Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo


George Saunders

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Lincoln in the Bardo: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Bevins, Vollman, and the Reverend explain that young people “are not meant to tarry.” Indeed, they have seen many children come and go over the years. Even babies have transitioned through this space, including an infant girl who “just lay there” while “giving off a dull white light” and a “high-pitched keening” until—forty-seven minutes later—she moved on to join her mother, who had barely preceded her. Bevins asserts that most children “naturally” leave this place, and the Reverend adds: “Or else.” “Imagine our surprise, then,” Vollman says, “when, passing by an hour or so later, we found the lad still on the roof, looking expectantly about, as if waiting for a carriage to arrive and whisk him away.” The Reverend, for his part, says, “Something needed to be done.”
When Bevins, Vollman, and the Reverend say that young people “are not meant to tarry,” they frame Willie’s resolve to stay in the Bardo as unnatural, though they are perhaps also somewhat impressed by the boy’s strength. This makes sense, considering that they must know the strength it takes to occupy this realm. Still, though, they see the act of “tarry[ing]” as contrary to nature, especially when it comes to children, who are otherwise normally in a state of constant evolution and transition.
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