Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by

George Saunders

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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 over women—that society deems unacceptable. When Bevins’s lover, Gilbert, broke up with him because he wanted to “live correctly,” Bevins went home and attempted suicide. Right when he started to bleed out, though, he realized that life is a wonderful gift that shouldn’t be wasted or taken for granted. As such, his time in the Bardo is characterized by his frequent overtures to the world’s beauty. Whenever he waxes poetic about the plentiful sensory pleasures of existence, his body parts multiply, engulfing his form with thousands of eyes and ears and noses and mouths. Although it’s clear that he has succeeded in taking his own life, he himself believes for the majority of the novel that he’s simply lying on the kitchen floor in a puddle of his own blood, waiting for his mother to find him, at which point he will heal and set forth into the world, finally following his “predilections” with “gusto” rather than hiding his true self from society. Like his friends Hans Vollman and the Reverend Everly Thomas, Bevins takes an interest in Willie Lincoln when the boy arrives in the Bardo, doing everything in his power—including entering President Lincoln—to convince the child to move on from this transitional realm.

Roger Bevins III Quotes in Lincoln in the Bardo

The Lincoln in the Bardo quotes below are all either spoken by Roger Bevins III or refer to Roger Bevins III. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Unity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Lincoln in the Bardo published in 2018.
Chapter 9 Quotes

Feeling nauseous at the quantity of blood and its sudden percussive redness against the whiteness of the tub, I settled myself woozily down on the floor, at which time I—well, it is a little embarrassing, but let me just say it: I changed my mind. Only then (nearly out the door, so to speak) did I realize how unspeakably beautiful all of this was, how precisely engineered for our pleasure, and saw that I was on the brink of squandering a wondrous gift, the gift of being allowed, every day, to wander this vast sensual paradise, this grand marketplace lovingly stocked with every sublime thing: swarms of insects dancing in slant-rays of August sun; a trio of black horses standing hock-deep and head-to-head in a field of snow; a waft of beef broth arriving breeze-borne from an orange-hued window on a child autumn—

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Will I follow my predilection? I will! With gusto! Having come so close to losing everything, I am freed now of all fear, hesitation, and timidity, and, once revived, intend to devoutly wander the earth, imbibing, smelling, sampling, loving whomever I please; touching, tasting, standing very still among the beautiful things of this world […].

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

I want ed so much to hold a dear Babe.

I know very wel I do not look as prety as I onseh. And over time, I admit, I have come to know serten words I did not formerly

Fuk cok shit reem ravage assfuk

[…] I did not get any. Thing.

Was gone too soon

To get

Only forteen.

Yrs of aje


Plese do come again sir it has been a pleasure to make your

But fuk yr anshient frends (do not bring them agin) who kome to ogle and mok me and ask me to swindle no that is not the werd slender slander that wich I am doing. Wich is no more than what they are doing. Is it not so? What I am doing, if I only cary on fathefully, will, I am sure, bring about that longed-for return to

Green grass kind looks.

Related Symbols: The Iron Fence
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

We are here by grace […]. Our ability to abide by far from assured. Therefore, we must conserve our strength, restricting our activities to only those which directly serve our central purpose. We would not wish, through profligate activity, to appear ungrateful for the mysterious blessing of our continued abiding. […] We must look out for ourselves […]. 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?

Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 54-55 Quotes

Upon Mr. Bevins’s exit, I was immediately filled with longing for him and his associated phenomena, a longing that rivaled the longing I had felt for my parents when I first left their home for my apprenticeship in Baltimore—a considerable longing indeed.

Such had been the intensity of our co-habitation.

I would never fail to fully see him again: dear Mr. Bevins!

[…] We would be infused with some trace of one another for forevermore.

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III, Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 61 Quotes

I have been here since and have, as instructed, refrained from speaking of any of this, to anyone.

What would be the point? For any of us here, it is too late for any alteration of course. All is done. We are shades, immaterial, and since that judgment pertains to what we did (or did not do) in that previous (material) realm, correction is now forever beyond our means. Our work there is finished; we only await payment.

Related Characters: The Reverend Everly Thomas (speaker), Hans Vollman, Roger Bevins III
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 93-94 Quotes

He must (we must, we felt) do all we could, in light of the many soldiers lying dead and wounded, in open fields, all across the land, weeds violating their torsos, eyeballs pecked out or dissolving, lips hideously retracted, rain-soaked/blood-soaked/snow-crusted letters scattered about them, to ensure that we did not, as we trod that difficult path we were now well upon, blunder, blunder further (we had blundered so badly already) and, in so blundering, ruin more, more of these boys, each of whom was once dear to someone.

Ruinmore, ruinmore, we felt, must endeavor not to ruinmore.

Our grief must be defeated; it must not become our master, and make us ineffective, and put us even deeper into the ditch.

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III (speaker), Hans Vollman, Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:

Across the sea fat kings watched and were gleeful, that something begun so well had gone off the rails (as down South similar kings watched), and if it went off the rails, so went the whole kit, forever, and if someone ever thought to start it up again, well, it would be said (and said truly): The rabble cannot manage itself.

Well, the rabble could. The rabble would.

He would lead the rabble in managing.

The thing would be won.

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III (speaker), Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Lincoln in the Bardo LitChart as a printable PDF.
Lincoln in the Bardo PDF

Roger Bevins III Character Timeline in Lincoln in the Bardo

The timeline below shows where the character Roger Bevins III appears in Lincoln in the Bardo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Unity Theme Icon
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
...sick-box was judged—was judged to be—” He falters at here, and the voice of Roger Bevins III enters, saying: “Efficacious.” Thankful for this help, Hans says, “Efficacious, yes. Thank you, friend.”... (full context)
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...our silent young friend here out to dinner! (He does appear young, doesn’t he, Mr. Bevins?)” (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...this feels like, Vollman says, “Goodness, are you a child? He is, isn’t he?” Roger Bevins III agrees that the heretofore unnamed person before them does indeed seem young, and Vollman... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Roger Bevins III now tells his own story, saying he discovered early in life that he was... (full context)
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Loss Theme Icon
Bevins continues his story, explaining that losing Gilbert led him to slit his wrists with a... (full context)
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Loss Theme Icon
...the kitchen floor next to the porcelain tub over which he slit his wrists, Roger Bevins III suddenly realized “how unspeakably beautiful” the world is, “How precisely engineered for our pleasure.”... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
Resuming his story, Bevins explains that he now lies prostrate on the kitchen floor, waiting with his head next... (full context)
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At this point, Willie Lincoln finally speaks, saying, “‘Bevins’ had several sets of eyes     All darting to and fro     Several noses     All sniffing      His... (full context)
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Vollman explains that Willie Lincoln observes Bevins from the roof of his own “sick-house” (a “white stone home”). Bevins interjects that the... (full context)
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...startled demeanor. “I believe we have the honor of addressing a Mr. Carroll,” says Mr. Bevins, but the young boy only stares at him blankly. “No doubt you are feeling a... (full context)
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...they will not stay long,” he says. “All the while wishing themselves elsewhere,” adds Roger Bevins III. “Thinking only of lunch,” says the Reverend. Despite these pieces of advice, though, Willie... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Bevins, Vollman, and the Reverend explain that young people “are not meant to tarry.” Indeed, they... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Vollman tells Willie to follow him, Bevins, and the Reverend. “There is someone we would like you to meet,” he says, and... (full context)
Chapter 12
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As Willie walk-skims with Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend, a woman joins them and lists off the names of various “wildwoods... (full context)
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...several hundred yards that ended in the dreaded iron fence,” Hans Vollman says, and Roger Bevins III explains that this is the “noxious limit beyond which” they cannot “venture.” Affixed to... (full context)
Chapter 14-15
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Leaving Elise Traynor, Willie asks Bevins, Vollman, and the Reverend if the same thing will happen to him if he stays,... (full context)
Chapter 16
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...“what [has] been lost.” Reaching out, he touches the boy’s face and hair, a gesture Bevins assumes the man must have done “many times when the boy was—” Interrupting his friend,... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Loss Theme Icon
...he [holds].” Overwhelmed and not wanting to witness something so “private,” Hans Vollman and Roger Bevins III leave the white stone home, though the Reverend stays, “transfixed” and “uttering many prayers.” (full context)
Chapter 24
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Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...Reverend says. “Individuals we had never seen before, now made their anxious debuts,” adds Roger Bevins III. Indeed, they explain that these people are “happy” and reinvigorated by the idea that... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...what “this apparently charmed being” thinks of their “particular reasons for remaining.” This is because, Bevins notes, there isn’t a single soul here—“not even the strongest”—who doesn’t “entertain some lingering doubt... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
“Good Lord,” interrupts Hans Vollman. “He is in fine form tonight,” Roger Bevins III remarks. “Bear in mind, Lieutenant,” says Vollman, “he is but a child.” Nonetheless, Lieutenant... (full context)
Chapter 29
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...young brides “arrayed in thinnish things.” The Reverend, on the other hand, sees angels. For Bevins, these beings manifest as “hundreds of exact copies of Gilbert.” One of these Gilberts kneels... (full context)
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“Kindly don’t bother,” Bevins says to the group of Gilberts. “I have heard all of this—” Cutting him off,... (full context)
Chapter 30
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After the “onslaught,” Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend try to determine which three souls departed, since they heard three instances... (full context)
Chapter 31
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As Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend approach the white stone home, they’re astounded to see Willie sitting cross-legged... (full context)
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...there within him.” “We do. We do have such a method,” says Vollman, to which Bevins quickly adds, “Nebulous. Far from established.” (full context)
Chapter 32
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend have seen this tendril before. Indeed, they witnessed Elise Traynor become engulfed... (full context)
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Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
Thinking about the effect of the tendril on children depresses Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend because it reminds them that they did nothing to help Elise Traynor... (full context)
Chapter 34-35
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Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend start digging at the tendrils wrapping around Willie. Above, the Three Bachelors... (full context)
Chapter 36
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
The Reverend sees that Vollman and Bevins are “intrigued” by the news that Lincoln is still on the premises. Gesturing for his... (full context)
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Vollman and Bevins mutter their agreement, and the Reverend makes his way back to the roof. As he... (full context)
Chapter 37-41
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Bevins and Vollman zoom out of the white stone home and make their way across the... (full context)
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On their way to Willie’s father, Bevins and Vollman come across a group of souls standing around “a freshly filled sick-hole.” Approaching... (full context)
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...matterlightblooming phenomenon.” Feeling as though the soldier didn’t even “give this place a proper chance,” Bevins and Vollman move on from the crowd, resuming their quest to find Willie’s father. (full context)
Chapter 42-44
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Vollman and Bevins walk-skim across the grounds, taking note of the many “home-places” of souls who have long... (full context)
Chapter 45-46
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Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
When Bevins (who is younger than both Vollman and Lincoln) enters the president, the man experiences a... (full context)
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...murder anathema. God forbid I should ever commit such a grievous—” Without warning, Vollman and Bevins sense something troubling, feeling something distressing lurking in Willie’s father. As the man—and, thus, Vollman... (full context)
Chapter 49
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Bevins and Vollman continue observing Lincoln’s thoughts, seeing that he feels “distraught” as he prods the... (full context)
Chapter 50-52
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...bright place, free of suffering” or “resplendent in a new mode of being,” Vollman and Bevins find themselves saddened by Lincoln’s hopes for his son. As such, they try to convince... (full context)
Chapter 53
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Inside Willie’s father, Bevins and Vollman try to “persuade the gentleman.” Thinking about the white stone home and about... (full context)
Chapter 54-55
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Bevins and Vollman are astonished at their success. When Lincoln stands, he leaves them sitting inside... (full context)
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Not only do Hans Vollman and Roger Bevins III now know seemingly everything about one another, but they also know many things about... (full context)
Chapter 61
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...I am different, yes,” the Reverend admits, though he doesn’t say this to Willie. Unlike Bevins, Vollman, and everybody else in this place, he knows “very well” what he is. “Am... (full context)
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...worsened, the tendrils having engulfed the boy. As he notices this, Hans Vollman and Roger Bevins III come sweeping up to the white stone home, declaring triumphantly that they’ve succeeded in... (full context)
Chapter 63
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Loss Theme Icon
...Willie’s coffin from the wall, puts it on the ground, kneels, and opens it. Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend watch this until they hear Willie cry out from the roof, where... (full context)
Chapter 64-65
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...craved the slightest participation in the transformative moment that must be imminent,” says Vollman, and Bevins notes that the souls have “abandoned any pretext of speaking one at a time,” such... (full context)
Chapter 67-68
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...asks. “He is,” replies Willie. “Of?” asks the Reverend. “The United States,” Willie answers, and Bevins explains that this is true, saying that a significant amount of time has passed since... (full context)
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...suggests they return together. Manders agrees and steps outside to wait. This entire ordeal strikes Bevins, Vollman, and the Reverend as a “catastrophe” because Willie hasn’t gone into his father yet.... (full context)
Chapter 75-76
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Meanwhile, the Reverend and Bevins tear their way through the tendril around Willie’s waste. As they do so, though, Lincoln... (full context)
Chapter 77
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...having failed to free the boy from the tendrils, he “renounce[s]” his oath and joins Bevins and Vollman inside the president. (full context)
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend swoop through the crowd and jump into Lincoln. Intrigued, several other souls... (full context)
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
“Stop,” Bevins thinks, and everybody else expresses the sentiment in their own way, chanting: “Pause, cease, self-interrupt,... (full context)
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...how he could have possibly forgotten the joys of coming together with others, a question Bevins answers by pointing out: “To stay, one must deeply and continuously dwell upon one’s primary... (full context)
Unity Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...instance, is no longer naked, but clothed, and his member is a normal size. Similarly, Bevins has the correct number of body parts, and the Reverend no longer looks eternally shocked... (full context)
Chapter 78-79
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Bevins calls out to the Bachelors and asks them—when they land—to fly ahead and collect any... (full context)
Chapter 80-81
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When Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend reach the white stone home, they find Willie on the floor, “cocooned... (full context)
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Bevins asks the tendril-people who they are and why they’re “compelled,” but the female voice declares... (full context)
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...interrupting the Reverend’s thoughts. “In here? Or on the roof?” Inserting himself in the conversation, Bevins asks if these hell-dwellers can make an exception—a suggestion that invites nothing but laughter from... (full context)
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Bevins asks the hell carapace why children are subject to different rules than adults, suggesting that... (full context)
Chapter 82
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...to secure Willie, they capture him, too. “And they had him,” says Vollman, who—along with Bevins—follows behind. Too late to do anything, they hear the Reverend shouting out from beneath the... (full context)
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...light from the Reverend’s departure temporarily damages the tendrils. Kicking the now-viscous vines, Vollman and Bevins extract Willie. While digging, they find an imprint of the Reverend’s face and see that... (full context)
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...they’re simply gathering their strength but that they’ll soon enter the chapel, so Vollman and Bevins might as well send Willie out. Just then, though, the two friends jump at the... (full context)
Chapter 91
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Willie stands and exits his father. Looking at Bevins and Vollman as a crowd of souls gathers around the chapel—many of them even squeezing... (full context)
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...work, and Willie destroys “years of work and toil with each thoughtless phrase” (according to Bevins). Indeed, Willie assures his friends that his father said he is dead, and this leaves... (full context)
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Looking at Vollman and Bevins, Willie says, “Oh, it was nice. So nice there. But we can’t go back. To... (full context)
Chapter 93-94
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
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...lad’s departure having set him free.” On his way out the door, he passes through Bevins and Vollman once more, and they sense that he has made a somber kind of... (full context)
Chapter 100-101
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...in the cemetery, souls start disappearing at an alarming rate. Amidst the chaos, Vollman and Bevins rush out of the chapel, passing Lieutenant Stone and Elson Farwell, who are in the... (full context)
Chapter 102
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“Suddenly Mr. Bevins did not look well,” Vollman says, looking at his friend and noticing that the man’s... (full context)
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Vollman denies Bevins’s words, but his friend pushes on, recounting Anna’s visit to the cemetery. She came, Bevins... (full context)
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...“fresh-faced apprentice in an ink-stained smock” to a “heavy-set, limping, wooden-toothed forty-six-year-old printer.” Observing this, Bevins says, “Shall we? Shall we go together?” As he says this, he circles through the... (full context)
Chapter 103
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When Vollman and Bevins reach Elise Traynor, she is in the form of a “smoking wreck of a rail... (full context)
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The train explodes with Vollman’s departure, throwing Bevins to the ground. When he stands, he sees that the iron fence is the only... (full context)
Chapter 104-106
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Feeling the blast of Bevins’s departure (which takes place right by the fence), a number of remaining souls make haste... (full context)