The Water Dancer

by

Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Corrine Quinn Character Analysis

Corrine Quinn is a white woman from Elm County who owns a property named Bryceton not far from Lockless. An only child, Corrine inherited her parent’s property and vast fortune when they died. At the beginning of the novel, she is engaged to Maynard, and when Maynard drowns in the River Goose, she remains close with Howell and regularly visits Lockless. Although Corrine maintains the outward appearance of a typical elite Virginia lady, in reality she is an abolitionist who plays a key role in the Virginia Underground. Bryceton is actually a station on the Underground, and just before Howell dies Corrine buys Lockless so that she can transform it into a station as well, giving it to Hiram to run. Corrine is a “fanatical” abolitionist who approaches her work for the Underground with intimidating zeal. Highly intelligent, she makes a series of ingenious and daring decisions in order to build the power of the Underground. At the same time, Corrine can be rather ruthless and controlling. Indeed, her desire for total control over her operation and the minds of her agents can be reminiscent of an enslaver, something that Hiram points out to her at the end of the novel. Although Corrine is a flawed person who is motivated by egotism, her contribution to the abolitionist cause is nonetheless significant.

Corrine Quinn Quotes in The Water Dancer

The The Water Dancer quotes below are all either spoken by Corrine Quinn or refer to Corrine Quinn. 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:
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the One World edition of The Water Dancer published in 2019.
Chapter 14 Quotes

The Task was a trap. Even Georgie was trapped. And so who was Corrine Quinn to judge such a man? Who was I, who’d run with no higher purpose save my own passions and my own skin? Now I understood the Underground war. It was not the ancient and honorable kind.

Related Characters: Hiram Walker (speaker), Corrine Quinn, Georgie Parks
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 31 Quotes

Corrine Quinn was among the most fanatical agents I ever encountered on the Underground. All of these fanatics were white. They took slavery as a personal insult or affront, a stain upon their name. They had seen women carried off to fancy, or watched as a father was stripped and beaten in front of his child, or seen whole families pinned like hogs into rail-cars, steam-boats, and jails. Slavery humiliated them, because it offended a basic sense of goodness that they believed themselves to possess. And when their cousins perpetrated the base practice, it served to remind them how easily they might do the same. They scorned their barbaric brethren, but they were brethren all the same. So their opposition was a kind of vanity, a hatred of slavery that far outranked any love of the slave.

Related Characters: Hiram Walker (speaker), Corrine Quinn
Page Number: 370-371
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Water Dancer LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Water Dancer PDF

Corrine Quinn Character Timeline in The Water Dancer

The timeline below shows where the character Corrine Quinn appears in The Water Dancer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
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Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
Howell, meanwhile, has managed to find hope in the form of Corrine Quinn, “perhaps the wealthiest woman in all of Elm County,” who he hopes will become... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...Maynard drones on while Adelaide smiles politely in response. Both Hiram and Maynard then see Corrine Quinn, standing in the ladies’ section.  (full context)
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Maynard gazes at Corrine, but then goes to stand among the low whites. Hiram is always astonished by the... (full context)
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...with a fancy girl. Next to him is Hawkins. Maynard warns him not to tell Corrine about the fancy, and Hawkins assures him he won’t. As Hiram drives them home, he... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...tormented by his thoughts, and feels that working will be “the only escape.” He sees Corrine Quinn’s carriage coming up the road. Ever since Maynard’s death, Corrine has been regularly visiting... (full context)
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...is returning to continue his work when he runs into Hawkins, who tells him that Corrine would like to speak with him. Hiram finds Corrine speaking with Howell, fondly sharing memories... (full context)
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...was Hiram who got himself out of the river—Hawkins found him lying on the grass. Corrine notes that they were all supposed to be “family,” and that she doesn’t see why... (full context)
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Corrine observes that Hiram had been Maynard’s “right arm,” and that following Maynard’s death he probably... (full context)
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...with Hiram, which is surprising. Hiram feels full of desire for Sophia. He worries that Corrine may soon take him away from Lockless. He and Sophia link arms, and they gaze... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...is still in the mortal world. He is lying in a bed, and Hawkins and Corrine are looking at him. Corrine welcomes Hiram and asks if he knows where he is.... (full context)
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Corrine now explains that regardless of whether Hiram meant to, in killing Maynard he destroyed plans... (full context)
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Hiram thinks about Georgie and wonders if his wife, Amber, knew about his betrayal. Corrine now hands him a document and explains that Hiram’s escape humiliated Howell, who sold him... (full context)
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Corrine continues that they suspected Hiram might have conducted himself back to Lockless, and had agents... (full context)
Chapter 13
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That evening, Hiram smells food cooking and comes downstairs to find Corrine, Hawkins, Amy, Mr. Fields, and three unknown black people. Seeing Hiram, Corrine invites him to... (full context)
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...also understands that he doesn’t want to talk much. She confirms that they are at Corrine’s property, Bryceton. As an only child, she inherited the estate after her parents died. Influenced... (full context)
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After a month of life at Bryceton, Hiram comes to meet Mr. Fields and finds Corrine there instead. Hiram is impressed by Corrine, but also intimidated. He feels that he recognizes... (full context)
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Hiram spends a week studying the documents before meeting Corrine, who “rigorously” questions him about the details of the enslaver’s life. These interrogations take place... (full context)
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One day, after another failed experiment, Corrine tells Hiram that his training is nearly complete; he is almost ready to go out... (full context)
Chapter 14
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In order to allow Hiram access to the deepest circle of the Underground, Corrine has to trust him completely, and in order to test his trustworthiness, she demands “the... (full context)
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Hiram feels uncertain, but Corrine reminds him that Georgie effectively tried to kill him. Sending people to the South is... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...Bland owes Hiram an apology. Raymond then admits that he knows where Sophia is: Lockless. Corrine persuaded Howell to take Sophia back. The Underground has not gone to rescue her yet... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...the missions that lie before them. Bland says that rescuing Sophia will be straightforward, because Corrine will help them. Hiram suddenly feels a powerful surge of anger at Corrine, who left... (full context)
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...explains that Moses “has her own promises to keep.” He then explains that he met Corrine while she was only a teenager and living in New York for her schooling. She... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...news. Hiram takes the papers back to Raymond, who is now sitting near Harriet and Corrine. Hiram rests for a while, and when he wakes up Otha is sitting by him... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...air” while Sophia and Thena are still enslaved. he knows he will need to persuade Corrine to help free them, which may be a challenge without Bland. (full context)
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...be tricky, because the Underground prefers to save younger people. When Hiram goes to meet Corrine and Hawkins, Corrine says that in killing Maynard, Hiram saved her from a terrible marriage,... (full context)
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Corrine and Hawkins are initially highly reluctant, but Hiram insists, and Corrine eventually agrees. The next... (full context)
Chapter 28
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Howell asks how Hiram is finding it at Corrine’s, then adds that, seeing as Roscoe was smaller than Hiram, it might be better if... (full context)
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...dresses Howell in his nightclothes and puts him to bed. The next day, Hiram brings Corrine, Amy, and Hawkins over for lunch; Corrine and Howell eat alone. After the guests leave... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...will visit, and they will discuss the old days. The person Howell sees most is Corrine, who he still views as a surrogate daughter. Yet Hiram is responsible for “everyday companionship”... (full context)
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...esteemed families of Quality in Elm County back in the old days. The next day, Corrine comes for a visit. While she is there, Hiram and Hawkins walk down to the... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...Caroline after Carolina, the home from which Sophia was taken. While Sophia was in jail, Corrine came to see her and took her out. Corrine said it would be better if... (full context)
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After Sophia returned to Lockless, Corrine would sometimes come down to the Street and ask her who had been sold and... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...himself to accept. On the way, Sophia asks him about the splendor she imagines at Corrine’s house, and he answers vaguely. Sophia says she’s heard that Corrine often travels North, and... (full context)
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During Christmastime, Corrine comes to stay with Lockless, bringing a great number of servants as well as guests... (full context)
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Hiram observes that Corrine is one of the most “fanatical” Underground agents that he has ever met, and that... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...under his shirt and walks into the kitchen, remembering that Howell is due to see Corrine that evening. After dinner, Corrine mentions that Hawkins wants to speak with Hiram. Going to... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...Sophia found Hiram outside her cabin yesterday morning, shivering with fever, and sent word to Corrine for help. It is a good thing that he is there, because Howell knows about... (full context)
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Corrine asks if Hiram will conduct Sophia, too, and he indicates that he will if he... (full context)