Unwind-Unwind Orders

(June 13, 2014)(In this analysis AS describes the effect of unwind orders on Unwinds. Depending on the level of acceptance that the Unwind is experiencing they can be in one of the many levels of coping: disbelief, anger, fear, reflection, sadness, and finally acceptance.)

Unwinds are unwanted children between the ages of 13-17 years old, that parents sign over to be disassembled, or unwound. This whole thing started with a debate about abortion, this was the solution. A child cannot be touched from the moment it is conceived until they turn 13. From 13-17 parents can sign their children over, knowing that they will never see them whole again. The reason it settled the abortion debate, is because every part of the child lives, just in a different form. Living arms are given to people who lost them in an accident, brain matter as well, and everything in between. Unwinding takes place at harvest camps around the country, where every piece of a child is harvested for use somewhere else. Once an unwind order is signed, the parents cannot change their minds, it is done. Many Unwinds try run from their fate, trying to survive to their 18th birthday, because after that they cannot be unwound, many are caught and shipped off, however, it’s surprising just how far some of them get. Throughout the novel, Unwind, the unwind orders and harvesting camps serve as elements of disbelief, anger, fear, reflection, sadness, and finally acceptance for the characters, not necessarily in that order. Through following three main characters and their fight for survival, it is apparent that each one eventually experiences all of these stages of coping when they think of those that signed the dreadful papers. The way that each emotion uniquely changes each character, allows for the stronger, wiser, and better version of each to reveal itself at the end.
“Besides, he found a certain power in knowing his parents secret. Now the blows he could deal them were so much more effective. Like the day he brought flowers home for his mother and she cried for hours. Like the B-plus he brought home on a science test. Best grade he ever got in science. He handed it to his father, who looked at it, the color draining from his face” (Shusterman 6).
When Connor is first introduced, he has already discovered that his parents signed the unwind order. He is in the stage of disbelief, which quickly turns to anger, since Connor has a short temper to begin with. He decides that he will make his parents feel as bad as he can about signing the order. “Connor’s motivation was simple: Make them suffer. Let them know for the rest of their lives what a horrible mistake they made” (7). Fear first grips Connor the morning after he runs away. The cops are looking for him and they are getting close. The next day they find him. He had hitched a ride with a sympathetic trucker, who offered him a safe place to sleep just for one night. When he wakes up he hears what he thinks is the trucker, Josias Aldridge, but soon finds out the real owner of the voice on the other side of the door. “He swings open the door and steps out to thank the man, but it’s not Josias Aldridge at the door. Aldridge is a few yards away being handcuffed, and in front of Connor is a Juvey-cop wearing a smile as big as all outdoors.” Connor makes a quick decision, slams the cop into the truck, and runs across the highway. Dodging tranquilizer bullets and cars swerving to miss him, he grabs a hostage from a nearby car as a shield and runs into the woods. This is where he meets Risa and the tranquilized hostage is Lev. Their journey is filled with more paralyzing fear and close calls.
The reflection comes in when Sonia asks all of the Unwinds to write a letter to someone they love. Sonia is part of a secret connection of people who hide and pass on Unwinds, trying to keep them safe. She hides them in the basement of her small shop, and keeps them there until a truck comes to pick them up. Before they leave however, she asks them each to write this letter saying everything they needed to say, but never got the chance to. They address it and write the date of their 18th birthday on it (the day they will legally no longer be able to be unwound). If they survive they are to return to deliver the letter themselves. If they don’t she will send it herself. Connor writes to his parents and though it starts angry, it transitions into memories of his life and what he wants to stay alive even if he himself does not. At the end of the letter he writes “I love you. Your one-time son, Connor” (110). The sadness of his life overwhelms him and he sobs. For the first time since he left, he feels something other than anger at his parents. And, something he never expected to have happen, he admits that he loves them instead of hates them. The rest of the journey to safety is filled with fear of being caught, fear of being killed, and confusion. The acceptance for Connor happens after he is caught and brought to the harvest camp. As he walks the “red carpet” toward his final resting place, the “Chop Shop” (nicknames given by the other kids awaiting their final day at the harvest camp). “He will take this last walk of his life in steady strides- and in a few weeks from now, someone, somewhere, will hold in their mind the memory that this young man, whoever he was, faced his unwinding with dignity and pride,” (304).
Risa has a little more difficulty being angry at her parents, considering she doesn’t know who they are. Ever since she was born she has been a Ward of the State. She plays piano at the Ward and expects to be safe until she is 18 and free (this is how it is supposed to be). She never expects her unwind order. There are too many Wards and not enough money or space they tell her, so they have to trim back what they have, and though she is good she is not the best. Plus, there are too many musicians anyway. Her fury, therefore, is directed at the people assigned to her case, the people in charge of her. “’Don’t I have a choice in this?’ But when she looks behind her, the answer is clear. There are two guards waiting to make sure that she has no choice at all. As they lead her away, she thinks of Mr. Durkin. With a bitter laugh, Risa realizes that he may get his wish after all. Someday he may see her hands playing at Carnegie Hall. Unfortunately, the rest of Risa won’t be there,” (24). Risa moves through the stages very similarly to Connor. She starts with her disbelief, turns it to hatred for the people who signed her away, that didn’t even really know her, and then moves to fear when she escapes from the bus that was taking her on her way to a harvest camp. The bus crashes in the commotion of Connor running across the freeway, killing the bus driver and giving Risa a brief window to escape during the confusion. She runs into the woods where she meets Connor and Lev. The fear continues during her adventures with Connor and Lev, for example almost getting caught at the local High School, as Lev turns them in because they ‘kidnapped’ him. She goes through reflection also at Sonia’s, when she thinks about and processes her life. It is never revealed who she writes to. Her overwhelming sadness, however, comes from seeing Connor walking down the red carpet. He is the only one that she has ever truly loved and the only one that truly loved her back, so seeing him walk to his end is too much for her. “The band has stopped playing in the middle of a tune. The keyboardist-a girl-wails at the sight of Connor on the red stone path. Connor looks up at her, halts for a second, and blows her a kiss before continuing on. Lev can hear her crying,” (307). The acceptance of her unwind order doesn’t come until she is finally safe from harm. When the Chop Shop is blown up by Clappers (kids that fill their blood with explosive fluid and set themselves off in various places to cause chaos or stop the chaos of unwinding), Risa is on the roof (where the band plays for those going to be unwound), and falls as a large chunk of the building goes down, including the roof. She is trapped under an I beam and when she is finally freed she is paralyzed from the waist down. She refuses a transplant from an Unwind, for many reasons, and this actually saves her because handicaps are legally not allowed to be unwound.
Lev moves through the stages in a very different way than Risa and Connor, by starting with acceptance. Lev is a tithe. According to his religion, his family is supposed to sacrifice one tenth of everything to God, including children. Lev is the tenth child in his family. He has been raised his entire life knowing that he would one day be unwound, and has been taught that it is an honor to be a tithe. He is not rejected like Risa and Connor. His parents love him and are very upset that he is being unwound, but that is their religion and the order is already signed. He is on his way to a harvesting camp, dressed in his tithing whites, when a crazy kid runs in front of the car. His dad swerves to avoid him and stops. The kid then runs up to the car, reaches through the open window, unlocks the door, and pulls Lev out. Lev is being held hostage. He is shot by a tranquilizer bullet meant for his captor, and is carried, unconscious, into the woods. He wakes up tied to a tree to see Connor and Risa. His fear sets in right away as he is not sure what his captors want or will do to him. He is also angered by the fact that he misses his unwinding appointment. He needs to fulfill his purpose of being a tithe. That’s who he is and what he has been preparing his whole life to do. His sadness sets in after he turns in Risa and Connor at the high school (trying to get back to his life and get those law breakers unwound like they should be), who, he realizes too late, are his only two true friends in the world. His reflection comes when he calls his pastor, Pastor Dan, to tell him that he is alright and ready to be unwound. However, Pastor Dan tells him not to turn himself in. Everyone besides his parents thinks he is unwound, so if Lev is able to stay hidden he may survive to eighteen. This realization that Pastor Dan had never believed what he told Lev and the other tithes is a lot for Lev to take in. It makes him rethink his purpose in life, as he thinks about the future he never thought he would have. He escapes from the school in the confusion of the fire alarm he pulled and the ‘clapper’ incident with Connor and Risa. His extreme sadness comes when he finds Connor and Risa in the crowd and they run away from him, they hate him. He almost got them unwound. They don’t know that he realized his mistake and pulled the alarm to help them get away. His self discovery also continues at the graveyard (a place where old planes go that are too old to use, but also a place to hide unwinds in large masses). All three of the main characters wind up here. Lev falls into a bad group of kids, because living on the streets before coming here has hardened him. Lev discovers his anger and true hatred for his parents, who were willing to tithe him. He wants to cause chaos and destruction, which is what everyone who enters this group wants. He is willingly injected with the explosive fluid that all clappers get before they go off to explode, and he, along with two others, are willingly captured and brought to a harvesting camp. He is finally going to be “tithed.” Acceptance comes again for Lev as he prepares himself to be blown to bits instead of used for parts, and at least he will take the Chop Shop down with him. But when it comes time to clap his hands together and set off the explosive fluid (hence clappers) he can’t do it. He has convinced himself that he wants to, but can’t. Instead he tends to Connor, who had just entered the building when the other two clappers exploded, and was badly injured. He then goes in and carries Risa out of the wreckage. His true acceptance doesn’t come until Risa and Connor are safe and he is arrested. The fluid is transfused out of his system with blood transfusions, or at least most of it is, and Pastor Dan comes to visit him. Pastor Dan, however is no longer Pastor Dan. He resigned his position as Pastor because he never believed in tithing. “I still very much believe in God-just not a God that condones human tithing,” (329). This offers a level of closure for Lev, and he finds comfort in the new idea of God. Lev will have to spend a few years in juvenile detention and then a few years in house arrest, but he will not be unwound because that explosive fluid never fully leaves the system, so they will not use his ‘spare’ parts. Lev accepts this easily and is pleased to hear that his brother will probably be the person he stays with during his house arrest (his parents disowned them both).
It is clear that the symbol of unwind orders can mean different things and evoke different emotions depending on the level of acceptance experienced by the Unwind. Without experiencing all of these emotions and being changed by all of them individually, the three Unwinds would not be the same people that they have become at the end of the novel. Lev is alive and finally accepting of his life, punishment and all. Risa and Connor go back to The Graveyard to continue their lives way past eighteen. Risa is able to play piano and is content with being in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, because she finally has someone to spend the rest of her life with. And Connor, though grafted with pieces of Unwinds because he was unconscious after the accident at the harvest camp and could not refuse the spare parts, is happy to be alive and well. He is now in charge of The Graveyard. They will spend the rest of their lives helping Unwinds, just like themselves, and trying to change the law to make unwinding illegal. Though they may still be considered problem Unwinds, at least now they embrace this fact and are now problem Unwinds with a goal and purpose in life. If they had not been Unwinds in the first place, they never would have found their true purpose in life. Does this mean that the unwind orders are a good thing? No, however the ones who survive certainly are changed for life and in the case of the main characters, changed for the better.


Significance of Self-Worth and Point of View in Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

In Bruiser by Neal Shusterman, the pain that Brewster received symbolized the particular relationships he had formed throughout the novel. Brew’s ability to capture the pain of others is also a symbol of his acceptance of that relationship to his body and that he believes the connection between them was worth the pain. The shift between Brewster’s personality in the beginning of the novel to the end was an immense change. Bronte, Brew’s new girlfriend could see the longing and sadness within him even before he began to take the pain from others at school. From the beginning to the end of the book, Brewster began to accept the fact that either way, pain can be forced onto you if you have people you care about, and also if you don’t. Bronte lifted the blindness off of his eyes and let him see the relationships that were worth suffering for. “People live with blinders too… never realizing we’re only seeing one-tenth of the whole” (84). Blindness and covering was a symbol of which the entire novel revolved around. Brewster’s inner fear of forming a relationship was his blindness, and his decision to suppress his secret from the people who surrounded him was his covering. Brewster’s love of poetry also contributed to the fact that he held a secret, one of which must be observed and studied immensely to figure out the meaning of it. Poetry was Brew’s escape, and his love for understanding poetry related to how Bronte had a love for figuring out Brew’s secret.

A significant theme in the novel was self worth and the worth of others. The decision whether to form a relationship with someone was much harder for Brew to decide than anyone else, since he suffered the consequences. The cuts and bruises were the aspect of his life that defined him, and in some cases that ability was used in wrongful doings. Tennyson, Bronte’s brother viewed Brewster as a tool to be used as an advantage in his sporting events. The relationship between them was superficial, and Brew had no choice but to take the pain from Tennyson at the game letting him play better. Tennyson only considered Brew being worth as much as the pain that he took away from him and used his secret as an addiction. “I never understood the depth of the wound”(101). The cuts weren’t just degrading Brew’s self worth physically, but also mentally. Brew had to decide who was worth caring about, and if the pain was worth the person in his life. “A distinct desperation at the thought of me leaving, clear evidence of the addiction. And he looks away hiding his shame”(307). Tennyson’s addiction to playing in his games with the unfair advantage of no cuts or bruises eventually struck him and he felt a sense of shame of what he had done to someone who cared about him.

The different point of view shifting between Brewster, Tennyson, Bronte, and Cody allowed the reader to see through the eyes of the person talking, and understand their perception of the problems they encountered. The point of view of Brewster was written in a poetic structure, and the diction used in his chapters was intriguing and heart-felt. His point of view showed the reader what his thoughts were and what they would look like if written down. Always seeking the deeper meaning of the situation, his poetry reflected his personality. The bigger and smaller sentence structure with his choppy stormy thoughts. “I’ll never understand how a man can live his life with his finger on the self-destruct button, holding it there day after day”(199). Brewster’s deep concerns and thoughts could only be expressed by poetry, something that was familiar and normal to him. Tennyson and Bronte’s point of view are much less poetic, instead they speak the thoughts of a teenager. Their word choice is less sophisticated, and was expressed through the typical viewpoint of someone of their age. Finally, the point of view of Brew’s younger brother Cody shows the juvenile perception of Brew’s secret and what happens to him throughout the book. Seeing through the eyes of a child let’s the reader understand the innocent outlook on a problem that his brother has no choice but to live with. The four different points of view told the story and the diction changing between people showed their live emotions.

In conclusion, in Bruiser, the varying points of view and lifting of Brewster’s blindness contributed to the theme of self worth, the value of relationships and the symbolic pain one must contribute to the relationship, and how the characters in the story formed their connections.

CR (2015)