Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by

George Saunders

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Lincoln in the Bardo: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Reverend sees that Vollman and Bevins are “intrigued” by the news that Lincoln is still on the premises. Gesturing for his friends to join him in private in the white stone home, he says, “We are here by grace. Our ability to abide far from assured. Therefore, we must conserve our strength, restricting our activities to only those which directly serve our central purpose.” As he speaks, many of Bevins eyes roll in boredom and annoyance, and Vollman tries to balance a pebble on his enormous penis. “We must look out for ourselves,” the Reverend continues. “And, by doing so, we protect the boy as well. He must hear nothing of this rumor, which would only serve to raise his hopes. As we know, only utter hopelessness will lead him to do what he must. Therefore, not a word. Are we in agreement?”
In this moment, the Reverend intuits that Vollman and Bevins want to somehow interfere with Willie’s situation, perhaps by trying to “communicate” to Lincoln (after all, Vollman believes this is possible). Nonetheless, the Reverend frames this as ill-advised, instead counseling his friends to remain focused on their own efforts to stay. What’s more, he also suggests that the only way they’ll be able to convince Willie to leave the Bardo is by showing him that his father will never again come back to interact with him. Indeed, “only utter hopelessness” will encourage the boy to depart. As such, the Reverend implies that what keeps people in the Bardo more than anything is hope and the delusion that their situation will somehow improve.
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Related Quotes
Vollman and Bevins mutter their agreement, and the Reverend makes his way back to the roof. As he does so, Vollman and Bevins glance at one another. “In truth,” Bevins admits, “we were bored, so very bored, so continually bored.” Vollman agrees, asserting that the utter “sameness” of every single night wears on a person. “There would be no harm, we thought, in taking a quick trip,” he says. “Out to where the gentleman sat,” says Bevins. Deciding this, the two friends agree to not tell the Reverend where they’re going. “We could just…go,” says Vollman.
As previously established, existing in the Bardo requires a considerable amount of effort, as each soul must constantly dwell upon the reasons why he or she refuses to depart. Unsurprisingly, this monomaniacal fixation is not only fatiguing, but also quite boring. It makes sense, then, that Vollman and Bevins jump at the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, since their entire existences are otherwise completely devoid of variation.
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