The central symbol of A Long Walk to Water is, unsurprisingly, water. The main characters in the book are desperate for water, and will go to great lengths to find it. Nya spends hours every day walking to and from a faraway pond, just so that her family can have enough water to survive. Similarly, Salva Dut is often in need of water during his long walk across Sudan. During his walk through the desert, he sees first-hand the consequences of not having enough water when he witnesses several men dying of thirst. In all, water symbolizes survival, and the difficulty of obtaining water shows the difficulty of survival in Sudan during the two periods depicted by the novel.
Water Quotes in A Long Walk to Water
Nya filled the container all the way to the top. Then she tied the gourd back in place and took the padded cloth doughnut from her pocket. The doughnut went on her head first, followed by the heavy container of water, which she would hold in place with one hand.
Nya nodded. She picked up the plastic container and took Akeer by the hand. Home for just long enough to eat, Nya would now make her second trip to the pond. To the pond and back—to the pond and back—nearly a full day of walking altogether. This was Nya’s daily routine seven months of the year.
A trip like that would be very difficult for Akeer. Should they stay at the camp and let her rest so she might heal on her own? Or should they begin the long hard walk—and hope they reached help in time?
The water from the holes in the lakebed could be collected only in tiny amounts. If her mother tried to boil such a small amount, the pot would be dry long before they could count to two hundred.
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!"
In a few more days, the school would be finished. Nya and Dep and Akeer would all go to school, along with the other children. Next year there would be a marketplace where the villagers could sell and buy vegetables and chickens and other goods. There was even talk of a clinic someday—a medical clinic, so they wouldn’t have to walk so far to get help, as they had to when Akeer was ill.
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.”