Whirligig Themes Created by Jack RIvers

"We're meeting today...to apologize, and to understand, and to atone....We never know all the consequences of our acts. They reach into places we can't see. And into the future, where no one can."

What is a theme? A theme is a central idea in a piece of writing or other work of art. Whirligig is full of themes, from spoken ones to implied ones. In this article, you will learn about five themes in Whirligig and how they relate to my personal life. You might even be able to relate them to your personal life as well!

1. Actions have consequences.
"Everything we did-- good, bad, and indifferent-- sent a wave rolling out of sight"

This is one of the first themes we see in this book. If you haven't read the book (and you don't want to), here's the short version: Brent is at a party because he wants to fit in. He drinks some alcohol (even though he is underage), and tries flirting with the girl he likes, Brianna. She rejects him, and the partygoers laugh at him. Feeling enraged and publicly humiliated, he gets in his car and drives off. Problem is though, he was drinking very strong alcohol, and eventually passes out. When he wakes up, he is in a hospital, and it's revealed to us when he passed out, he crashed into another driver named Lea Zamora, killing her. When Mrs. Zamora (Lea's mother) comes, she demands that Brent places 4 whirligigs on the 4 corners of the U.S. This is how the whole story started.

A drunk driver crashes into another car.

How does this relate to me?

Back in the 3rd grade, I had a very hard time controlling what I did. It would always seem like the words would just flow out my mouth. This is what happened one day at lunch. I was in line waiting for my food. Behind me, two kids were making fun of me. I tried to ignore them, but them wouldn't stop. I eventually got so mad that I yelled at them in front of the class. Eventually, a teacher came over and told me to come with them. I went with them, and they brought me to the principal's office. They told the principal what happened, and he called my parents. They came, and they were very disappointed with me. They punished me later at home. In short, because I yelled at the kids (which was the wrong thing to do). I was eventually punished because of my actions.

I was punished for yelling at the kids.

How did this effect me and others?

I was mainly affected here negatively. Since I didn't think before acting, I was punished. This led to me being more careful about my actions. This also effected my parents. Because of my actions, this led to them being a bit less trusting (but this would eventually change).

2. Forgiveness doesn't always come easy.
"He took the obituary from its hiding place, looked up Cesar Zamora in the phone book, and spent all of one day composing what became a four-sentence apology. He mailed it on a Monday. The reply came on Friday—an envelope with his own letter inside, mutilated with scissors, stabbed, defaced with cigarette burns."

When Brent sends an apology letter to Mrs. Zamora about the death of her daughter, she sends it back, just stabbed with scissors and covered in ciggerate burns. This clearly shows she isn't happy. When Brent meets with her to discuss restitution, she wants Brent to do an seemingly impossible task. This also shows that she isn't happy. The lesson of this is that forgiveness doesn't always come easy. In the novel, Brent accidentally kills a woman's daughter (Lea). The woman (Mrs. Zamora) won't forgive him unless he does her task: travel to the four corners the the U.S., and place a whirligig there. Only then will she forgive him.

How does this relate to me?

A little while back, I was playing outside. Last night it had rained, so the ground was all muddy. I got my shoes all muddy while outside, so I when I went inside to go clean them off. Little did I know that my sister's favorite stuffed animal was by the door (Why was it there? I don't know.). I accidentally stepped on it getting mud all over the toy. Lucky for me, I stepped on it just as my sister was passing by. She got very upset. I tried to appolgize, but she didn't want to hear it. Only after the toy was cleaned and another week did she forgive me (I had to clean the toy myself).

My shoes were muddy when I came in. (Not an accurate representation)

How did this effect me and others?

While I wasn't affected very much, my sister was. For starters, her favorite toy got muddy. Also, she was in a very bad mood for the rest of the week. I was only affected where I had to clean the toy and appologize multiple times.

3. Punishment is inevitable.
"The judge was addressing him, sentencing him to probation in place of the detention center."

Everyone gets punished once in a while. The same goes for Brent. When he crashes into Lea's car, he kills her. He know he is going to be punished harshly. He even wants to be punished! Take a look at this quote:

"He felt relief, but also an unanswered hunger. He realized he wanted a punishment."

He is charged for DUI and manslaughter. He clearly knows he is going to be punished. He just doesn't know what it is. He thinks he is going to join the juvenile detention center, go through therapy for depression, and be tutored on alcohol. But none of this ever happens. His only punishment is to do Mrs. Zamora's task.

How does this relate to me?

As a child, I've always feared punishment. Everyone does. It's only natural. Now, there is this one time where I knew I was going to be punished, no matter what I tried to say. I had talked back to a teacher, and he told me to give my parents his phone number so they could talk. I knew I was going to be punished, so I tried changing the phone number by 1 digit. That didn't work. My parents called the number, thinking it was the teacher. But it was a random woman. I eventually broke down and confessed my crime, changing the number so that it was the right number. My parents talked to the teacher, and I was grounded for a week, 4 days because of what I did, and 3 days because of the changed digit.

How did this effect me and others?

This affected me and others negatively. First, my parents had to lose trust in me for a week. Next, I lost self esteem and trust in myself for a little while as well. Finally, I made sure that I would not make this same mistake again.

4. You must get through differences in order to get along.
"Birds don’t live alone, I told myself. They live in flocks. Like people. People are always in a group. Like that little wooden band. And whenever there’s a group, there’s fighting."

Constancia's husband lives in a house that has three generations living there, so you can except there to be some differences. Where there are differences, there is also arguing. But he doesn't like arguing, so he got a job as a street sweeper during the night when it's quiet. He also likes this one type of bird: shearwaters. He likes them because they live alone, or so he thinks. He wants to see one, so he goes to a dock to find someone who can take him to find a shearwater. On the way there, he sees a marching band whirligig. He finds someone who takes him to the shearwaters. When he gets there, he is surprised to find that the shearwaters don't live alone. It reminds him of the whirligig, where everyone works together.

A shearwater hunting for fish.

How does this relate to me?

A few years back, I had this project. Now I like working alone, but for some projects I have to work with others and this was one of those projects. For this project, I had to create a movie for class. I wanted our movie to be about a superhero, but my partner wanted a movie on a mystery. We argued alot, and it seemed like we were never going to get along. Until one night, I realized that, if we didn't work together, neither of us would get a good grade. So I accepted my partner's difference in choice, and we both came to a conclusion. Turns out in the end, we both aced the project.

How did this effect me and others?

This effected me and my partner positively. We both realized that in the end, we need to accept each others differences, and come to a comprimise. This also helped me helped me learn to compromise, not fight.

5. Hard work pays off.
“This is my only request. That you make four whirligigs, of a girl that looks like Lea. Put her name on them. Then set them up in Washington, California, Florida, and Maine—the corners of the United States."

In the story, Brent travels to the four corners of the U.S. planting whirligigs on each corner in order to redeem himself. The four places he goes to are Weeksboro, Maine; Miami, Florida; Bellevue, Washington; and San Diego, California. That's over 10,477 kilometers (or 6,510 miles) of land to travel! But out of determination and perserverence, he is able to do it all and complete the task. This truly shows that hard work does pay off.

A map showing how far Brent traveled.

How does this relate to me?

A little while back, just before the end of the 7th grade, I was attending Sutton Middle School. The thing was, I didn't like Sutton at all. The people that went there weren't nice at all, the hallways would constantly stink from the lack of sanitation, and overall the teachers there were just straight up mean. I had to do something about this, so I decided that I wanted to swap to a different school that would give me a better education. Now Sutton was a public school, and I wanted to go to a private school, but the only way I could swap was to take the SSAT. The SSAT is a hard test that determines what type of private school you get into. I wanted to get into a good school, so for 3 months, every day I would study for 2 hours, school day or not. Eventually, I took the SSAT, and I got a great score! I choose to go to Woodward because it looked like a great school. In short, because I studied so hard, I got to come to Woodward.

I had to study 2 hours every day for the SSAT.

How did this effect me and others?

This affected me and others in a number of ways. First off, the studying helped me figure out better ways to manage my time. It also made me smarter, and have better study habits. Secondly, it mainly affected my father. He would constantly help me review and test me. This eventually led him to become smarter himself and create a personalized study routine for me.

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