Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo


George Saunders

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Lincoln in the Bardo: Chapter 49 Summary & Analysis

Bevins and Vollman continue observing Lincoln’s thoughts, seeing that he feels “distraught” as he prods the far reaches of his brain for any kind of “consolation.” In order to soothe himself, he tries to think of Willie as existing in a place void of suffering. “All over now,” he thinks. “He is either in joy or nothingness.” In keeping with this, Lincoln asks himself why it’s worth grieving, but he answers himself by pointing out that he is in “the habit of loving” Willie—a habit he can’t easily give up. “Only there is nothing left to do,” he thinks. “Free myself of this darkness as I can, remain useful, not go mad. Think of him, when I do, as being in some bright place, free of suffering, resplendent in a new mode of being.”
In this moment, Lincoln’s thoughts become slightly more optimistic. Although he has already determined that he’ll “be happy no more,” this bleak outlook enables him to accept the fact that there’s nothing to do but move on with his life in spite of this tragic loss. “Free myself of this darkness as I can, remain useful, not go mad,” he thinks, understanding that he can’t shirk his responsibilities as president of the United States during the Civil War.
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