The Water Dancer

by

Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Rose was Hiram’s mother and the daughter of Santi Bess. She was beautiful, and all the men at Lockless were in love with her. She and her sister, Emma, would water dance on special occasions. Rose was raped by her enslaver, Howell Walker, and fell pregnant with Hiram as a result. Howell was very attached to Rose, but after she attempted to run away, he was forced to confront the fact that she didn’t want to be with him. As punishment, he sold her, separating her from Hiram forever. Although Rose doesn’t appear directly in the narrative, Hiram experiences visions of her during Conduction, and often dreams about her. Her ultimate fate remains unknown to Hiram and everyone else in the novel.

Rose Quotes in The Water Dancer

The The Water Dancer quotes below are all either spoken by Rose or refer to Rose. 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 1 Quotes

I had always avoided that bridge, for it was stained with the remembrance of the mothers, uncles, and cousins gone Natchez-way. But knowing now the awesome power of memory, how it can open a blue door from one world to another, how it can move us from mountains to meadows, from green woods to fields caked in snow, knowing now that memory can fold the land like cloth, and knowing, too, how I had pushed my memory of her into the “down there” of my mind, how I forgot, but did not forget, I know now that this story, this Conduction, had to begin there on that fantastic bridge between the land of the living and the land of the lost.

Related Characters: Hiram Walker (speaker), Rose
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

It occurred to me then that even my own intelligence was unexceptional, for you could not set eyes anywhere on Lockless and not see the genius in its makers—genius in the hands that carved out the columns of the portico, genius in the songs that evoked, even in the whites, the deepest of joys and sorrows, genius in the men who made the fiddle strings whine and trill at their dances, genius in the bouquet of flavors served up from the kitchen, genius in all our lost, genius in Big John. Genius in my mother.

I imagined that my own quality might someday be recognized and then, perhaps, I, one who understood the workings of the house, the workings of the field, and the span of the larger world, might be deemed the true heir, the rightful heir, of Lockless. With this broad knowledge I would make the fields bloom again, and in that way save us all from the auctions and separation, from a descent into the darkness of Natchez, which was the coffin, which was all that awaited, I knew, under the rule of Maynard.

Related Characters: Hiram Walker (speaker), Rose, Maynard Walker, Big John
Related Symbols: Lockless, The Coffin
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

Maybe the power was in some way related to the block in my memory, and to unlock one was, perhaps, to unlock the other. And so in those dark and timeless hours in the pit, it became my ritual to reconstruct everything I had heard of her and all that I had seen of her in those moments down in the Goose. Rose of the kindest heart. Rose, sister of Emma. Rose the beautiful. Rose the silent. Rose the Water Dancer.

Related Characters: Hiram Walker (speaker), Rose, Emma
Related Symbols: Water Dancing, The River Goose
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Water Dancer LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Water Dancer PDF

Rose Character Timeline in The Water Dancer

The timeline below shows where the character Rose appears in The Water Dancer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Hiram has a vision of his mother, Rose, picturing her dancing on the bridge and looking like she did when he was a... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Hiram sees Rose water dancing, wearing a large jar on her head filled with water which, despite her... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
...and Hiram knows immediately that he is dead. Returning to his vision, he now sees Rose giving a young boy a shell necklace and kissing him before walking away. Crying, the... (full context)
Chapter 2
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...complex, detailed, or trivial. However, the one thing he is not able to remember is Rose. She was taken when he was nine years old, but all his memories of her... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
When Hiram thinks back to the day that Rose was sold, he remembers “screams” and “pleading,” as well as a “long trough of water.”... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
...himself back in the cabin where he woke up. When he tries to think of Rose, the memory of her dissolves into wisps. He falls asleep and wakes again realizing that... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...him out of the house. He runs to the cabin he used to share with Rose and waits on the steps until the Task begins for the day. He is now... (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
...caused by the land rebelling against the perverse horrors of slavery. She says she remembers Rose and Emma, how they used to dance, and urges Hiram not to forget them, no... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...plantation on his horse, Howell tips his hat at him. Hiram knows that Howell sold Rose, yet Hiram cannot help but see him as an aspirational figure. Still young, he is... (full context)
Chapter 4
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...it.” Georgie then tells Hiram that all the men used to be in love with Rose. He reminisces about watching Emma and Rose water dance. (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...in Natchez. At this point they reach the bridge, and Hiram has the vision of Rose. He is not sure how exactly, but it was this memory that facilitated his Conduction. (full context)
Chapter 6
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...the guests, pleased to see black people who remember him from childhood and who knew Rose. On Christmas Day, the Tasked divide themselves so that half work on preparing a feast... (full context)
Chapter 11
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
...of these times has been connected to memory, and in particular to the memory of Rose. He wonders if the power is “in some way related to the block in [his]... (full context)
Chapter 16
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...there. Just as he is arriving at the house, he experiences a vivid memory of Rose, and when he returns back to the present, Raymond and Otha’s mother, Viola, tells him... (full context)
Chapter 20
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...introduces herself as Kessiah, saying that she also used to live at Lockless and that Rose used to leave Hiram with her to look after. She is Thena’s daughter. She and... (full context)
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...since. This is how she heard about Hiram. Kessiah embraces Hiram warmly and asks how Rose is doing. (full context)
Chapter 24
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
...Santi Bess, was “a pure-blood African” with a talent for storytelling. One day, Bess told Rose that she was going somewhere Rose couldn’t follow. That night, she disappeared, taking 48 enslaved... (full context)
Chapter 26
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...Hiram suddenly realizes that she is his family, a connection back to Virginia and to Rose. He realizes that his old fantasies about inheriting Lockless and seeing Howell as his “savior”... (full context)
Chapter 28
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...his relief. He says that his two great regrets in life are letting go of Rose, then letting go of Hiram. (full context)
Chapter 33
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...noticed previously. Inside is a shell necklace, which he instantly recognizes as the one around Rose’s neck in the visions of her water dancing.  (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...they walk out the North Star shines brightly above them. Hiram dedicates the Conduction to Rose and to all mothers who have been taken or who have had their loved ones... (full context)
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...told her before. He says that for a long time he could not really remember Rose, but now he does. He remembers what she looked like, and that she used to... (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
Ryland caught Rose and Hiram and brought them to the jail. Howell came to the jail looking “pained,”... (full context)
Chapter 34
Memory vs. Forgetting Theme Icon
Broken Families Theme Icon
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Inhumanity Theme Icon
...the necklace, wanting him to know that he hasn’t forgotten what happened when Howell sold Rose. He then goes back to the cabin to reunite with Sophia and Carrie. That night,... (full context)