Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo


George Saunders

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Lincoln in the Bardo: Chapter 34-35 Summary & Analysis

Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend start digging at the tendrils wrapping around Willie. Above, the Three Bachelors fly about while laughing and making jokes. “Having never loved or been loved in that previous place,” the Reverend explains, “they were frozen here in a youthful state of perpetual emotional vacuity; interested only in freedom, […] railing against any limitation or commitment whatsoever.” When they land, Willie tells them he’s waiting for his father, who has promised to return. “This father of his,” one of them says to the adult souls. “Long-legged fellow?” “Yes,” the Reverend replies. “Just passed him,” they say. Indeed, they claim that they just flew over Willie’s father, who is sitting “all quiet-like” in another section of the grounds. Having divulged this information, they say “toodle-oo” and fly off into the night again.
The Three Bachelors’ connection to the living world—the thing that keeps them from transitioning away from the Bardo—is that they’ve never “loved or been loved.” As such, their reason for staying is among the most obvious in the entire Bardo, since they essentially refuse to move on because they still hope to find love. At the same time, though, they’re afraid of “commitment,” a fact that makes it unlikely they’ll ever find love, no matter where they are. Ironically, by staying in the Bardo, they commit themselves to an eternity of sameness, though they obviously aren’t cognizant of this dynamic.
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