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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 555

In Freshwater, the main character is split into a set of different selves. Ada is herself, but there are also two selves within her: Asughara and Saint Vincent. The book is narrated by each of them in turn. Her other-selves are fully developed with desires and needs of their own.

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The first part of the book is actually narrated by a collective "We," which is to say a composite of all of Ada's various selves. They say:

By the time she (our body) struggled out into the world, slick and louder than a village of storms, the gates were left open. We should have been anchored in her by then, asleep inside her membranes and synched with her mind. That would have been the safest way. But since the gates were open, not closed against remembrance, we became confused. We were at once old and newborn. We were her and yet not. We were not conscious but we were alive—in fact, the main problem was that we were a distinct we instead of being fully and just her.

They recognize Ada as their body rather than the primary self that creates an individual. This sense of agency and primacy is something that creates trouble for Ada throughout the book as Asughara and Saint Vincent pursue their own goals and desires.

One way that they're able to protect themselves is by keeping the other personalities a secret. They encourage Ada not to speak to others about what she's experiencing. Akwaeke Emezi says:

I told her to keep us inside her head, in the marble room, so that no one could see us. They would’ve told Ada that she was crazy or that we weren’t real, and I couldn’t allow those lies. I had to protect us. When I made Ada do things she didn’t want to, I wasn’t doing it to be cruel. The whole is greater than the individual.

This is isolating for Ada, of course. She can't ever be her full self with anyone because her full self is three full people. But she manages to hold them back until something awful happens to her.

When she's assaulted, the voices identify it as their third birth. This happened in Virginia with Soren. Asughara is the first one to arrive. She says, "Of course I came. Why wouldn't I? Let me tell you, Ada meant every world to me." But she's shocked by the process of the birthing. For the first time, she's experiencing being in Ada's body without a filter. Asughara says it is fascinating to have ears because she's really experiencing having a body for the first time.

Ultimately, Ada has to come to terms with the meaning of her fractured self and who she is. Even when she realizes who and what she is, she isn't able to come to terms with it immediately. She is still afraid. It's a process of understanding and accepting herself so that she can accept who she is and embrace what's to come. Emezi writes:

I am here and not here, real and not real, energy pushed into skin and bone. I am my others; we are one and we are many. Everything gets clearer with each day, as long as I listen. With each morning, I am less afraid.

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