The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer Imagery

Blue mist and blue light

Blue mist and blue light accompany Hiram’s experiences of Conduction. When Hiram is certain that he will die drowning in the river Goose, he feels himself enveloped by a blue light. In this blue light, he feels a sense of peace and freedom, and knows that there really is “a home-place of our own, a life beyond the Task.” In this way, for Hiram the blue mist and light represent Conduction and the possibility of freedom beyond enslaved life.


The day before Maynard dies, Hiram reflects on the way they depend on Maynard. Maynard is foolish and incompetent. Yet the fate of Hiram and all of the people he loves on the Street depend on him. Coates represents this condition through the imagery of chains. In his father’s parlor, Hiram looks at an engraving of a Cupid chained to a laughing Aphrodite. In this image, Hiram is like the Cupid, while Maynard is like Aphrodite. That same night, Hiram dreams that he and all of the Tasked at Lockless are linked to one long chain that Maynard holds. They are all old and Maynard is a baby, unaware that their fate depends on him.


The Water Dancer is filled with repeated imagery of water. This is because this element is necessary for Conduction to work. Harriet explains that Conduction works like a bridge that lets those who use it cross over water. More broadly, the references to water evoke a deeper connection with the earth, since it is their ancestors’ connection with the water-goddess that enables Harriet and Hiram to use this power.


Images of water dancing and other forms of dancing are an important feature of the novel. Under slavery the Tasked must do hard labor. By law their bodies and their work belong to their white masters. But when they dance together it is one of the few moments in which the Tasked are able to be free and joyful, moving of their own accord and taking ownership over their own bodies. Moreover, imagery of water dancing evokes the power of Conduction.