Water by the Spoonful

by

Quiara Alegría Hughes

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Water Symbol Icon

Water represents life—primarily as an individual’s capacity to give, sustain, and enjoy life. When Odessa is a young mom, she cares for her children who have been dehydrated by the flu by giving them each a spoonful of water every five minutes—enough to keep them hydrated but small enough doses that their bodies can absorb it rather than reject it. Although Odessa manages this for a time, giving her children life a spoonful at a time, she eventually succumbs to her need to smoke crack, leaving her children alone and causing the death of her toddler daughter due to dehydration. After Elliot recounts this story and intentionally pushes Odessa to relapse for the first time in six years, Odessa sits on the floor of her living room and pours a cup of water onto the floor, spoonful by spoonful (an allusion to the play’s title), representing her own life being poured out onto the ground and wasted without offering life or sustenance to everyone else. In the final scene, when Elliot and Yaz are in Puerto Rico to spread Mami Ginny’s ashes, they stand perched above a waterfall and reveal to each other the major life changes they are each about to undertake. In this instance, the waterfall and its torrent of water represent the rushing onset of new life and reinvigoration that each of their new life paths will give them, as well as celebrating Mami Ginny’s life-giving legacy. Rather than water by the spoonful, both Yaz and Elliot experience a great surge of water and life.

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Water by the Spoonful PDF

Water Symbol Timeline in Water by the Spoonful

The timeline below shows where the symbol Water appears in Water by the Spoonful. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene Two
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...at the beach with his friends when a riptide pulled him out into the deep water. His lungs filled with water and he sank to the ocean floor, convinced he would... (full context)
Scene Seven
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...so bad that they are at risk of dehydration, since they can’t keep food or water down. The doctor tells Odessa to give them each a spoonful of water every five... (full context)
Scene Nine
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
...the floor until all that is left is an envelope from Haikumom with a deflated water wing inside. (full context)
Scene Ten
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...Yaz and Elliot are speaking, Odessa sits in her living room with a cup of water and a spoon, pouring the water onto the floor, spoonful by spoonful. At the same... (full context)
Scene Eleven
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Chutes&Ladders sits in his office with the water wing Haikumom sent sitting on his desk in front of him, inflated. He speaks to... (full context)
Scene Fifteen
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)