Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by

George Saunders

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The Reverend Everly Thomas Character Analysis

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, he understands that his time among the living has ended, but he still refuses to leave the Bardo. When he died, he very quickly passed through the Bardo and into the afterlife, where he witnessed two people receive their final judgments. The first person, a man in a yellow bathing suit, was admitted to heaven. But the second person, a man in a funeral suit, was sent to hell. When the Reverend stepped up to receive his judgment, he watched the beings deciding his fate respond quite negatively when they examined him—even more negatively, in fact, than they had responded when judging the man in the funeral suit. As such, the Reverend turned and ran, stopping only when he reached the Bardo. Since then, he has remained in this transitional space, never speaking a word to his friends about this experience because several ethereal beings whispered in his ear as he ran that he would be judged even more harshly upon his return if he ever repeated what he saw. Because of this experience, his face is frozen in a look of terror and surprise, though he speaks calmly, often giving his friends and Willie Lincoln sound advice. Indeed, he tries to convince Willie to leave the Bardo, though he’s hesitant to go along with all of Vollman and Bevins’s ideas regarding ways to do this, since he doesn’t want to act against God’s will and nullify the “grace” by which he is allowed to remain in the Bardo. By the end of the novel, though, the Reverend is the one who fights the hardest to save Willie, ultimately sacrificing himself and departing from the Bardo in order to keep the boy from getting stuck there forever.

The Reverend Everly Thomas Quotes in Lincoln in the Bardo

The Lincoln in the Bardo quotes below are all either spoken by The Reverend Everly Thomas or refer to The Reverend Everly Thomas. 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 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 29 Quotes

The lead angel took my face into her hands as her wing swished back and forth, putting me in mind of a horse’s tail as that animal feeds.

Are you thriving here, Reverend? she said, wing extended lazily above her. Is He whom you served in life present here?

I—I believe He is, I said.

He is, of course, everywhere, she said. But does not like to see you lingering here. Among such low companions.

Her beauty was considerable and increasing by the second. I saw I must end our interview or risk disaster.

Please go, I said. I do not—I do not require you today.

But soon, I think? She said.

Her beauty swelled beyond description.

And I burst into tears.

Related Characters: The Reverend Everly Thomas (speaker)
Page Number: 100
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 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 80-81 Quotes

And though that mass co-habitation had jarred much loose from me (a nagging, hazy mental cloud of details from my life now hung about me: names, faces, mysterious foyers, the smells of long-ago meals; carpet patterns from I knew not what house, distinctive pieces of cutlery, a toy horse with one ear missing, the realization that my wife’s name had been Emily), it had not delivered the essential truth I sought, as to why I had been damned. I halted on the trail, lagging behind, desperate to bring that cloud into focus and recall who I had been, and what evil I had done, but was not successful in this, and then had to hurry to catch my friends up.

Related Characters: The Reverend Everly Thomas (speaker), Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:

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 Reverend Everly Thomas Character Timeline in Lincoln in the Bardo

The timeline below shows where the character The Reverend Everly Thomas appears in Lincoln in the Bardo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
...talk with such a nasty—” Interrupting the boy, Vollman announces the arrival of their friend the Reverend Everly Thomas, who sprints over looking like he always looks: “eyebrows arched high, looking behind... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
“A newcomer?” says the Reverend in a calm voice, despite his startled demeanor. “I believe we have the honor of... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...“All the while wishing themselves elsewhere,” adds Roger Bevins III. “Thinking only of lunch,” says the Reverend . Despite these pieces of advice, though, Willie decides to stay, thinking about how he... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Bevins, Vollman, and the Reverend explain that young people “are not meant to tarry.” Indeed, they have seen many children... (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 Willie joins... (full context)
Chapter 12
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
As Willie walk-skims with Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend , a woman joins them and lists off the names of various “wildwoods flowers.” As... (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, and they assure him... (full context)
Chapter 16
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...making his way toward the white stone home through the graves. “This was highly irregular,” the Reverend notes. “It was after hours; the front gate would be locked.” Indeed, Willie has only... (full context)
Chapter 20
Unity Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...white stone home, Lincoln picks up Willie’s lifeless body and cradles it. At this point, the Reverend realizes a crowd has formed outside the crypt, as other souls want to watch the... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Watching Willie’s father leave, the Reverend reenters the white stone home and finds Willie sitting in the corner. “My father,” says... (full context)
Chapter 24
Unity Theme Icon
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...souls emerged from their dwelling places. “Individuals we had not seen in years walked out,” the Reverend says. “Individuals we had never seen before, now made their anxious debuts,” adds Roger Bevins... (full context)
Chapter 25
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
The Reverend takes a moment to underline the fact that the people in this place have been... (full context)
Chapter 27
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At this point, the Reverend interrupts to describe Jane Ellis’s appearance. Sometimes, he explains, the three orbs that surround her... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...is but a child.” Nonetheless, Lieutenant Cecil Stone holds forth with his racist monologue, and the Reverend explains—as an aside—that the Lieutenant often grows very tall while spewing such bombastic words, reaching... (full context)
Unity Theme Icon
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
“Enough,” the Reverend says to the Barons. Vollman agrees that these two souls are too vulgar to speak... (full context)
Chapter 28
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
...things, we knew, comprised merely the advanced guard, so to speak, of what was coming,” the Reverend says. Amending this statement, Vollman adds, “Of who was coming.” These luxuries, they explain, are... (full context)
Chapter 29
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...in lengthy procession,” Vollman says. “each of us apprehending them in a different guise,” adds the Reverend . Vollman, for one, sees a group of attractive young brides “arrayed in thinnish things.”... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
While his friends endure their own attacks, the Reverend speaks to a beautiful angel, who asks him if he thinks God is present in... (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 of the “matterlightblooming... (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 on its roof.... (full context)
Unity Theme Icon
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
...older souls that his father promised to return, but Vollman insists this won’t actually happen. Reverend Thomas adds that they’ll explain to Willie’s father why the boy had to leave—if, that is,... (full context)
Chapter 32
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend have seen this tendril before. Indeed, they witnessed Elise Traynor become engulfed by the very... (full context)
Unity Theme Icon
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 when she succumbed.... (full context)
Chapter 34-35
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend start digging at the tendrils wrapping around Willie. Above, the Three Bachelors fly about while... (full context)
Chapter 36
Unity Theme Icon
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
The Reverend sees that Vollman and Bevins are “intrigued” by the news that Lincoln is still on... (full context)
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Vollman and Bevins mutter their agreement, and the Reverend makes his way back to the roof. As he does so, Vollman and Bevins glance... (full context)
Chapter 42-44
Unity Theme Icon
...grass, looking like “a sculpture on the theme of Loss.” Pausing and briefly considering that the Reverend would disapprove, they enter the man’s body. First, Vollman goes in, sitting in the same... (full context)
Chapter 50-52
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...confusion around this issue,” Vollman admits once again, telling a story in which he, Bevins, the Reverend , and several other souls inspired a young bickering couple to retreat behind a stone... (full context)
Chapter 60
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the Reverend toils in solitude, working to free Willie from the tendrils. As he does so, an... (full context)
Chapter 61
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
“For I am different, yes,” the Reverend admits, though he doesn’t say this to Willie. Unlike Bevins, Vollman, and everybody else in... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Telling the story of his journey into death, the Reverend describes walking “along a high-mountain trail” behind two men he somehow knows have died mere... (full context)
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The Reverend and his companions come upon a set of stone steps that lead into the valley.... (full context)
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The honor guard opens the door, and the Reverend and his fellow travelers walk across a diamond floor “to a single diamond table.” At... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
As the large doors of diamond open to admit the bathing-suited man, the Reverend glimpses “a tent of purest white silk” and a “great feast about to unfold.” Looking... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
...of horrific opprobrium and mourning echoe[s] all across that kingdom.” When the diamond doors open, the Reverend can’t believe the change that has taken place within. The tent, which had been made... (full context)
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
“How did you live?” ask the yellow-footed beings, and they put their heads to the Reverend ’s temples. Up close, the beings look like familiar authority figures from the Reverend’s childhood.... (full context)
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Although the yellow-footed beings don’t follow him, “whips of fire” fly by the Reverend ’s ears, whispering, “Tell no one about this. Or it will be worse upon your... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Ever since he learned of his impending damnation, the Reverend has racked his brain for reasons why he might deserve such harsh punishment. “I did... (full context)
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
As the Reverend concludes his tale, he sees that Willie’s situation has worsened, the tendrils having engulfed the... (full context)
Chapter 63
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Loss Theme Icon
...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 the tendrils have... (full context)
Chapter 67-68
Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
...President” as he goes. “He calls for my father,” Willie says. “Your father is President?” the Reverend asks. “He is,” replies Willie. “Of?” asks the Reverend. “The United States,” Willie answers, and... (full context)
Unity Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...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. In fact, the boy... (full context)
Chapter 75-76
Unity Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the Reverend and Bevins tear their way through the tendril around Willie’s waste. As they do so,... (full context)
Chapter 77
Unity Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
The Reverend hesitates to enter Lincoln. The last time he went into a human, it was when... (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 follow them. Soon... (full context)
Unity Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
The Reverend notes that he and the other souls haven’t always “been so solitary.” In fact, in... (full context)
Unity Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...member is a normal size. Similarly, Bevins has the correct number of body parts, and the Reverend no longer looks eternally shocked or scared. “Poor multiply raped Litzie became capable of speech,... (full context)
Chapter 78-79
Unity Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...this. Losing hope, the many souls exit Lincoln and, upon doing so, Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend remember they’ve left Willie at the white stone home. (full context)
Chapter 80-81
Unity Theme Icon
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
When Vollman, Bevins, and the Reverend reach the white stone home, they find Willie on the floor, “cocooned to the neck”... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
The Reverend asks these strange voices if they’re in Hell. “Not the worst one,” says the British... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
As the hell-beings drone on about their “predispositions,” Vollman looks at the Reverend and detects a “flicker of resolve” or “defiance” in his face. Indeed, the Reverend is... (full context)
Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...be affixed inside the white stone home or on its roof. When Willie doesn’t respond, the Reverend tells the carapace that it would be best to put the boy on the roof.... (full context)
Chapter 82
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
The hell tendrils chase the Reverend , ripping through the ground like a strange earthen wave. These hellish vines split into... (full context)
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Vice and Virtue Theme Icon
The beam of light from the Reverend ’s departure temporarily damages the tendrils. Kicking the now-viscous vines, Vollman and Bevins extract Willie.... (full context)