Study Guide

Jed in The Forest of Hands and Teeth

By Carrie Ryan

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Jed's a Guardian, a husband, a brother, and a protector, which basically means he's all up in everyone's business. Sometimes this is totally cool, but sometimes things just get a little chilly when he's around.

As a Guardian in the village, Jed is tasked with mending fences and killing off rogue zombies. In this way he contributes to both the collective safety of the village's inhabitants, while also participating in the rather secretive system of control that runs everyone's lives. Jed's low on the Guardian food chain, though, so it seems like he's pretty much just following orders.

Jed will do what it takes to protect those he loves, though this can get a little messy. When Mary comes stumbling home after losing their mom to zombie-life, he shuts the door in her face, forcing her to live with the Sisters. He tells himself he's protecting her from making more stupid mistakes, but if he were being honest with himself he'd see that he's also sparing himself from a tough look at his own selfishness—"he wanted [Mary] to be the one to kill [their mom] so that he wouldn't have to make his own choice" (3.32). His act of love for his sister, then, is also an act of punishing her. Tricky stuff, right?

Keeping Mary away also helps Jed focus his attention on the love of his life, Beth, and the loss of their child. With Mary tucked away in the Cathedral, he can deal with his grief and anger without having to see her face.

Yet Jed's really not a bad guy. He may be cruel to Mary, but when the village crumbles and Beth gets bitten, he knows that Mary is his only hope for Beth's survival. She's his sister after all, and he knows she'll forgive him and keep his secret. For Jed, losing Beth means losing everything; just look at what he tells Mary about his love:

"The Sisterhood has it wrong. […] It's not about surviving. It should be about love. When you know love… that's what makes this life worth it. When you live with it every day. Wake up with it, hold on to it during the thunder and after a nightmare. When love is your refuge from the death that surrounds us all and when it fills you so tight that you can't express it. […] You would realize that you don't let love go like that. And you would realize that you certainly never kill it. Never." (17.65, 67)

Aw… So losing Beth demolishes Jed's world, and leaves him nothing to hold on to except the one tie to family he's got left. With Beth gone, Mary is "all I have left of family" (33.101).

Though hard to reach sometimes, deep down it seems like Jed is a lover not a fighter. He ultimately can't help but love his sister, and in the end is willing to sacrifice himself to protect their bond.

Jed in The Forest of Hands and Teeth Study Group

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