Sing, Unburied, Sing

by

Jesmyn Ward

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

Pop (River) Character Analysis

Pop is Jojo’s maternal grandfather, although he was more present in Jojo’s life than either of his real parents and, when the novel begins, is Jojo’s only active parent. Pop is brave, strong, intelligent, and kind. He is extremely comfortable in nature––a fact reflected in his given name, “River”––and tells Jojo about the spirit that exists in every part of the world. Pop regularly tells stories to Jojo, including the story of how he was imprisoned at Parchman on a false charge at the age of 15. At Parchman, Pop took the 12-year-old Richie under his wing, a fact that shows Pop has always had a caring, selfless nature. This aspect of Pop’s character is ironically epitomized when Pop kills Richie to save him from being tortured and executed by the guards at Parchman. Although Pop is haunted by this act for the rest of his life, he knows that he spared Richie from a much worse fate.

Pop (River) Quotes in Sing, Unburied, Sing

The Sing, Unburied, Sing quotes below are all either spoken by Pop (River) or refer to Pop (River). 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 1: Jojo Quotes

His maman and daddy avoided them census takes, never answered their questions right, changed the number of kids they had, never registered none of their births. Said them people came around, sniffing out that information to control them, to cage them like livestock.

Related Characters: Jojo (speaker), Pop (River)
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3: Jojo Quotes

The only animal I saw in front of me was Pop, Pop with his straight shoulders and his tall back, his pleading eyes the only thing that spoke to me in that moment and told me what he said without words: I love you, boy. I love you.

Related Characters: Jojo (speaker), Pop (River)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5: Jojo Quotes

She ain't Mam. She ain't Pop. She ain't never healed nothing or grown nothing in her life, and she don't know.

Related Characters: Jojo (speaker), Pop (River), Mam, Leonie
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7: Leonie Quotes

It feels good to be mean, to speak past the baby I can't hit and let that anger touch another. The one I'm never good enough for. Never Mama for. Just Leonie, a name wrapped around the same disappointed syllables I've heard from Mama, from Pop, even from Given, my whole fucking life.

Related Characters: Leonie (speaker), Jojo , Pop (River), Mam, Kayla (Michaela)
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13: Jojo Quotes

I said: It's going to be all right, Richie. He said. I heeled the dogs. Held out my hands to him, right side out. Moved slow. Soothed him. Said: We gone get you out of this. We gone get you away from here. Touched his arm: he was burning up. I'm going home, Riv? he asked. I squatted down next to him, the dogs steady yipping, and I looked at him. He had baby hair on the edge of his scalp, Jojo. Little fine hair he'd had since he sucked at his mama's tit. Yes, Richie. I'm a take you home, I said. And then I took the shank I kept in my boot and I punched it one time into his neck. In the big vein on his right side. Held him till the blood stopped spurting. Him looking at me, mouth open. A child. Tears and snot all over his face. Shocked and scared, until he was still.

Related Characters: Pop (River) (speaker), Richie (speaker), Jojo
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

I washed my hands every day, Jojo. But that damn blood ain't never come out. Hold my hands up to my face, I can smell it under my skin. Smelled it when the warden and sergeant came up on us, the dogs yipping and licking blood from they muzzles. They'd torn his throat out, hamstringed him. Smelled it when the warden told me I'd done good. Smelled it the day they let me out on account I'd led the dogs that caught and killed Richie. Smelled it when I finally found his mama after weeks of searching, just so I could tell her Richie was dead and she could look at me with a stone face and shut the door on me.

Related Characters: Pop (River) (speaker), Jojo , Richie
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Sing, Unburied, Sing LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sing, Unburied, Sing PDF

Pop (River) Character Timeline in Sing, Unburied, Sing

The timeline below shows where the character Pop (River) appears in Sing, Unburied, Sing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
It is Jojo’s 13th birthday, and his grandfather, Pop, has asked him to help him kill a goat. As Jojo’s narrative begins, his sister... (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
After Jojo vomits, Pop tells him that he heard Kayla crying, so Jojo goes back inside, but he finds... (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
Jojo remembers a time after Mam was first diagnosed with cancer, when Pop left him alone with Leonie, who then drove away herself. Jojo heard Pop’s brother, Stag,... (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
Back in the present, Jojo asks Pop to tell him about Parchman. Pop explains that he and Stag had the same father,... (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
Pop explains that Richie was 12 years old, and had been sent to Parchman for stealing... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...only Leonie singing; Kayla doesn’t know the song, Mam is too sick to sing, and Pop only mouths the words. The phone rings, and Leonie answers it. Jojo realizes it is... (full context)
Chapter 2: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
The next day Leonie and Pop argue about Leonie bringing the kids to pick Michael up from Parchman. When Leonie got... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Leonie throws Jojo’s day-old birthday cake in the trash. Pop says Leonie has to tell Mam if she’s going to take the kids to pick... (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
...white and black teammates. One day he went hunting with his white teammates, even though Pop warned him against it. Given bet Michael’s cousin that he could kill a buck with... (full context)
Chapter 3: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...and hurries them out the door. Misty is already waiting in the car. Jojo hugs Pop goodbye. They drive for a while, and Jojo stares at Misty. They stop for gas;... (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
...a piece of paper that reads: “Keep this close.” It could be either Mam or Pop’s handwriting. Jojo starts thinking about Parchman again. Pop describes Parchman as “mass murder.” He once... (full context)
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
One day while Pop and Richie were doing laundry, Kinnie Wagner rode past. Kinnie was a notorious white man... (full context)
Chapter 5: Jojo
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...fall asleep, but can’t stop thinking. When he was younger, he wanted a dog, but Pop could never keep dogs after his time in Parchman. In Parchman, Pop had tried to... (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
...passionately while Kayla points out birds to Jojo. However, Jojo can’t see any. Jojo recalls Pop telling him that after Richie was whipped, he remained feverish, telling Pop that he dreamed... (full context)
Chapter 6: Richie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Richie knows immediately that Jojo is River’s (Pop’s) child. He can tell from the way that Jojo tries to protect Kayla. Just... (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
Richie notes that even though there is a bad history between black people and dogs, River was at ease with all animals, and the dogs behaved well for him. This was... (full context)
Chapter 8: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...soon as the officer lets them go, Richie begins talking to Jojo. He asks if Pop told Jojo about him, and Jojo says Pop did. Richie tells Jojo that he looks... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...make it, but that he doesn’t know how he died and needs to find out. Pop has never told Jojo the story of what happened after Richie escaped; Jojo knows that... (full context)
Chapter 9: Richie
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
...the arrival of white settlers. Luckily, Richie never wakes up in the time he and River were at Parchman. Back then, River “had a woman,” a prostitute nicknamed the Sunshine Woman... (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
...flee north. Richie came to understand what love and home meant through his relationship with River. When Jojo and his family arrived at Parchman, Richie heard the white snake-bird telling him... (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
...When she awakes again, Michael suggests that they drop the kids off at Mam and Pop’s house and go get something to eat. Leonie feels irrationally disappointed, fantasizing about her and... (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
They arrive back home to find Mam and Pop gone, and Michael decides to drive them over to visit his parents. Leonie feels anxious... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
They arrive home to find Pop sitting on the porch. As they get out of the car, Leonie notices that Michael... (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
...to gather rocks from the cemetery, cotton, cornmeal, and rum. Leonie cries and asks if Pop can do it instead, but Mam says that because she brought Leonie into the world,... (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
When Jojo arrives back home and sees Pop again, it takes a concerted effort for him not to cry. Pop tells Jojo to... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Outside, Richie asks why Pop can’t hear him, and Jojo admits he doesn’t know. Richie insists that Jojo gets Pop... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
...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,” and... (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
Richie watches River make Jojo and Kayla breakfast, and take them outside to pick berries. Richie begs Jojo... (full context)
Chapter 13: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
...Richie when he was lying in the dirt and singing. In the morning, Jojo helps Pop destroy an animal pen that has been eaten up by termites. While they work, Jojo... (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
Pop was sent to track the runaways, he says. Richie adds that while they were running,... (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
Richie begins to scream. Pop explains that it wasn’t long before the dogs smelled blood and started ripping apart Richie’s... (full context)
Chapter 14: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Jojo and Pop run in, and Leonie says the litany, asking Maman Brigitte to accept their offerings. Jojo... (full context)
Chapter 15: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...each week. They are both “fish-thin,” and sleep on the sofa together. Sometimes Jojo hears Pop talking to Mam at night, calling her by her first name, Philomène. Sometimes at night... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Jojo finds Pop, who is holding Kayla. Kayla asks to be put down, and she walks toward the... (full context)