The Water Dancer

by

Ta-Nehisi Coates

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The Water Dancer: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The convention ends the next morning, and Hiram watches as the campsite is packed up. Kessiah sees Hiram and expresses her condolences, saying that she knows Bland meant something to him. Hiram feels comforted, and senses that Kessiah is the older sister he always needed. Hiram then goes to see Raymond and Otha, who are talking with Corrine, Hawkins, and Amy. Everyone is tenderly embracing Otha and sharing soothing words. During the journey back to Philadelphia, Hiram has a dream about Bland and wakes up feeling tormented with guilt that, because he forged the papers, Bland’s death and Lydia’s recapture must be his fault.  
The behavior of the Underground agents in the wake of the news about Bland and Lydia is deeply moving. Their shared commitment to one another and to the cause of freedom creates an intense, familial bond between all of them. It is through this love and support that they are able to keep going in the midst of so much tragedy and horror.
Themes
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
The group is staying overnight at a tavern to break up the journey back to Philadelphia. Hiram finds Hawkins, Amy, and Corrine smoking cigars together and sharing memories of Bland. Hiram joins them and confesses that he is to blame for Bland’s death. However, Hawkins and Amy assured him that it had nothing to do with the papers Hiram forged. In reality, Bland, Lydia, and the children had almost made it to Philadelphia when one of the children got sick. A suspicious local white man stopped them and took Lydia and the children to a police station to enquire if there were reports of any runaways in the area. Bland could have left them but refused. Hawkins says sending Bland into the “coffin” to get “some babies” was foolish.
As is clear by now, Corrine, Amy, and Hawkins have a different attitude toward their work as Underground agents than members of the Philadelphia station. They tend to be less sentimental and more ruthless than the other agents (and particularly Hiram). To them, fighting for freedom is more like a war than a struggle for justice, and this fight encapsulates messy ethics like any other war.
Themes
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon