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Connor Lassiter is one of the three main characters in the novel and would be defined as one the protagonist. Connor would be described to day as an “at-risk” teenager, due to his short temper and constant fighting in school. When he finds his name on an Unwind application his parents filled out, he runs away from home on the day of his departure for the harvest camp in a whirl of anger because of his parents betrayal. In the midst of his wild goose chase from the police, Connor runs into two more kids who are on their way to a harvest camp, and what starts as seeming as an eerie coincidence turns into a life changing journey together. And so they begin a life-changing trek to survival together, each kid being different from the other. In the group, Connor makes decisions that end up affecting the whole group, which will affect the entire course of their journey. He changes through out the course of the novel from a wound up adolescent filled with angst and rebellion to a man who thinks about the consequences of his actions.
“As much as Connor hates to admit it, Risa had been right about a lot of things. Her clarity of thought has saved them more than once, and that he knows to look for it, her take on Roland’s secret power structure was right on target.” (page 147)
“…a sense of despair worms its way through Connor’s gut. It makes Conner angry that he feels this way, and he suspects that this is part of the anger that fuels the fights he gets into.” (page 148)
Risa Ward is another main character in the novel and begins her journey in a state home as a ward of the government. She loses her right to be a “whole person” after authorities of the home decides that Risa isn’t quite talented enough to keep around any longer, so they sign the order for her to be unwound. But on the way to the harvest camp, a commotion on the highway causes the bus she was riding to crash, allowing her to escape with the boy who was running from the cops. The boy winds up being Connor and on their journey together they bump heads when making a lot of decisions because Risa takes time to think about the choices the group will make instead of acting on impulse, like Connor. She takes care of the group by keeping them sane in bad situations, and prevents those bad situations from getting worse. She finds her niche in becoming a medical helper at the airplane graveyard and helped injured unwinds heal in the clinic.
“‘Let’s see you’ve been a ward of the state from birth. It looks like your behavior has been exemplary. Your grades have been respectable, but not excellent.’…Whatever’s going on here was decided long before she walked through the door.” (page 22)
Lev Jedidiah Calder is the last and youngest main character to come into the novel, but he is very different from Risa and Conner. Lev was born under the circumstances that his parents chose him to be unwound before his birth in order to give back to God and was made to believe that this was a privilege; an honor. Lev is a tithe, which makes him different from the usual unwind because he is kept clean and sacred his whole life just to be prepared for the day of his unwinding. On his thirteenth birthday, Lev is on the way to his unwinding when Conner pulls Lev out of the car in the middle of traffic and kidnaps him into the forest along with another accompanying Unwind, Risa. On the journey, Lev deviates a plan in order to escape from his kidnappers and turn them in the process. But his one phone call to be rescued changed his life forever. While calling up his old mentor on the phone to rescue him from the kidnappers, the mentor expresses how tithing is wrong and is was a way of brainwashing Lev to give up his organs. After the phone call Lev goes from being a kid who fulfilled expectation and answered only to God, to an uncontrollable rebel, full of fear, anger, and revenge.
“Lev has always felt closer to God than to his friends, or even his family. He often wonders if being chosen always leaves a person so isolated. Or is there something wrong with him?” (page 32)
Roland was a fellow Unwind that Risa and Conner met in the basement of an antique shop that was used to hide runaway Unwinds. Roland resented Conner because he was a threat to the power he had of fellow Unwinds and his popularity with other Unwinds made him loathe him even more. His hatred towards Conner brings about further conflict in the story and would later subject Conner and Risa to a possibly fatal ending.
“…her take on Roland’s secret power structure had been right on target. Roland is a master at structuring life around him for his own benefit. It’s not the overt bullying that does it, either. It’s the subtle manipulation of the situation…Like a master chess player, every move Roland makes has a purpose, even if the purpose isn’t immediately clear.” (page 147-148)
The Admiral is the leader of the airplane graveyard used to hide runaway Unwinds until they’re 18. He fought in the war that decided the legality of Unwinding and would influence his decision to create the airplane graveyard. But his motives for running the graveyard are later mention and would subject him to further conflict in the novel.
“’I left the military, spent several years more drunk than I am now, and then, three years ago, I had The Big Idea. This place, these kids, are a result of it. To this date I’ve saved more than a thousand kids from unwinding.’” (page 225)
Pastor Dan is Lev’s mentor that allowed him to believe his whole life that tithing was the right thing to do when the Pastor himself didn’t believe in tithing or the whole Unwinding process. When Lev calls him to rescue him from kidnappers, Pastor Dan tells him to run and confesses to Lev his true feelings about Unwinding that ends up hurting and confusing Lev. His confession changes Lev’s thoughts and ideas on life and brings him to be the person he is at the end of the novel. Pastor Dan’s role as character was to show how the morality of Unwinding drives people to extreme guilt, until they simply refuse to do the wrong thing anymore.
“…Pastor Dan says with a hiss and a strange warble in his voice, ‘Run, Lev!’ Lev wasn’t expecting this. ‘What?’ ‘Run! Run as fast and as far away as you can. RUN!’ Lev stands there impotent, unable to move, unable to process this. Why is pastor Dan telling him to run?” (page 37)
Hayden is another fellow Unwind that Risa and Conner meet in the antique shop’s basement. Hayden was Conner’s only other trusted friend and confidante. His role as a character to the audience was to surface the thoughts, feelings, and questions about Unwinding that people didn’t want to say out loud. It gives the audience a whole new perspective on Unwinding; not the legality of the process, but the morality.
“And then Hayden says, ‘At least dying’s better than being unwound. Or is it? Let’s take a poll- would you rather die or be unwound?’” (page 166)
“‘Everybody knows the result, but nobody knows how unwinding works. I want to know how it happens. Does it happen right away, or do they keep you waiting? Do they treat you kindly, or coldly?’”
Mai was the third Unwind Risa and Conner met in the antique shops basement. She was a more quiet, somewhat insignificant character when she was first mentioned, but her insignificance in the beginning gave the reader more of a shock when her purpose in the novel later surfaces towards the end. Mai’s role as a character was to show the reader how Unwinding can psychologically and emotionally effect an Unwind and what the outcome of such extreme feelings could bring.
“Her breaking point was Vincent. He was a boy she met and fell in love with in the warehouse more than a month ago. He was a boy who died in midair…No one seemed to notice his disappearance, and no one certainly cared. No one but Mai…The world was to blame, but when she secretly witnessed the Admiral’s Golden Five burying Vincent and the others, she was able to give faces to her fury. The Goldens buried Vincent not with respect, but profanities…he agreed that revenge was in order.” (page 305)
Also known CyFi, Cyrus is not a runaway Unwind, but just a kid who ran away from home in search of a mysterious destination. After Lev loses Risa and Conner after turning them in to the police, he meets CyFi who shows him the ropes of living on the streets. But when CyFi has an episode in a Christmas store after stealing a Christmas ornament, CyFi reveals that part of his brain belonged to an Unwind who was fond of stealing and it sometimes caused CyFi to shoplift and do dangerous stunts. He explains that this Unwind is the reason he is wandering on the road in search of an unknown destination and steals things for no reason. CyFi’s role in the novel shows the audience how receiving parts of an Unwind can be beneficial, but also very dangerous.
“This boy in the corner of his head doesn’t talk to him in words. He
. He doesn’t understand that he’s only a part of another kid…He just keeps looking for things in Cyrus’s head that just aren’t there. Memories. Connections. He keeps looking for words but Cyrus’s brain codes words differently. And so the kid hurls out anger. Terror. Grief…Something must be done here. Only the kid knows what it is.” (page 185)
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