How does Brent struggle to forgive himself for the accident in Whirligig?

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slchanmo1885 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Brent kills Lea in the accident, he has this overwhelming guilt and need to know more about her. He shuts down physically and mentally, and refuses to go back to school and cannot function in his normal life anymore. He writes an apology to Lea's father that is returned to him, ripped up and burned. He cannot find solace in anything, and even his probation that is his punishment from the court doesn't seem like enough punishment for what he's done. When Brent meets Mrs. Zamora about retribution for her daughter's death, he jumps at the chance to go on the journey she suggests, to put whirligigs around the country in honor of Lea. As he travels, he reflects on Lea, his life, and slowly begins forgiving himself as he meets others and learns about life. When he meets the painter in Maine, and confesses to her, a complete stranger but a trustworthly kindred spirit, she offers forgiveness and validation, which really hits home. Before he was "forgiven" by "professional forgivers" like priests and ministers, but this "was different -- hearing himself freely forgiven, by someone he trusted" (pg 129, Chapter 9). While his guilt never completely dissipates, he feels better somehow, now that he has been set in motion, like a whirligig. He wants to continue to move others, and continue to learn and teach, and spread Lea's legacy everywhere he goes.