Water by the Spoonful


Quiara Alegría Hughes

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Themes and Colors
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Water by the Spoonful, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Substance Addiction

Water by the Spoonful revolves around several characters’ struggle with their addiction to crack cocaine. They are all connected to each other by an online support forum moderated by an individual who goes by Haikumom. Although each character is at a different stage in the recovery process, in each of their cases, the play depicts substance addiction as a destructive force that lingers long after an individual has stopped using drugs, and which can…

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Internet Communities and Human Connection

For several of the play’s characters, the private, anonymous community of their internet forum gives them a critical resource in their struggle against addiction while also providing them a safe amount of distance from each other. However, Orangutan and Chutes&Ladders, members of an online crack recovery forum, discover that the safety of an internet relationship cannot replace the complex risk and reward of actual human connection. The play demonstrates how internet communities are both…

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Every character in the play suffers from strained or entirely broken relationships with their biological family. In the absence of these healthy relationships, most of the characters form strong familial bonds with people outside of their immediate biological families. Water by the Spoonful thus argues that although biological families often fall apart or fail, individuals’ real family members are the people they choose to love and invest themselves in.

Each character suffers from estranged relationships…

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Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance

As a music professor, Yaz teaches her students about John Coltrane’s jazz, specifically his use of “dissonance”—the tension between two things that don’t fit together. Yaz explains that dissonance provides the most freedom to the notes, since they are no longer confined by what came before them, but dissonance also often descends into chaos. Yaz’s commentary on Coltrane’s use of dissonance directly parallels her own life, in which the upper-class academic lifestyle she has made…

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