Study Guide

Unwind Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Neal Schusterman

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Life, Consciousness, and Existence

Chapter 2

"I'd rather be partly great than entirely useless." (1.2.96)

This is quite the rationalization for unwinding from an unwind. Do you think Samson actually believes this? If the whole "still alive, in a divided state" thing is true, we can see why someone might believe this.

"The fact is, 100 percent of you will still be alive, just in a divided state." (1.2.64)

How is this possible? Is this something that is scientific fact in this world, or do you think they just say it make people feel better?

Chapter 7

"It's better than going through life without knowing your purpose." (1.7.13)

Lev makes a decent point here, though we loathe to admit it. How many books are about characters trying to find their life's purpose? Lev has the convenience of knowing his…even if it is to die at 13.

Chapter 19

"People aren't all good, and people aren't all bad. We move in and out of darkness and light all of our lives. Right now, I'm pleased to be in the light." (2.19.219)

It seems that one of the biggest morals of this story, if it can be said to have one, is that we just live in one big freaking grey area. (Not to be confused with a fifty shades of grey area.)

"That's not your fault, though. You didn't ask to be born, and you didn't ask to be unwound, either." (2.19.49)

This is a good argument, made complicated by the fact that it can be applied to children of any age, be it 16 years, 16 months, or for some people, 16 seconds.

Chapter 21

"I didn't get the part of him that uses words. I get feelings mostly. Sometimes images, but usually just feelings. Urges. When I get an urge and I don't know where it's coming from, I know it's from him." (3.21.176)

Cy-Fi's dilemma is one that's only possible in sci-fi…at least until brain transplants are possible in real life.

Chapter 27

"So then," says Hayden, "if every part of you is alive but inside someone else… are you alive or are you dead?" (4.27.59)

This is a natural extension of an argument resulting from the first quote, the one about a "divided state." Can it be called living if every part of you is still conscious in some way? What the heck does being alive mean in this world? Our head hurts just thinking about it.

[Connor] tries to imagine himself stretched so thin and so wide that he can reach around the world. He imagines his spirit strung between the thousand recipients of his hands, his eyes, the fragments of his brain—none of it under his control anymore, all absorbed by the bodies and wills of others. Could consciousness exist like that? (4.27.112)

That's pretty much our question: Can consciousness exist like that? And if it could, would that be an amazing existence, or an awful one?

Chapter 51

On the existence of a soul, whether unwound or unborn, people are likely to debate for hours on end, but no one questions whether an unwinding facility has a soul. It does not. (6.51.1)

This might seem like a kind of silly observation, but what it's getting at is pretty interesting: Humans draw lines around souls, delineating between who/what does and does not have one. And yet, last we checked, souls are pretty elusive and intangible things. So this line drawing is maybe more arbitrary than factual.

Memories tweak and spark. Faces. Dreamlike pulses of light deep in his mind. Feelings. Things he hasn't thought about in years. The memories bloom, then they're gone. (6.61.77)

Even though this whole passage is complete fiction (unless Shusterman had a near-death experience we don't know about), it explores human consciousness in such a way that it's absolutely terrifying to see it extinguished.

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