The Water Dancer Questions and Answers
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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How could I write an analysis essay on The Water Dancer?  

Approach your analysis by considering The Water Dancer as a fantastical re-imagining of American history. As its title suggests, both water and dancing are recurring metaphors central to its main ideas about memory, movement, and freedom. As enslaved people were “sold down the river” to new hardships, water for Coates retains its symbolism as a route to oppression and death. Yet he also connects the idea of black bodies moving through water as the way to a return to freedom.

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While we can’t write the analysis for you, we can make sure that you understand the novel’s most important themes and how the characters and action relate to Coates’s purpose in writing it. He wanted to make a strong artistic statement to illustrate the importance of historical memory and its capacity to empower and liberate the modern descendants of enslaved people.

To understand what Coates might have had in mind when he set out to tell this story, it’s useful to look at something Toni...

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