The exposition and inciting incident of A Long Walk to Water are very important, as they provide us with the historical background against which the action of the book takes place. As the story begins, the year is 1985, the place is Sudan, and the country is wracked by a brutal civil war. At first, though, everything seems perfectly normal. Salva, one of the main characters in the story, is sitting in class with his fellow students, something that millions of children the world over do most days of the week.
But then, all of a sudden, there's the sound of gunfire. Salva's teacher immediately springs into action, yelling at his students to run to the bush as quickly as possible, far away from the village, where the exchange of gunfire is taking place.
There's a war going on, and as we can gather from this opening scene, it doesn't spare ordinary civilians, not even children. Children like Salva are in as much danger as anyone, and they somehow have to lead their lives amid the chaos, bloodshed, and destruction of a particularly bitter conflict.
The inciting incident, the gunfire from the village, acts as a catalyst for what happens to Salva in the rest of the story. In the ensuing chaos, Salva becomes separated from his family and eventually joins a large human caravan of refugees walking across Sudan in the hope of finding food, water, and shelter.