Study Guide

Travis in The Forest of Hands and Teeth

By Carrie Ryan

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According to the T-man, when he's by himself he dreams of life beyond the Forest, but since he's a realist he's also willing to suck it up and just deal with the life he's been given. That's why he made his fateful climb to the top of the tower—"To give up on those dreams and accept the life I had chosen. To forget about the world outside the fences" (25.44)—but then he slips from the tower and seriously hurts himself, and then nothing's clear anymore. He says:

At first, when I broke my leg, I was delirious with pain and I thought it was God's punishment for wanting more. […] I was ready to give it all up, then. To follow His path, whatever it was. But then you came into my room night after night and you told me about the ocean and pulled me through the pain and I didn't know what to believe anymore. I didn't know if I was being tempted or being shown the right path. (25.49)

Was the fall a punishment for his dreams or for letting go of them? Is Mary (and his growing love for her) a temptation or a message that dreams can come true? Poor Travis—he's one confused dude.

And his love life is no exception—confusion practically governs it, it seems. Travis loves Mary but chooses Cass, but then while Mary comforts him after his fall, it's Cass he responds to physically in the Cathedral. He wants to be with Mary, but sticks with Cass for the Binding Ceremony; he later tells Mary, "I was going to let my passion overcome my common sense. But then seeing […] what happened to those who strayed from the Sisters' path[,] I saw what would happen to us—to you. And I couldn't bear it" (29.59). Need we go on? Travis is a hot mess when it comes to his feelings.

Speaking of his love life, meeting pre-zombie Gabrielle doesn't help things either for Mary's main man. The Gab tells him that she's seen Mary's precious ocean, that it's dangerous and crawling with flesh-eating dead people. What's a guy to do? He's all about trying to love Mary, but he's also got to protect her from the one thing she can't stop believing in. Argh.

Travis finally has his light bulb moment while he's stuck in the house with Mary. He realizes there that his dreams really aren't about escaping from the Forest, that he just wants to be with his girl. Unfortunately for him, she's realizing at the same time that she's more interested in the ocean than in her loverboy—sad face. Then zombies infiltrate their casa, Mary saves the big T, and he watches helplessly as she escapes a moaning pile of dead people without a bite. Epiphany moment number two: the poor guy realizes that there ain't a thing he can do to protect her. She's basically a one-woman-surviving machine—and he's no match for that.

You don't have to take our word for it, though. Travis can speak for himself:

I realized yesterday that it doesn't matter about the ocean. Because even if we never find it you still no longer need me. Once I thought I could protect you. Could take care of you. But you're strong enough. I've never seen anything like what you did yesterday. I've never seen someone survive the way that you have. To fight the Unconsecrated and live! […] I was in awe. (29.66)

Without Mary, what's Travis's destiny? Sacrifice himself to save Mary and her dreams, of course. Sure, he gets bitten by a zombie first, but let's face it—he would have run that wire to save their lives even if he'd been healthy as a horse. Travis's final sacrifice gives him the only thing he realized he needed: Mary's happiness. What he does made it possible for her to achieve her dreams… which, he'd realized, is the only way to make her truly happy.

Step aside, Romeo—you've got nothin' on this boy.

Travis in The Forest of Hands and Teeth Study Group

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