Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo


George Saunders

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Lincoln in the Bardo can help.

Lincoln in the Bardo: Chapter 108 Summary & Analysis

Thomas Havens remains inside President Lincoln as the man mounts his horse and rides out of the cemetery. Together, they pass through the soft streets of a tranquil morning not yet fluttering with noise and life. Thomas feels that Lincoln is unhappy and guilty for having neglected his family. As he rides along, Lincoln thinks about how hard life has become, and though these thoughts strain Thomas, he determines to remain within this man. “Normally, during the day, we took our rest,” he explains. “Were drawn back to our shells and must rest in there. Tonight I did not feel that draw.” After falling asleep for a brief moment, Thomas sits upright and fully inhabits the president, saying, “And we rode forward into the night, past the sleeping houses of our countrymen.”
The image of a former slave’s spirit entering President Lincoln’s soul and riding with him toward the White House is highly symbolic, since—according to history—Lincoln will sign the Emancipation Proclamation within the year, thereby declaring all slaves free. In light of this, Saunders presents Lincoln as a man who is intimately in touch with the very people he wants to liberate. Occupying the highest position in the United States, he represents not only the white citizenry, but the country’s many black people, too. In this moment, then, he literally embodies diversity, as Saunders unites a former slave with an empathetic white man, fusing them together so that they ride past the houses of their shared countrymen as a single person.
Unity Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon