Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by

George Saunders

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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 free-time every once in a while—unless, of course, something needed to be done, in which case Thomas would have to give up his time of leisure. Interestingly enough, though, these moments of free time actually unnerved him, since they made him realize that some people enjoy entire lifetimes of this kind of freedom. When Lincoln leaves the cemetery at the end of the novel, Thomas jumps into the president and accompanies him home, remaining inside because he can sense that the man has “no aversion” to black people. Because of this, he decides to train his attention on the many injustices he and his fellow black countrymen and countrywomen have had to endure, hoping to influence Lincoln and cause him to fight against these inequalities.

Thomas Havens Quotes in Lincoln in the Bardo

The Lincoln in the Bardo quotes below are all either spoken by Thomas Havens or refer to Thomas Havens . 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:
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). 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 66 Quotes

Of course, there was always a moment, just as an order was given, when a small, resistant voice would make itself known in the back of my mind. Then the necessary job was to ignore that voice. It was not a defiant or angry voice, particularly, just that little human voice, saying, you know: I wish to do what I wish to do, and not what you are telling me to do.

And I must say, that voice was never quite silenced.

Although it did grow rather quiet over the years.

Related Characters: Thomas Havens (speaker), Willie Lincoln, Elson Farwell
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 95-96 Quotes

I began to feel afraid, occupying someone so accomplished. And yet, I was comfortable in there. And suddenly, wanted him to know me. My life. To know us. Our lot. I don’t know why I felt that way but I did. He had no aversion to me, is how I might put it. Or rather, he had once had such an aversion, still bore traces of it, but, in examining that aversion, pushing it into the light, had somewhat, already, eroded it. He was an open book. An opening book. That had just been opened up somewhat wider. By sorrow. And—by us. By all of us, black and white, who had so recently mass-inhabited him. He had not, it seemed, gone unaffected by that event. Not at all. It had made him sad. Sadder. We had. All of us, white and black, had made him sadder, with our sadness. And now, though it sounds strange to say, he was making me sadder with his sadness, and I thought, Well, sir, if we are going to make a sadness party of it, I have some sadness about which I think someone as powerful as you might like to know.

Related Characters: Thomas Havens (speaker), Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lincoln in the Bardo PDF

Thomas Havens Character Timeline in Lincoln in the Bardo

The timeline below shows where the character Thomas Havens appears in Lincoln in the Bardo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 66
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Transition and Impermanence Theme Icon
Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...them whenever he has fully recovered from his fall. When Elson finishes his tale, Thomas Havens—another former slave—explains that he never felt such anger toward his masters, for he led a... (full context)
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...men,” he clears “the black supplicants away from the white stone home.” In response, Thomas Havens says, “Ah. Here, as there?” Ignoring this, Lieutenant Stone and his cronies push the crowd... (full context)
Chapter 95-96
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
...world, which is saddled with the responsibility of the nation. Moving on, he approaches Thomas Havens, who surprises himself by jumping into the president and matching his stride. Walking along, he... (full context)
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Empathy and Equality Theme Icon
Havens notices that Lincoln has been changed by the souls who recently inhabited him, an experience... (full context)
Chapter 108
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Thomas Havens remains inside President Lincoln as the man mounts his horse and rides out of the... (full context)