Ah, Gerry. He's what some people might call 'troubled.' And that's putting it nicely.
For starters, he has no problem killing people, including the woman who is basically his mother. Oh yeah, and he leads the gestalt life form, which is powerful enough to take over the world. Brain would be jealous.
This makes Gerry arguably the most important character in the novel—especially since he's the one to make the decision to convert from a life of wrongdoing to one of helping humanity, thus allowing his group to join the rest of Homo Gestalt and belong to its society.
Let's check out how his life evolves and how his path fits into what is, after all, a book about evolution. Part 1 of the novel marks the life form's childhood, including Gerry's childhood at the orphanage. For a second we thought this was going to turn into some science-fiction Annie, which would have been awesome.
Things get switched up a bit in Part 2, which documents the life form's adolescence. Here we see Gerry undergoing psychotherapy as a troubled—not to mention murderous—teen. Was this Stephanie Meyer's inspiration for Twilight? Meh...probably Not.
Part 3 finally shows the life form maturing and joining Homo Gestalt, and that's all about Gerry making the decision to change for the better. It's about freaking time, Gerry.
The novel is told through such an out-of-order, fragmented narrative that looking at some of the main characters in a chronological way helps make sense of it all. Here's what we've figured out about Gerry.
We've got ourselves a bad guy who turns good, so we get a tragic backstory to explain what made him who he is—and no, Taylor Swift had nothing to do with it. That backstory is his traumatic childhood at a state orphanage. There, at age six, he experiences coldness, hunger, fear, fights, and more, all of it leading to one emotion for Gerry, one sentence summing it up:
Hatred was the only warmth in the world, the only certainty. (1.12.2)
The biggest reward at the place, he later tells his psychotherapist Stern, was to be left alone:
The earliest thing I can remember is a punch in the mouth [...] Because I was crying [...] Try to live so the biggest, most wonderful thing in the whole damn world is just to have 'em let you alone! (2.9.33)
Gerry can't take the orphanage anymore by the time he reaches age eight. He decides to run away—and to continue hating. What can you say, haters gonna hate.
Remember those two things: hate and wanting to be left alone. They explain what fundamentally motivates Gerry's dark side, so to speak.
Note, too, that Gerry also experiences loneliness at the orphanage. Loneliness is a factor that drives pretty much all the main characters to join the gestalt. But with Gerry, instead of the playfulness of the twins or the kindness of Janie, we've got enough hate to fuel murder. That doesn't bode well for the gestalt.
Just when Gerry is convinced that no one will help him, Lone swoops in and rescues him from his runaway life. Lone brings him into the shelter, and for once Gerry belongs and bleshes (see "Symbols" if you forgot what that word means). If hate and wanting to be left alone are the dark side of him, belonging and bleshing are his light side. During a therapy session, Gerry tells Stern:
Something wonderful: you belong. It never happened before…Two yellow bulbs and a fireplace and they light up the world. It's all there is and all there ever has to be. (2.9.34)
Gerry's romanticizing that time a bit here, because even back then, his life was sabotaged by his hate.
See, when Lone was in charge of the gestalt, even though there was a safe and welcoming shelter in the woods, it still was never enough to overcome that overwhelming emotion from Gerry's childhood. "He hates you," Janie explains to Lone about Gerry when the runaway first enters the shelter (2.2.89). The solution, she explains, is to feed him. They know he's the next head of the gestalt, after all, so they want him to feel welcome.
Lone makes him a meal, and Gerry begins to fit in. Soon he's helping out, improving the shelter and the like. But while the others have their cool sci-fi powers, he's still got none:
They all did things I couldn't do…I was mad, mad all the time about that. But I wouldn't of known what to do with myself if I wasn't mad all the time about something. (2.4.3)
His hate remains for the three years that Lone acts as his father, and it continues through the end of Lone's time.
His hate is still present during the kids' time at Miss Kew's home. Miss Kew, who acts more or less as his mother for three years, feeds him and gives him an ordinary, albeit problematic, life: "clean clothes, cooked food, five hours a day school," as he summarizes it to Stern (2.9.35). But her rules suppress the gestalt: "We didn't blesh" (2.9.51).
His hate festers under Miss Kew because she keeps him from being his true self with all her strict morals. Whenever Miss Kew tries to smack down the kids—Gerry's budding gestalt—he fights back. Janie helps him convince Miss Kew to de-segregate the twins, but Gerry is the one with the muscle to clinch the deal. He "bellow[s]" for the pair to teleport to their lunch area (2.8.16). They do, bringing the gestalt closer together and solidifying his leadership of it. His anger came in handy.
Then Miss Kew tries to send Baby away. Janie helps him convince her to restore the group, but once again, it's Gerry who clinches the deal with his intensity. He orders Janie to smash up the house with her telekinesis and torment Miss Kew. "Get rats, Janie" (2.9.14). Miss Kew brings Baby back. Gerry's anger keeps the group together.
Gerry calls that time a happy one, but it's not truly, for it's not the life of the gestalt. "We all did what somebody else wanted [...] and we were all happy with it," he says, but that's his wishful thinking during therapy (2.9.49). Stern's words are more accurate: "You must have really hated her" (2.9.30). Just like at the orphanage, at Miss Kew's, Gerry is driven by hate and wanting to be left alone—in this case, wanting himself and his gestalt to be left alone.
So much so that he murders Miss Key, apparently with his bare hands. Yikes.
Gerry, now fifteen, meets with Stern, the psychotherapist, so he can understand why he killed Miss Kew the day before. They discover that, under Miss Kew, Gerry wasn't able to live as his true self. He was merely human, not more than it, not the gestalt. He felt she was killing what he really was. So, with all his hate, he killed her to regain his nature.
We admit—Part 2 of the novel, the therapy session, is pretty confusing. What's with this "Baby is three" phrase and how does it connect with Gerry's character?
Here's the explanation; you just have to read super-closely to find it. The day Gerry meets Miss Kew, he uses his sci-fi power fully for the first time: he probes her mind in her library. He finds her memories of his father figure having sex with her, and reacts with his typical anger, cussing at Miss Kew.
Lone's conversations with her, revealed in the probe, contain information on who Gerry really is: the new head of the gestalt. But he couldn't remember that without Stern's help. He's been under Miss Kew's control for three years by the time he makes it to the psychotherapist's office. The scene he saw probing her mind is now a primal one: both his parent figures having sex. Yeah, pretty traumatizing.
He's repressed the memory so much that his only clue is the "Baby is three" phrase. For most of the therapy session, whenever he or Stern near that phrase, his mind freaks out and keeps him from remembering the contents of the probe—particularly the part where Lone and Miss Kew get jiggy with it.
Eventually Stern helps him get past it to the memory from Miss Kew's mind. Gerry learns, from Lone's conversations with her, his true nature. He decides it'd be a swell idea to be this powerful new organism with unlimited power.
Stern tries to warn him that he needs to learn about morality before unleashing his power, but the psychotherapist doesn't fare well in the face of Gerry's hate. The teen has already reached the conclusion he's seemingly wanted to reach all along:
Ever since I was born people been kicking me around, right up until Miss Kew took over. And what happened with her? She damn near killed me [...] Everybody's had fun but me. The kind of fun everybody has is kicking someone around, someone small who can't fight back [...] I'm just going to have fun. (2.14.26-27)
He takes that way of living for granted:
We'll defend ourselves ... We'll just do what comes naturally. (2.14.22)
What does that sound like? The orphanage from which he came.
He uses his mind-power to make Stern forget the session and heads for the police station to file a false report for Miss Kew's death, thinking, "What the hell is morality, anyway?" (2.14.66)
Gerry then "got ambitious for a while and decided to go through college" (3.14.2). But he only did so to prove his superiority, Janie explains:
He had it pretty rough when he was a kid [...] it felt good to get honors in his classes and make money with a twist of his wrist any time he wanted it. (3.14.10)
That should remind you of another main character: Hip Barrows. In college, Gerry "soon came to realize that he didn't need to prove anything to anyone," Janie tells Hip. "He was smarter and stronger and more powerful than anybody. Proving it was just dull. He could have anything he wanted" (3.14.11).
So he quit doing anything. The resulting depression made him regress. "He got childish," according to Janie. "And his kind of childishness was pretty vicious" (3.14.16). You know what they say, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop."
Gerry learns that someone named Lieutenant Hip Barrows is tracking down the anti-gravity generator Lone built. Gerry fears this will cause spies or military forces to come after his gestalt. He could deal with such foes, but being the childish punk he is, he prefers to just be left alone to fester in his hate. Just like at the orphanage.
Gerry decides to torment Hip. "He got mad," Janie explains. "He got mad at Lone who was dead and he especially got mad at [Hip]" (3.14.35). He sends the generator out of Hip's reach forever and puts a block on the lieutenant's memory. He also trips Hip, just to be mean. Gerry's hatred has a cruelty to it; he's mean just to be mean. He methodically sabotages Hip's life in an effort to discredit him.
After Hip struggles for seven years to track him down and find out more about the generator, Gerry blocks his memory again and lands him in jail. No more Mr. Nice Guy, if there ever even was one underneath all that anger.
What is it that Gerry wants? Toward the end of the novel, he sits in a greenhouse-like room in Mr. Kew's old mansion, wanting to be left alone to fester in his hate. His only hope is the sense of belonging that bleshing brings, he just doesn't know that yet.
Hip arrives. Gerry prepares to destroy him yet again. This time, though, the tables turn and Hip ties him to a chair. There Hip shows Gerry a philosophical message. The two are alike, Gerry reads. Both were hated and lonely; both wanted to be popular. Both are uniquely talented. They can share a sense of belonging together, enough for Gerry to be swayed by Hip's message.
Gerry's ethos as a child and teen was self-preservation. Stern and Janie suggest he needs morality, but Hip explains morality is a society's code for an individual's survival. Gerry's gestalt is alone, Hip explains (which is correct as far as anyone knows at this point in the novel), so it needs an ethic: an individual's code for a society's survival. And that ethic should be one of humanism. Helping humanity, not hurting it. That's the way to belong.
Gerry finds enough power in Hip's message to change. "I feel ashamed," he whispers. "I know a lot. I can find out anything about anything. But I never ...." (3.19.7). He never thought to look for something idealistic to do with his life. Hip has shown him that path.
Gerry accepts the new course with humility. Other gestalts, as a result, reveal themselves to him and his. They are all humanity, Homo Gestalt. Ta-dah!
Last but certainly not least, what cool sci-fi power or powers does Gerry have? He has telepathy, the ability to read minds. When he probes someone's brain, his eyes seem to spin like wheels. He can use the power to make people do things or forget things. Gerry can even place blocks on their memory using his power. Definitely not the kind of guy you'd want to make upset—just ask Hip.