Water by the Spoonful

by

Quiara Alegría Hughes

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Water by the Spoonful can help.

Water by the Spoonful: Scene Fifteen Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In Odessa’s bathroom, John gently helps her bathe, lifting each arm to sponge her off. Odessa is conscious but extremely weak, barely able to speak, though she manages to ask him if Chutes&Ladders got her water wings. John tells her that her rehab check-in time is not for several hours, so they have plenty of time to get her clean and dressed. Now that he has told his wife about his crack addiction, he suspects that Odessa may be his only remaining friend.
John and Odessa’s human connection, though forged over terrible circumstances, is the most positive relationship that Odessa has with any actual person over the course of the play; she is a little bit less alone in the world. Thematically, John and Odessa’s new relationship together parallels Orangutan and Chutes&Ladders, as will immediately be seen.
Themes
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
In a Japanese airport, Orangutan sits alone on floor, dejected, and gets up to leave when Chutes&Ladders arrives with his suitcase and waves to her. She is confused and a little angry, since he didn’t have the courage to make his initial flight, rebooked, and even then did not arrive with the other passengers. However, he explains that he was so anxious he started vomiting on the plane and then in an airport bathroom after the plane landed, and he needed to find a toothbrush and toothpaste to get rid of the smell. Convinced, Orangutan hugs him and they tell each other their real names: Clayton Wilkie and Madeleine Mays. They both remark that meeting in person after knowing each other for so many years is strange, but Madeleine calls it “the land of the living.” They hug again and “melt into each other arms.”
The extreme anxiety Chutes&Ladders feels about meeting Orangutan, which he pushes through to have a real relationship with her, makes him seem rather heroic, in his own way. The revealing of their real human names, though a simply and necessary gesture, indicates that the years of safe anonymity between them are gone—now they will have to see and speak to each other as they actually are, accepting the risks and rewards of real human connection.
Themes
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Related Quotes
In Puerto Rico, Elliot stands on an outcropping overlooking a waterfall. Yaz is distracted, digging up plants and putting them in plastic bags. She says she’s going to plant them in Mami Ginny’s garden, though Elliot warns customs will snag her in the airport. Elliot receives a text from his dad telling him that Mami Ginny’s house has already sold. Elliot is confused at how it could’ve sold so fast until Yaz reveals that she sold her Steinway piano and bought the house herself. She’s moving back to the barrio, renovating Ginny’s house, and she wants Elliot to live there with her.
Just as the water Odessa poured onto the floor represented her own life and vitality, so the waterfall seems to represent the abundance of new life given by both Yaz and Elliot’s decisions to make substantial changes. By exchanging her grand piano for Ginny’s house, Yaz indicates that she is letting go of her sophisticated life to take Ginny’s place as the head of the family and the anchor of the community.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Elliot is excited for her. However, as they get ready to toss Mami Ginny’s ashes over the waterfall, he tells Yaz that he’s not going back to Philadelphia, he’s moving straight to Los Angeles to be an actor. Elliot tells Yaz that the night before he had a dream: he could feel someone behind him and thought it would be the Ghost, the first man he killed in Iraq, but instead it was Mami Ginny there to say goodbye. However, when she looked at his face, Mami Ginny started screaming.
Elliot’s decision to leave, supported by Yaz, sets him upon the same path that Yaz herself took years before when she left the barrio to become a musician and composer. Elliot cannot truly be free of his guilt, shame, and likely his addiction, until he is free from the pressures of home and family. This reality demonstrates the justified need for individuals to spread their wings.
Themes
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Get the entire Water by the Spoonful LitChart as a printable PDF.
Water by the Spoonful PDF
Elliot confesses to Yaz that he wanted Odessa to relapse and overdose, and that he knew exactly which buttons to press to overwhelm her. It seemed wrong to him that God should kill the good mom and leave him with the bad one. Elliot feels like he needs to escape the barrio before he turns into the same thing as Odessa and all the rest. Yaz tells him she understands and that he should go, but he’ll always have a place to live if he decides to come home. Yaz declares, “I’m the elder now. I stay home. I hold down the fort.” Elliot declares, “I’m walking.” Together, they toss Mami Ginny’s ashes.
Yaz’s shows support for Elliot’s decision, while her offer of a place to stay if he should ever return also recognizes that for her, and perhaps for him, leaving and pursuing individual goals is not a permanent solution. Thus, Yaz and Elliot find themselves at different stages of the same journey, Yaz having taken the role of Mami Ginny and head of the family upon herself.
Themes
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Related Quotes