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Whirligig by Paul Fleischman

Seventeen year old Brent Bishop, after a failed suicide attempt and unintended manslaughter, is given a life changing assignment in Paul Fleischman' novel, Whirligig. Brent's assignment is to build four whirligigs and put each one in a corner of the United States. Each whirligig must keep Lea Zamora's, the eighteen year old girl he kills, spirit alive by showing her loving smile. At Mrs. Zamora's request, Brent embarks on his journey along the coast paying a restitution to her family. Brent leaves the life of a lie behind. Because of Mrs. Zamora's seemingly ridiculous request of travel, Brent can use the trip as a way to gain his independence.

Brent had no thoughts of doing what he liked, only what the popular kids would be impressed with. He wants to make a huge impression at Chaz's party, but realizes that he already ruins his chances when he walks outside and sees he is not following the black and white dress code. Brent could not 'afford' a sense of humor, therefore finding Chaz's harmless teasing about his appearance a great insult and embarrassment (Fleischman 7). This insecurity caused Brent to leave the party with a feeling of failure. Drunk from the hard alcohol he had at the party, Brent drove home. Showing his only form of control by loosing it, Brent lets go of the steering wheel hoping to end it all.

Even halfway through the journey, Brent is still too naive but has the power to make beneficial decisions. Brent's best independent decision was saying 'I'll do it' when asked if he wanted to go on the trip (Fleischman 42). If Brent had never agreed to the trip, he would have never changed. He would not have had the ability to change on his own because of his constant immaturity. His lack of prior knowledge and experience interfered with his potential to become a leader instead of remaining a follower.

The life lessons Brent learns on his journey made his new life something of better value. By listening to other's views, Brent can begin formulating his own opinions. Brent's ability to make better judgements enables him to feel 'safe' when confiding his secret to the painter (Fleischman 123). Because of his capability to make informed judgments, Brent can share his secret instead of keeping it to himself. By releasing his secret, Brent has released his past and can enjoy his new life without so much guilt.

Brent has found a suitable level of independence, from his journey and the new discoveries and friends he has made. Brent now understands that there are 'consequences for [his] actions' that have the potential of becoming caustic (Fleischman 7). Although, they can lead to constructive things like they did for Brent. He found himself. It took something as great as death to make Brent realize that being himself is better than living a lie.





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t. burlison said...
Jun. 22, 2009 at 10:06 pm
Great essay! You chose some excellent quotes to back up your thesis. Keep reading...especially between the lines! ;)
 
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