What are some important quotes from Lincoln in the Bardo?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here are some important quotes from Lincoln in the Bardo:

  • "Goodness, are you a child! He is, isn't he?" from Hans Vollman (page 6). The inhabitants of the cemetery in which Willie Lincoln is to be buried first catch sight of Willie's childlike body.
  • "They have been loaned a place in the crypt belonging to Judge Carroll, & imagine the pain of that, Andrew, to drop one's precious son into that cold stone like a broken bird & be on your way" (page 23). This quote is in Isabelle Perkins's letter to brother. It captures the pain President Lincoln and his wife must feel upon depositing their son, Willie, into a cold crypt. The author of the letter compares Willie to a bird with a broken wing, emphasizing his fragility.
  • "The other man (the one hit by a beam) Quite naked Member swollen to the size of Could not take my eyes off" (page 28). These are Willie Lincoln's disjointed thoughts, not even punctuated with periods, when he first arrives at the cemetery. He becomes more lucid after being visited by his father, President Lincoln. 
  • "It is soon to be spring The Christmas toys barely played with" (page 30). These are more of Willie Lincoln's fragmented, wistful thoughts. The author tries to capture the emotions of a young boy who misses his toys.
  • "He emitted a single, heartrending sob" (page 46). The dead in the cemetery, existing in a kind of "bardo," or after-life, observe President Lincoln's visit to Willie in the cemetery and observe his overwhelming grief.
  • "His grief unnerved him, and made him a weak, passive child. I did not dream that his rugged nature could be so moved" (page 50). Observers of President Lincoln note how grief makes him weak with pain. Willie's death causes him to seem like a child.
  • "The man bent, lifted the tiny form from the box, and with surprising grace for one so ill-made, sat all at once on the floor, gathering it into his lap" (page 58). Roger Bevins III, one of the inhabitants of the cemetery, observes President Lincoln pick up Willie in his arms. In this scene, Lincoln and his son, Willie, resemble the pieta, the image of Mary with Jesus in her arms.
  • "And yet, no one had ever come here to hold one of us, while speaking so tenderly" (page 72). The inhabitants of the cemetery note that they have never been held, unlike the way in which Lincoln cradles Willie in his arms.

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