When our protagonist has to make his most serious decision, he says: Then, I saw a mother ready to die for her son, a husband ready to kill for his wife. They are not married; they are different families, but they have this much in common, their families are falling apart. It would seem that love of one’s own can make humans act ferociously, obliterating the distinction between self-defense & murder.
The boy’s connection to the woman is not a complicated matter: He fell in love with her & he saw himself in her boy. But she is a better mother than his mother had ever been, who lost her mind & sold her boy, being alone, unprotected, & weak. This other woman is not as weak, but she also needs protection. The peculiarity of her situation is that she has to raise a boy by herself. All evidence suggests she fails.
The boy’s connection to the man is the complicated matter: The man is his older self returning from the future. When he sees himself return, he only hesitates a second before trying to kill this older man. The older man knows that: He only expects, rather reasonably, that if he shows his face, that will buy him time, a second’s hesitation, then he has to kill this younger man.
This is a story about what murder ideally means. If you kill a body, his family might come after you. They remember him, they loved him, & they insist on vengeance for having something good taken from them. You either kill everybody or nobody. Half-measures are unreasonable. Murder, ideally, would mean that the dead will never have lived. Family, however, means that the living must be allowed to take their dead & honor them.
This boy seems to choose rightly in choosing the woman over the man, who may be himself or his father, so to speak. The woman has a son, the old man does not. He chooses family, but choosing family means changing what family means. The old man is himself, blood & bones. The woman is not his family. He takes her & her boy under his protection. This is a lesson about marriage, of course: She wants him to husband her.
This boy, an abandoned child, grew up a criminal. He is a savage, or natural, man. He knows that a man with a gun can take what he wants – that anger serves desire. But having never forgotten his mother, he learns that family means you pay for the sins of your forebears. In saving this woman & her boy, he teaches that the city’s survival means protecting the family.