A theme or lesson from Unwind is that all life is valuable. Another theme is the meaning of life itself.
In the story, a war has been fought between the pro-life and pro-choice movements. As a result, the Bill of Life has been passed. The bill states that no fetuses can be aborted, but that after the child turns thirteen the parents can choose to retroactively abort the child by having him or her unwound. The process of unwinding means that body parts are harvested and transplanted into others.
Sometimes parents choose to unwind their children because they are trouble makers. Ariana’s parents tell her that they always knew Connor “would be an unwind” (p. 5).
Connor wonders how he can call his parents’ house home, when he is about to be “evicted… from the hearts of those who are supposed to love him” (p. 5). This explores the theme of why Connor is not worthy to live, because he is a living thinking human being.
The war that was fought over abortion was a war of ideals. The war’s (and the novel's) central issue was the same one we grapple with in our society: what is life? Does life begin at conception, when there is no consciousness? Is it murder to kill a person before he has a chance to become a person? Does life begin when one is born, so that once a person is a person that person has a right to live no matter what?
The conversation between the colonel and Connor is relevant to the issue of what life means. Even though the war was fought over the meaning of life, it is not that simple.
You see, a conflict always begins with an issue—a difference of opinion, an argument. By the time it turns into a war, the issue doesn’t matter anymore. (p. 222)
Since the Bill of Rights was passed, unwinding is seen as a compromise. However, others feel that it is murder. The ones who are pro-life now are the ones that do not want to abort the living children.