seems exactly like the one before. But then, Salva notices a small group in the distance. As he gets closer, Salva realizes that the... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Salva and the rest of the group have stopped to nurse the dying men in the... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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,... (full context)
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Salva is terrified, but he hopes that the soldiers will leave now that they’ve stolen everything... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Salva and the others bury Uncle Jewiir in a hole. The group doesn’t walk anymore that... (full context)
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Now that Jewiir is dead, Salva has no choice but to beg for food. The other people in the group sometimes... (full context)
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...group arrives at the refugee camp, where there are thousands of people of all ages. Salva desperately tries to find someone from his family. He also begins to feel restless—since, after... (full context)
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On his second day in the camp, Salva notices a woman in an orange scarf who might be his own mother. He pushes... (full context)
Chapter 12
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In 1985 in the Ethiopian refugee camp, Salva calls after the tall woman, praying that she’s his mother. But as Salva chases after... (full context)
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The year is now 1991, and the Ethiopian refugee camp is about to shut down. Salva is nearly seventeen years old now. He’s learned from the camp’s workers that Ethiopia’s government... (full context)
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...forcing the people to run toward the nearby Gilo River, which separates Sudan and Ethiopia. Salva knows that the Gilo has dangerously strong currents and crocodiles. (full context)
Chapter 13
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...the refugees to jump into the water, wanting to push them out of the country. Salva sees a crocodile attacking one man who’s jumped in the water. The soldiers begin shouting... (full context)
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Salva, along with the others who’ve managed to cross the river, proceeds onward. The groups seems... (full context)
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Salva and the boys travel through a dangerous part of Sudan. There’s a constant sound of... (full context)
Chapter 14
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It’s 1996 and Salva is now twenty-two years old. He has been living in refugee camps in Kenya since... (full context)
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In Ifo, Salva meets an Irish aid worker named Michael. As a result of having living in different... (full context)
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...are going to be chosen to go to the United States. However, it seems that Salva’s name hasn't been put on the list of boys who are being considered. Many of... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...three thousand boys being brought to the United States are known as the Lost Boys. Salva will be traveling to New York with eight other boys. They ride from the refugee... (full context)
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The flight from Africa to the U.S. is unlike anything Salva has ever experienced. He enjoys tasting Coca-Cola on the plane, and staring down at the... (full context)
Chapter 16
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After a month in Rochester, Salva is still disoriented by his new life. The roads are paved and the cars whizz... (full context)
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Six years go by. Salva is accepted to college, where he plans to study business. Someday, he wants to go... (full context)
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One day, Salva receives an email from his cousin, who lives in Zimbabwe. To Salva’s utter amazement, the... (full context)
Chapter 17
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In 2003, Salva is standing in the tiny hospital in Sudan, facing his father, Mawien Dut. Salva greets... (full context)
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Salva learns that his mother is alive, too, and still living in the same village. But... (full context)
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After a short time, Salva has to return to America. Mawien Dut has been in the clinic for stomach surgery—years... (full context)
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On the flight back to the United States, Salva begins to develop an idea. More than anything, he wants to help the people of... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...tells him that her name is Nya. The man smiles and says, “My name is Salva.” (full context)