Water (which shows up in a number of forms in the novel) symbolizes the interconnectedness between life and death. Finch admits at one point that he has “a thing for water.” His affinity for water takes a variety of forms: he swims in the summer when it’s warm enough, he practices holding his breath underwater for long periods of time, and some of the novel’s happiest moments take place when Finch and Violet swim together. Water, Finch explains, is his favorite way to “cheat the Asleep”—that is, it makes him feel more alive, as when he holds his breath and feels invincible.
However, the novel makes it clear that one of the primary reasons Finch likes water so much is because he’s well aware that it can kill him if he lets it. Indeed, the fact that he fixates on writer Virginia Woolf’s suicide supports this: she filled her pockets with rocks and then drowned in a river. And as Finch’s mental health deteriorates and he begins contemplating suicide, he becomes increasingly interested in water and even leaves clues as to his whereabouts that mention water for Violet. Violet is ultimately able to follow his clues directing her to the Blue Hole, where Finch presumably drowned himself. Water, in this instance, symbolizes death.
Because of this, though, it’s significant that the novel ends with Violet swimming in the Blue Hole on a hot summer day. As she swims, she thinks of Finch—and she also thinks about all the places she wants to go and see in the future. This reinforces the idea that water symbolizes both life and death—and the idea that life and death exist in a delicate balance, particularly for suicidal people like Finch. Water can make a person feel more alive, as it does in that moment for Violet and it once did for Finch—but it can also take a person’s life away.
Water (the Blue Hole, Swimming Pools, Rivers) Quotes in All the Bright Places
Water is peaceful. I am at rest. In the water, I am safe and pulled in where I can’t get out. Everything slows down—the noise and the racing of my thoughts. I wonder if I could sleep like this, here on the bottom of the bathtub, if I wanted to sleep, which I don’t. I let my mind drift. I hear words forming as if I’m sitting at the computer already.
In March of 1941, after three serious breakdowns, Virginia Woolf wrote a note to her husband and walked to a nearby river. She shoved heavy stones into her pocket and dove into the water. “Dearest,” the note began, “I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times…So I am doing what seems the best thing to do.”
“What are you most afraid of?”
I think, I’m most afraid of Just be careful. I’m most afraid of the Long Drop. I’m most afraid of Asleep and impending, weightless doom. I’m most afraid of me.
In all his words, the preacher doesn’t mention suicide. The family is calling his death an accident because they didn’t find a proper note […]. I stand, thinking how it wasn’t an accident at all and how “suicide victim” is an interesting term. The victim part of it implies they had no choice. And maybe Finch didn’t feel like he had a choice, or maybe he wasn’t trying to kill himself at all but just going in search of the bottom.