The Water Dancer

by

Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Sophia Character Analysis

Sophia is a young woman enslaved by Nathaniel Walker at Lockless. Nathaniel regularly rapes her and eventually fathers her baby, Caroline. Sophia was born and raised in Carolina, where she was in a relationship with a man named Mercury. However, after being sold, she ends up in Virginia at Lockless. Sophia has feelings for Hiram but is fiercely independent, and balks at the idea of being “chained” to any man. She is thus initially resistant to getting together with Hiram, although she eventually commits to being with him and says that because she chose it, it is not a form of confinement. As well as being headstrong and independent, Sophia is intelligent, yet also light-hearted, and often teases Hiram. She gets lost in thought as a way of physically dissociating from her body, perhaps as a result of the trauma and brutality she has had to endure.

Sophia Quotes in The Water Dancer

The The Water Dancer quotes below are all either spoken by Sophia or refer to Sophia. 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 32 Quotes

“Was a big king who come over from Africa on the slave ship with his people. But when they got close to shore, him and his folk took over, killed all the white folks, threw ’em overboard, and tried to sail back home. But the ship run aground, and when the king look out, he see that the white folks’ army is coming for him with they guns and all. So the chief told his people to walk out into the water, to sing and dance as they walked, that the water-goddess brought ’em here, and the water-goddess would take ’em back home.

And when we dance as we do, with the water balanced on our head, we are giving praise to them who danced on the waves. We have flipped it, you see?”

Related Characters: Sophia (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water Dancing
Page Number: 379
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Water Dancer LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Water Dancer PDF

Sophia Character Timeline in The Water Dancer

The timeline below shows where the character Sophia 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
Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
...die, Hiram thinks about his loved ones at Lockless: the elderly Thena and the young Sophia. He feels calm, convinced that he is “going to [his] reward.” He thinks about Emma,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...white wave of a hand.” Walking from his room, he passes the room belonging to Sophia, who is sitting with her lantern on.  (full context)
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Sophia is a young woman who does not seem to task, though this is because she... (full context)
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Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
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Seeming a little dazed, Sophia says that she had already imagined Hiram coming to say goodbye to her before race-day,... (full context)
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...a brothel and collect him in an hour. While he is waiting, Hiram thinks about Sophia. He is infatuated with her, and thinks that although she doesn’t love him now, she... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...spends three days unconscious with a fever before he awakes, paralyzed, in a sunny room. Sophia is sitting near him, humming a song and knitting. Over time, Hiram moves his body... (full context)
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Water, Movement, and Freedom Theme Icon
After speaking with Howell, Hiram finds Sophia talking to Thena, who greets him gruffly. He embraces Thena, and although she walks away... (full context)
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Stolen Skills, Power, and Knowledge Theme Icon
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...sure that the experience of being in the field near Lockless was real. He finds Sophia sitting by the grass, and when she speaks to him in the dazed voice she... (full context)
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Sophia tells Hiram that she’s from Carolina, and that she had family down there, and a... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...Georgie seems to be. The conversation moves on; before long people start playing music, and Sophia gets up to water dance. Many others dance as well, but Hiram keeps his eyes... (full context)
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Hiram and Sophia discuss Thena, and Sophia observes that she’s been “soft” with Hiram, which is surprising. Hiram... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...his. He keeps thinking about Georgie and “what he might know.” One Friday, Hiram drives Sophia to Nathaniel’s house as usual. Sophia used to work as a maid to Nathaniel’s wife,... (full context)
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Sophia and Helen grew up together and were best friends as children. Hiram thinks about how... (full context)
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Sophia explains that she is telling Hiram this because he knows about the wider world, and... (full context)
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...a highly dangerous move. Hiram denies this, and gets increasingly angry as Georgie insists that Sophia, Hiram, and every enslaved person they know belongs to white people, urging Hiram to accept... (full context)
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...scrutiny. The next day, when Hiram is on his way to Nathaniel’s estate to collect Sophia, he is stopped by “Ryland’s Hounds,” slavecatchers looking for runaways. Although he has his proper... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...me a more valuable commodity.” Later in the week after they agree to escape together, Sophia comes to see Hiram. She compliments him on the antiques restoration he’s been doing. She... (full context)
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When Hiram meets Sophia, he explains that he imagines Georgie can’t really talk about what he knows about escaping,... (full context)
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Hiram talks about his dreams of freedom, and he and Sophia spend a while in silent contemplation. Then Sophia leaves and Hiram runs into Thena. He... (full context)
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When the evening finally comes, Hiram walks with Sophia to meet Georgie. They discuss what they are going to do when they get to... (full context)
Chapter 9
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The white men are Ryland’s Hounds. Having tied Hiram and Sophia up with the rope, they march them to the jail at gunpoint. Here, they are... (full context)
Chapter 10
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The next day, Sophia is taken away, though Hiram doesn’t know where. She may have been returned to Nathaniel,... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...trying to find it, but that going to Georgie was a mistake. Hiram asks where Sophia is, but Corrine indicates that they weren’t able to save her. Angrily, Hiram asks why... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...to learn such intimate details about the lives of enslavers. At night, he dreams about Sophia or has nightmares about the time he spent in jail. Over time, he learns about... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...do the same thing. Suddenly, Hiram admits to Bland that he was in love with Sophia, and that he often thinks she should have become the Underground agent instead of him.... (full context)
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...He believes that 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... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Over the next few days, Hiram’s mind remains fixated on Sophia. He fantasizes about her being in Philadelphia and experiencing life there with him. Two weeks... (full context)
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...but the mission is so dangerous that no one will force Hiram to do it. Sophia will be rescued regardless. Hiram says he will do it. Raymond smiles, and permits Hiram... (full context)
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...door. Hiram immediately begins discussing 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... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...you and your Robert are brought into reunion.” Mary begins moaning in the same way Sophia did when she and Hiram were captured. Hiram tells her his name, and Mary finally... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...heavy on him. However, he resolves that he never wants to “breathe free air” while Sophia and Thena are still enslaved. he knows he will need to persuade Corrine to help... (full context)
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Taking Sophia will be dangerous because she is Nathaniel’s prized possession, while Thena will also be tricky,... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...afternoon, Hiram goes down to the Street, which has “fallen into disrepair.” According to Thena, Sophia is living in the cabin that Hiram and Thena used to share. When Hiram sees... (full context)
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Sophia tells Hiram about the vast number of people who have been sold from Lockless. Looking... (full context)
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...evening, Hiram expresses his hurt that Thena didn’t tell him about Caroline. He’s realized that Sophia would have been pregnant when she escaped with him, and that this is probably the... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...is there, Hiram and Hawkins walk down to the Street. Hiram half hopes to see Sophia, although he has always been keeping her “at arm’s length.” Hiram mentions looking at the... (full context)
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...One day, while Hiram is driving Thena to one of her laundry clients, they see Sophia standing with Caroline (who is also called "Carrie" for short) on the street. Sophia gets... (full context)
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After serving Howell dinner, Hiram goes out to the Street to find Sophia. When she sees him she glares at him. He apologizes profusely, for everything he has... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Hiram, Thena, Sophia, and Carrie are the only enslaved people at Lockless who are not in danger of... (full context)
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...Mars gave him from his room in the big house and brings it back to Sophia’s cabin. Sophia remarks that he is not “the same man” he was before they ran... (full context)
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After Sophia returned to Lockless, Corrine would sometimes come down to the Street and ask her who... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...finally mastered Conduction, and this achievement brings him immense joy. He spends his nights with Sophia, theoretically keeping this secret from Thena, until she reveals she knows by telling him she... (full context)
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Hiram asks Sophia how she got to Nathaniel’s while he was away, and to his astonishment, she says... (full context)
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...County, and Hiram hints that there might be something better for them on the horizon. Sophia says she cannot trust him unless he tells her his entire plan in full. When... (full context)
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...has been smashed up proves that the culprits are themselves enslaved. Following the attack, Hiram, Sophia, and Thena all move in together in Thena’s cabin, and they make sure Thena is... (full context)
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...grounds. While they are alone, he tells her it is time to conduct Thena and Sophia to the North. He explains about the attack on Thena’s house, and mentions his fears... (full context)
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...personal affront to them, challenging their belief in their own goodness. Hiram demands that both Sophia and Thena be liberated immediately, but Corrine says there is already a plan in place,... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...work alone, Hiram realizes that he will have to tell the full truth to both Sophia and Thena. He tells Sophia first, while Thena is sleeping. After filling her in on... (full context)
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...the horse, and they fall down onto the other side of the riverbank. He tells Sophia, “It’s like dancing.” He shows her again and again, performing short Conductions to prove how... (full context)
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The next day, Sophia pretends that Caroline is ill so that Thena and Hiram will get time alone together... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...Philadelphia Underground. He informs Harriet that he is going to try and get Thena and Sophia out using Conduction. Hiram then helps Howell with his own correspondence and waits for him... (full context)
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...see Hawkins, Hiram says he knows that he’s going to try to stop him freeing Sophia and Thena, but that he won’t succeed. Hawkins offers Hiram a cigar and talks about... (full context)
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Hiram knows they cannot wait much longer to get Sophia and Thena out. He waits two weeks for a response from Harriet, but doesn’t receive... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...up, he falls to the floor. Hawkins appears, and helps him up. He explains that Sophia found Hiram outside her cabin yesterday morning, shivering with fever, and sent word to Corrine... (full context)
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Corrine asks if Hiram will conduct Sophia, too, and he indicates that he will if he needs to. Corrine replies that in... (full context)
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...happened when Howell sold Rose. He then goes back to the cabin to reunite with Sophia and Carrie. That night, in the middle of the night, Sophia asks Hiram, “What are... (full context)