Sing, Unburied, Sing

by

Jesmyn Ward

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Sing, Unburied, Sing can help.

Given Character Analysis

Given is Leonie’s older brother, the only son of Pop and Mam. As a senior in high school, Given was a dedicated football player, close with both his white and black teammates. Ignoring Pop’s warnings about hanging out with white people, Given would go hunting with white people and one day struck up a bet with Michael’s cousin about who could kill a buck first. When Given won the bet, Michael’s cousin shot and killed him. Given then returns as a spirit, haunting the characters in the novel and particularly his sister Leonie. Given does not speak to Leonie, so his purpose as a ghost remains unclear. However, the fact that he appears whenever she is high suggests that Given is trying to encourage Leonie to stop engaging in self-destructive behavior and be a better mother to her children.

Given Quotes in Sing, Unburied, Sing

The Sing, Unburied, Sing quotes below are all either spoken by Given or refer to Given. 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:
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Sing, Unburied, Sing published in 2017.
Chapter 7: Leonie Quotes

This is a miracle, I think, so I close my eyes and ignore Given-not-Given, who is sitting there with a sad look on his face, mouth in a soft frown, and think of Michael, real Michael, and wonder if we had another baby, if it would look more like him than Michaela. If we had another baby, we could get it right.

Related Characters: Leonie (speaker), Kayla (Michaela), Michael, Given
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11: Jojo Quotes

I ain't never have the talent for it. Seeing the dead. I could read people, read the future or the past in they bodies. Know what was wrong or needed by their songs: in the plants, in the animals, too. But never saw the dead. Wanted it so bad after Given died––

Related Characters: Mam (speaker), Given
Related Symbols: Singing
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Sing, Unburied, Sing LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sing, Unburied, Sing PDF

Given Character Timeline in Sing, Unburied, Sing

The timeline below shows where the character Given appears in Sing, Unburied, Sing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...feels sad. Every time Leonie gets high, she sees a vision of her older brother, Given. This time Misty notices her staring. Misty (who is white) has black boyfriend named Bishop,... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
In his senior year of high school, Leonie’s brother Given was a dedicated football player who was friends with both his white and black teammates.... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
...with the “gift” can see dead people, but that Mam can only dream of seeing Given again. Leonie saw him for the first time three years ago, after doing a line... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...house to say she is going to pick Michael up. After Michael’s cousin had killed Given, Michael spoke to Leonie for the first time. He came up to her in school,... (full context)
Chapter 4: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Leonie looks at Jojo in the backseat and thinks that he looks like Given, but more serious. Misty wants to drive past a courthouse that is apparently beautiful, but... (full context)
Chapter 7: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...sex, which Leonie describes as a transcendent, sacred experience. After they are finished, Leonie sees Given sitting in the room, but she tries to ignore him. She expects Given to disappear,... (full context)
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...officer searches the vehicle, and as he does so Leonie gets suddenly and violently high. Given appears, and Kayla vomits again. The officer finds nothing but Jojo’s gris-gris bag, which he... (full context)
Chapter 10: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...take her out. Mam falls asleep and Leonie leaves the room, walking past photographs of Given and past Kayla, who has fallen asleep white eating a cracker. Suddenly, Leonie can feel... (full context)
Chapter 11: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...rig during that fishing trip. Michael also admitted that it was his cousin who killed Given. Michael serves up the bacon, but it is burnt, and Kayla falls to the floor... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
...still be present, on the other side of the door, and that she’ll be with Given, Pop’s parents, and her own parents. Mam tells him that time isn’t a “straight line,”... (full context)
Chapter 12: Richie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...Leonie tell Michael that she has something to do, and for a second he sees Given, but, just as suddenly, Given is gone. Richie watches Leonie walk to Given’s grave and... (full context)
Chapter 14: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
After bringing Mam the rocks from the cemetery, Leonie goes to find Given. She sees him and he shakes his head at her. Leonie knows that Given can... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...says, but still young and in need of love. He wants to see his mother. Given is then in the room again, and Leonie feels frightened. Given repeats: “Not your mother.”... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...to accept their offerings. Jojo tells someone that he got what he came for, and Given joins in: “You heard my nephew. Go, Richie.” Leonie cannot see Richie, only Given. Jojo... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...and that she wants to go to Al’s. She wants to get high and see Given again, even though she knows he won’t come anymore. Michael says they need to stay... (full context)