Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by

George Saunders

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

Lincoln in the Bardo Characters

Hans Vollman

A former printer who now exists in the Bardo. When he was still alive, Hans became a widower at a relatively young age, at which point he started drinking heavily and visiting prostitutes. Then, during… read analysis of Hans Vollman

Roger Bevins III

A young man who, before coming to the Bardo, slashed his wrists with a butcher knife because he was heartbroken. Bevins explains early on that he has a certain “predilection”—namely, a romantic preference for men… read analysis of Roger Bevins III

The Reverend Everly Thomas

A Reverend who exists in the Bardo. Unlike his friends Hans Vollman and Roger Bevins III (and everyone else in the Bardo), the Reverend has no misconceptions regarding the fact that he is dead. Indeed… read analysis of The Reverend Everly Thomas

Willie Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s son, who dies of typhoid during the first year of the Civil War. As Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln grieve, Willie goes to the Bardo, where he resolves to wait for his father… read analysis of Willie Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

The president of the United States during the Civil War, and Willie Lincoln’s father. When Willie dies of typhoid during the first year of the Civil War, Lincoln and his wife Mary are distraught… read analysis of Abraham Lincoln
Get the entire Lincoln in the Bardo LitChart as a printable PDF.
Lincoln in the Bardo PDF

Elise Traynor (or “The Traynor Girl”)

A fourteen-year-old girl who cannot leave the Bardo. While she was still alive, Elise wanted nothing more than to have a baby, but she never got the chance to get pregnant, since she died so… read analysis of Elise Traynor (or “The Traynor Girl”)

Thomas Havens

A former slave who now exists in the Bardo. During his time amongst the living, Thomas never felt much anger toward his master. Telling Willie his life story, he explains that his master gave him… read analysis of Thomas Havens

Elson Farwell

A former slave who now exists in the Bardo. Throughout his life, Elson went out of his way to educate himself using whatever resources he could find. His master’s family treated him relatively well, compared… read analysis of Elson Farwell

Litzie Wright

A former slave who now exists in the Bardo. When she was alive, Litzie was raped countless times by many different men, especially the various masters she had. In the Bardo, she has no voice… read analysis of Litzie Wright

Mrs. Francis Hodge

A former slave who now exists in the Bardo. Mrs. Hodge kindly speaks for Litzie Wright, delivering the silent woman’s life story to Willie. As for herself, Mrs. Hodge inexplicably has bloody stumps… read analysis of Mrs. Francis Hodge

Lieutenant Cecil Stone

A racist lieutenant who exists in the Bardo and brags to Willie—and anyone who will listen—that he used to rape his slaves and beat their husbands. Lieutenant Stone makes it his duty to keep… read analysis of Lieutenant Cecil Stone

Eddie Barron

A poor white man who exists in the Bardo with his wife, Betsy Barron. Eddie is vulgar and crass, even when he speaks to Willie, a mere child. Despite his crudeness, though, he… read analysis of Eddie Barron

Betsy Barron

A poor white woman who exists in the Bardo with her husband, Eddie Barron. Like Eddie, Betsy is extremely vulgar and does not refrain from speaking lewdly when she addresses Willie. Also like… read analysis of Betsy Barron

The Three Bachelors

Three young men who never fell in love in the living world and are thus intent upon finding romance in the Bardo. The only Bardo-dwellers who can fly, the Bachelors detest commitment, refusing to do… read analysis of The Three Bachelors

Jane Ellis

A woman who exists in the Bardo. Like many of the other souls in this realm, she makes her way to Willie’s crypt to tell him her story, eventually entreating him to check in… read analysis of Jane Ellis

Abigail Blass

A very small, dirty, and frugal woman who exists in the Bardo. Mrs. Blass tells Willie her life story, explaining that she never got what she deserved while she was in the living world. Shortly… read analysis of Abigail Blass

The Man in the Yellow Bathing Suit

One of the two men the Reverend encounters upon dying. Having just passed away and left the Bardo, the Reverend finds himself on a trail with the man in the yellow bathing suit and a… read analysis of The Man in the Yellow Bathing Suit

The Man in the Funeral Suit

The man who steps forth for his final judgment after the man in the yellow bathing suit is admitted into heaven. As the Christ-emissary and his helpers judge the funeral-suited man, the Reverend watches in… read analysis of The Man in the Funeral Suit

The Female Voice

A bean-sized woman embedded in the tendril that emerges from the ground and wraps around Willie to keep him from leaving the Bardo. This woman explains that she and the other bean-sized people on the… read analysis of The Female Voice

The Bass Voice

A bean-sized man with a deep voice who is embedded in the tendril that emerges from the ground and wraps around Willie. Like the other beings in the tendril, this man is in hell… read analysis of The Bass Voice

The British Voice

A bean-sized man with a British accent who is embedded in the tendril that emerges from the ground and wraps around Willie. Like the other beings in the tendril, this man is in hell… read analysis of The British Voice

The Vermonter

A bean-sized man with a Vermont accent who is embedded in the tendril that emerges from the ground and wraps around Willie. Like the other beings in the tendril, this man is in hell… read analysis of The Vermonter

Jack Manders

The groundskeeper who works at the cemetery where Willie Lincoln is interred. When President Lincoln arrives at the graveyard late at night, Manders lets him even though there are rules preventing him from allowing people… read analysis of Jack Manders

Isabelle Perkins

A woman who lives across the street from the cemetery where Willie Lincoln is interred. Saunders quotes from Isabelle’s (fictive) letter to her brother, in which she explains seeing not only Willie’s funeral procession, but… read analysis of Isabelle Perkins

Mary Todd Lincoln

President Lincoln’s wife, and Willie’s mother. When Willie dies, Mary takes to her bed, unable to get up even for the funeral. Lying under sedation, she has no idea that Lincoln leaves the… read analysis of Mary Todd Lincoln

Judge Carroll

A judge in Washington, D.C. who allows Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to inter Willie in his crypt until the president and his family return to their home state of Illinois, where they plan to bury… read analysis of Judge Carroll

Anna

Hans Vollman’s second wife. Significantly younger than Vollman, Anna is incredibly nervous on their wedding night—so nervous, in fact, that Vollman tells her they don’t need to make love. Eventually, though, Anna comes to… read analysis of Anna
Minor Characters
The Christ-Emissary
A representative of Jesus Christ who sits before a large diamond door and watches as his helpers judge whether or not the Reverend deserves to go to heaven or hell.
Gilbert
Roger Bevins III’s lover. Gilbert ends his relationship with Bevins because he has decided renounce homosexuality. Although he says this, Bevins later sees him flirting with another man in a bakery—heartbroken, Bevins goes home and kills himself.
Tom
The name of a person Jack Manders addresses when writing in the watchman’s logbook.