Creative Writing

Formal Critique

Reviewer’s Name: Marina Malak

Title of Piece: The Water Dance                           Author’s Name: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Setting & Context:

The story takes place in Virginia, and from the context of the story; it is happening during the slavery period. The narrator calls his brother his master as he was made to be. The author used phrases such as  â€śHolding the chains” to indicate slavery. The event of drowning of the narrator and his brother takes place in a river under the stone bridge. The exact time of the event or the story is not clearly expressed but the reader can conclude that the event of drowning happened during crossing the bridge on a rainy day. I like how the author just described the events as it happened, taking the reader back to the event as if we are drowning with him.

Question to the author, do you know who is your father?

How was your brother made your master?

How did your mother die?  


The plot present by the author was easy to follow; however, at the beginning of the chapter it was confusing with the memory. I think the memory of his mother at the beginning gives us a background and foreshadow the vision of his mother while the drowning event happened. I like how the author used his memory of his brother being his master and how he had to take care of him every step of the way as fuel to when he finally refused to save his brother from drowning. It all built as he talked more about his brother and how hard it is to save his own self that he was going to let him die.

Question to the author, what does your reward / the necklace represent?   

Voice & Style:

 The author used such strong sentences to describe what was going on his mind that led to him letting his brother die such as; “Maynard was dead the minute he touched water” and “it was I who now was tired, in both body and soul”. The author’s description of the bridge at the beginning can be taken as a double meaning and foreshadowing to his near drowning experience. I like how the author described everything he felt as he was drowning and used the sense to make it easier for the reader to imagine what was going on and to grasp his emotion of  near death and relief after his brother drowned. The choice of word describes how much the narrator resented his brother being his master and how much draining emotionally and physically the narrator was feeling.  

Question to the author, what would the narrator feel if the brother survived after he refused rescuing him?

If the narrator saw that his brother was able to swim somehow on his own, would his resentment be big enough to assist his brother’s drowning or in other words, murder him?

Point of View:   

The piece is written in first person, from the narrator’s point of view. The emotions and the actions of the narrator give the reader an idea of what was inside the narrator’s mind when he allowed his brother to drown. It also gives us a near death experience and what he felt as he was almost dead while drowning.