Study Guide

Unwind Humphrey Dunfee

By Neal Schusterman

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Humphrey Dunfee

Can't Make an Omelet without Breaking a Few Teenagers

Humphrey Dunfee is an urban legend intended to scare kids (think: Candyman or the witch's uvula). It's first mentioned in Chapter 7, as if kids who are going to be unwound need more to be scared of.

The legend says that Humphrey Dunfee's parents regret unwinding their son, so they're hunting down pieces of him and rebuilding him, Frankenstein's monster-style. At the end of the legend, the futility of the mission is addressed. "All the king's horses and all the king's men…couldn't put Humphrey together again" (2.19.173). In other words, there's no way this family can ever get their son back.

And it's true—the legend, that is. It's about Admiral Dunfee's son, Harlan, and the Admiral is collecting the pieces of his unwound son. But he's not a butcher; he's letting the people stay whole and doing the best he can to get them together. Like CyFi with his little piece of Tyler, these people each remember a bit about Harlan, and together they can share memories of him. It's the next best thing, and it's all the Admiral and his wife can do.

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