Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by

George Saunders

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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 tendril are in hell, though not the worst version of hell. She also offers to let the Reverend, Bevins, and Vollman move Willie from inside the crypt to the roof so that he can carry out his eternal internment outside. When the Reverend presses her for details, she reveals that she killed her husband because she found him irritating. Like the other hell-dwellers on the tendril, though, she insists that she can’t be blamed for her immoral actions because she was born with certain evil “predispositions.”

The Female Voice Quotes in Lincoln in the Bardo

The Lincoln in the Bardo quotes below are all either spoken by The Female Voice or refer to The Female Voice . 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 80-81 Quotes

Whatever my sin, it must, I felt (I prayed), be small, compared to the sins of these. And yet, I was of their ilk. Was I not? When I went, it seemed, it would be to join them.

As I had many times preached, our Lord is a fearsome Lord, and mysterious, and will not be predicted, but judges as He sees fit, and we are but as lambs to Him, whom He regards with neither affection or malice; some go to the slaughter, while others are released to the meadow, by His whim, according to a standard we are too lowly to discern.

It is only for us to accept; accept His judgment, and our punishment.

But, as applied to me, this teaching did not satisfy.

And oh, I was sick, sick at heart.

Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:

We were as we were! the bass lisper barked. How could we have been otherwise? Or, being that way, have done otherwise? We were that way, at that time, and had been led to that place, not by any innate evil in ourselves, but by the state of our cognition and our experience up until that moment.

By Fate, by Destiny, said the Vermonter.

By the fact that time runs in only one direction, and we are borne along by it, influenced precisely as we are, to do just the things that we do, the bass lisper said.

And then are cruelly punished for it, said the woman.

Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Lincoln in the Bardo LitChart as a printable PDF.
Lincoln in the Bardo PDF

The Female Voice Character Timeline in Lincoln in the Bardo

The timeline below shows where the character The Female Voice appears in Lincoln in the Bardo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 80-81
Unity Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...to the roof, so that he might serve out his (infinite) interment there.” As this female voice finishes speaking, a bass voice with a “slight lisp” sounds out, saying, “Mind you, none... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Bevins asks the tendril-people who they are and why they’re “compelled,” but the female voice declares that she and the others will not discuss those matters. “Mistakes were made,” adds... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...not compelled to bash our skulls against a series of clustered screw-drivers at least,” chimes the female voice . “Are not being sodomized by a flaming bull,” adds the bass. Suddenly, the Reverend... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...than adults, suggesting that this is unfair. “Please do not speak to us of fairness,” the female voice says. “Did I murder Elmer?” she asks, and when the Vermonter says, “You did,” she... (full context)