The Water Dancer

by

Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Otha White Character Analysis

Otha is Raymond’s brother; like Raymond, he was born into slavery. When Otha was a child, his mother, Viola, fled with both him and his brother, Lambert. However, her first escape attempt was unsuccessful, and she and the boys were re-enslaved. By the time she made her second attempt, she left Otha and Lambert behind because at that point she had two younger children and couldn’t carry them all. For a long time, Otha resents his mother for this, but after he reunites with Viola, Raymond, and the rest of his family, he forgives her. Otha’s wife, Lydia, remains enslaved in Alabama, along with his two children. Otha is very close with Bland, and when Bland is killed trying to liberate Lydia and the children, Otha is devastated. However, he emphasizes to Hiram that no matter how many times one loses loved ones, it is vitally important to always remain open to love.

Otha White Quotes in The Water Dancer

The The Water Dancer quotes below are all either spoken by Otha White or refer to Otha White. 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 21 Quotes

“Micajah Bland was not my blood, but he was so much my brother that he would die for me and mine. I am not young to any of this. I lived divided from my blood, and made brothers wherever I lived, and grieved every time we were divided—and we were always divided. But I have never, for an instant, shied away from connection, from love.”

Related Characters: Otha White (speaker), Mr. Fields/Micajah Bland
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Water Dancer LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Water Dancer PDF

Otha White Character Timeline in The Water Dancer

The timeline below shows where the character Otha White appears in The Water Dancer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...black man who Hiram immediately sees must be related to Raymond. He introduces himself as Otha White. Hawkins instructs the White brothers to take care of Hiram, whom he calls “the... (full context)
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
Otha takes Hiram to his bedroom, which he feels is a kind of “heaven.” Later, they... (full context)
Chapter 16
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...because every time he conducts it leaves him exhausted. Back at the house, he finds Otha and Raymond, who summon him to accompany them. Walking through the city streets, Raymond says... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...thought about fleeing but has never actually done it until now. Mary starts crying and Otha embraces her, comforting her. He promises to find somewhere for her and Octavius to live... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...freedom means nothing if a person is cut off from their loved ones. One day, Otha invites Hiram to have dinner at his mother’s house. Hiram travels by ferry across the... (full context)
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
Otha and Lydia have three children. Otha was born into slavery, but both his parents managed... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
Otha himself managed to flee and came to Philadelphia in search of his family. When he... (full context)
Chapter 18
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...city. On the way, he walks past a family of poor black people. He remembers Otha warning those freed by the Underground that without proper support, they will likely end up... (full context)
Chapter 19
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...going to be able to properly understand—and gain control over—Conduction. The next day, he, Bland, Otha, and Raymond discuss the preparations for Lydia’s rescue. Bland explains that they need extremely precise... (full context)
Chapter 20
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
While waiting for updates on the mission, Raymond, Otha, and Hiram set off for the big meeting of abolitionists in New York. This is... (full context)
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...A messenger approaches Hiram and hands him a letter from Bland. Hiram brings it to Otha. The letter states that Bland has Lydia and the children; they have escaped Alabama and... (full context)
Chapter 21
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
...it will begin “soon enough.” The next morning, Hiram wakes to the sound of “commotion.” Otha is in a state of extreme distress. Hiram finds him wailing into Raymond’s shoulder, hardly... (full context)
Broken Families Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...sitting near Harriet and Corrine. Hiram rests for a while, and when he wakes up Otha is sitting by him in the tent. Hiram expresses his sincere apologies, and with great... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
Otha says that he has noticed Hiram struggling to gain control over his Conduction and wants... (full context)
Chapter 22
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 26
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...Robert help support an exhausted Harriet, and Hiram leads the way to a storehouse where Otha and Kessiah are waiting. Seeing Kessiah, Hiram suddenly realizes that she is his family, a... (full context)
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
...because Kessiah and Harriet stick close together. The next day, Hiram wakes up to find Otha, Raymond, and Kessiah talking excitedly at the table. Otha explains that they think they’ve found... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
...hands Hiram a book called The Kidnapped and the Ransomed, which contains the story of Otha’s flight from slavery. Raymond says that Otha and some others will sell the book around... (full context)