Whirligig Questions and Answers
by Paul Fleischman

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How does building the whirligig affect Brent in Washington?

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In the third chapter, “The Afterlife,” we follow Brent’s first attempt to build a whirligig at a park in Washington state. He has an old instruction book on how to make them. But he’s not a natural handyman. He brought all the materials and tools he needs – but he knows he can’t afford to make too many mistakes. It takes him a whole day, from start to finish. He gets angry right away when he breaks a saw blade and accidentally cuts off part of the angel’s wing. He’s savvy enough now to know to step away from the project for a few minutes. He is “frightened by his anger in the face of this setback.” A bit later, he returns and figures out how to modify his original plan. He can almost feel the former owner of the instruction book and even Lea herself, watching over him, guiding him. Whenever he feels angry or frustrated, he takes a break. (The pre-accident Brent we saw in the first chapter probably would have just let the anger overtake him. In fact, when he cuts his hand several times here accidentally, he thinks that perhaps he subconsciously longs for more punishment.) When he finally has the whirligig done, and the arms move with the wind, he tingles. He can feel that he’s done a good job, and he accomplished it on his own.

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