Connor Character Analysis in Unwind by Neal Shusterman
“He doesn’t want to fight you, he wants to kill you.” Is a quote spoken by Risa in the 23rd chapter of the Novel Unwind By Neal Shusterman. This quote was crucial to Connor’s character arc because it helped Connor realize that he should start thinking through his actions. Throughout the novel Unwind by Neal Shusterman, he demonstrates the theme "Everyone is capable of change given the right circumstances" through the characters and events.
At the beginning of the novel, Connor possessed little self-control and was impulsive. He rarely thought through the consequences of his actions. But if you examine his behavior through the novel, there is a clear change in his behavior. He got himself caught because his parents tracked his cellphone in chapter one. "It was so stupid of Connor to leave his cellphone on-that’s how they tracked him" p.18. In part two, titled "Storked", Connor sees a Storked baby on someone’s doorstep and decides to take the baby. "And now thanks to his stupidity, they are three fugitives with a baby." p.64 Connor added more risk to himself, Risa, and Lev being caught. It is later revealed he grabbed the baby because it reminded him of a Storked baby who died as a result of his neighborhood’s neglect, but it was an impulsive decision that could have gotten Risa, Lev, and him caught. But over time, it is demonstrated that Risa has a good impact on him and clearly changes him for the better. While at a warehouse on their way to the graveyard, Risa says this to Connor: "No! You can’t take the bait! that's what he wants! He’ll do everything within his power to pull you into a fight. But you can’t do it… He doesn’t want to fight you, he wants to kill you " P.147. Eventually, Connor takes Risa’s advice later. When prompted to fight Roland in Risa’s defense, he shows self-restraint. "Holding his temper in the bathroom was the hardest thing perhaps Connor had to do" pg.153. When given the chance to show more restraint when asked by Risa, he wasn’t provoked by Roland. A little bit later in the novel, Lev finds his way to the Graveyard. Connor sees Lev and quickly gains control over his emotions. "Connor drops his wrench and runs towards him, but gains control before he gets there… This is the kid that betrayed him. The kid he once swore he’d never forgive” p.208. One of Connor’s last lines in the book is "We will think before we act, and that’s going to make it difficult for them" p.333. At the start of the novel, Connor most likely would not have been in the position he is now, because he had matured and changed. Clearly, Risa had power over Connor’s actions. Consequently, a change in Connor’s behavior.
Connor is not the only one that changed in the novel. Risa changed as well. Risa changed in a different way, At the beginning of the novel, Risa was naive, she is repeatedly overlooked and dismissed. All her life, all she has wanted was a purpose. She worked with infants at the state home: "Risa is no stranger to babies. At the state home, she would occasionally get to work with the infants. " P.65. She was a medic at the graveyard. "She’s immediately promoted from dishwasher to medic" p.201. Risa needed a reason to live. Furthermore, she had finally felt like she had one. "The Admiral was an odd bird, but he’d done something no one else had been able to do for her since she’d left StaHo. He’d given her back the right to exist. " p.202. It is necessary for her to arrive at a harvest camp for her musical talents to finally be recognized. With her impending death approaching, Risa finally just gets to do what she loves. "The joy of having her fingers on the keys again" at the end of the book, Risa has a purpose, running the Graveyard with Connor and gets to play the piano. The only thing she’s ever wanted to do. Risa doesn’t mind her wheelchair because it was her choice. "A girl plays a grand piano sheltered beneath the wing of a battered jet that was once Air Force One. She plays with a rare sort of joy in defiance of her wheelchair, and her sonata lifts the spirits of all the new arrivals. " p.335. She no longer feels unwanted. She finally has a purpose and a choice over her purpose in life. Without Connor and the harvest camp, she would have been shipped off to a harvest camp and unwound. Without her journey with Connor and Lev, she would have not become the mature young woman that she has become at the end of the novel.
In Unwind, Lev is the character that goes through the most change. At the beginning of the novel, we see Lev confident and happy to be a tithe and ready to be unwound. “it’s no use trying to explain to this godless pair what tithing is all about, How about giving one’s self is the ultimate blessing.” p.42. He was so confident that being unwound was his ultimate destiny. But throughout the book as Lev questions his faith and Pastor Dan’s intentions. All Lev’s life, he was told one thing, and he only had one purpose much unlike Risa. We see Lev longing to get back to his family and away from his “kidnappers”, He discovered that his family didn’t want him to return home. Lev had nowhere to go, he basically had an identity crisis, he was lost and he had betrayed the only people that would take him in. Everything he ever knew he was questioning. “I am lost in every possible way” p.81. This led to his experience in Joplin with Cy-Fi. In Joplin, Lev really saw the horrors of what unwinding really was and the effect it had on the unwound and the recipient. “He knows he’s been changed by this moment, transformed in some deep and frightening way” p.193. Lev was truly blinded by his family, he was disowned by his family and he was lost because everything he had ever known was lost in his mind. “Lev recites prayers, trying to let them transform him and lift him up like they used to, but his heart has been hardened”p.281. Lev was devoted to his religion so much at the beginning of the book he was willing to be unwound for it. But when he was pulled (literally) out of his environment and experienced many things that changed him, he abandoned his religion. He wants so desperately to just go back to the person he was and have faith again. Later, Lev is going to clap, but he just can’t bring himself to do it. “ no matter how hard he tries, no matter how much his mind wants to end this here and now, another part of him- stronger part of him - refuses to let him clap his hands together”p.310. But Lev is strong, he always was, but it needed that moment. That moment to realize that he, he. Had a choice over his life. The end of the novel ends happily for Lev. “lev begins to feel himself choking up with an unexpected flood of feeling, all the emotions that had been building up throughout their talk-- throughout the weeks -- arriving all at once, like a sonic boom. ‘I never felt like that was a choice’” p.329. At that moment, Lev has realized that he finally has control over his life and his beliefs. He hadn’t before, it was a required decision. It was decided for him. He may be in an institution, but he found himself. He was no longer lost. He would not have become the character he was at the end of the novel without his actions and experiences throughout the book.
Considering the facts, the theme "Everyone is capable of change given the right circumstances" is clearly demonstrated through the characters and events throughout the novel. All three characters in the Novel Unwind were changed for the better as a result of the circumstances they experienced. Connor went from being impulsive to thinking thoroughly through his actions. Risa went from never being truly appreciated and naive, to running the Graveyard with Connor and Mature enough to understand the impact of her decisions. Lev went from a blind, loyal tithe to a young man who finally had control over his life (literally) and the clapper who didn’t clap. Unwind ends happily for the 3 main characters, they have gained back control of their own lives and are living life on their own terms. The characters would have not become the characters they are at the end of the novel without the circumstances they went through in the novel.