A Long Walk to Water

Steps Symbol Icon

During his long walk across Sudan, Salva Dut experiences many setbacks. Sometimes, he’s just too exhausted and distraught to keep moving. However, Salva’s uncle Jewiir encourages him to keep moving by telling him to move forward “one step at a time.” Salva remembers this advice long after Jewiir’s death—as, years later, it motivates him to found a nonprofit designed to help Sudanese villagers. Throughout the book, steps symbolize the slow, deliberate, cautiously optimistic way that Salva chooses to live his life—refusing to give in to despair.

Steps Quotes in A Long Walk to Water

The A Long Walk to Water quotes below all refer to the symbol of Steps. 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 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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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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 17 Quotes

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Steps Symbol Timeline in A Long Walk to Water

The timeline below shows where the symbol Steps appears in A Long Walk to Water. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Survival Theme Icon
Hope and Resilience Theme Icon
...nearly collapses. Uncle Jewiir uses Salva’s full name to urge him to keep walking, a step at a time. With great difficulty, Salva manages to stand up and keep moving, even... (full context)
Chapter 17
Survival Theme Icon
Hope and Resilience Theme Icon
Social Strife Theme Icon
Development Theme Icon
...churches, civic organizations, and universities. Each time, he remembers his uncle’s words in the desert—one step at a time. (full context)