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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Almost sternly, reproachfully he was saying, “—the Gulf War has given your generation a tragic idea of war and diplomacy; the delusion that war is relatively easy, and diplomacy is war, the most expedient of options.”

This quotation by the Senator gives readers insight into his character. For one thing, it shows just how disconnected he is from Kelly and her peers—by age, gender, and position. He is speaking in a condescending, senatorial tone, and although Kelly is flattered by his attentions, she is also angered and disappointed.

In retaliation, she responds, “There is no such thing as ‘my’ generation, Senator. We’re divided by race, class, education, politics—even sexual self-definition. The only thing that links us is our—separateness.”

Kelly is clearly expressing her idealist outlook. She wants to make him understand her point of view. And although her response impresses him, it is apparent that he doesn’t really take her seriously. She is just another conquest to him.

Senator, I’m sorry—you must have heard this sort of thing thousands of times.

This quotation is from Kelly, animatedly speaking to the Senator about his political ideas, after she confessed that she wrote her senior honors thesis on him at Brown. She is excited by many of his social program proposals, such as daycare centers, support of the arts, and free medical facilities. The Senator is enchanted by her attention, knowledge, and persuasive tone. She makes him feel important—as if his ideas really matter.

He responds, “Yes, Kelly, perhaps, but never from you.”

The Senator is flattered that Kelly believes in him and his work; at the same time, he is flirting with her, making her feel special to win her attentions.

I think we’re lost, Senator.

Kelly says this phrase several times throughout Black Water, and it constitutes a recurring theme that describes both characters. She is lost in her blinding admiration of the Senator and his line of work. He exudes power, influence, and privilege—traits that impress her and that could aid in her career aspirations. She wants change and equality and is seeking a path to attain those things. The Senator is lost in that he has been fighting for social causes his whole political career—he is tired, separated from his wife, and a bit burned out. He is still playing the political game, but his future isn’t perhaps as bright and wide open as Kelly’s.

This is a shortcut, Kelly. There’s only one direction and we can’t be lost.

The Senator believes his way is always the right way. In his mind, he couldn’t have had too much to drink—he knows where he is going; he is fine to drive. He only sees the immediate future: some time alone with Kelly. He fails to look further into the future, to a time when impressionable, impassioned Kelly is no longer—to a time when his “shortcut” causes her to drown.

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