Margo and Alaska
Warning! Spoiler alerts for Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska!
With the recent release of Paper Towns, a movie based on the John Green novel of the same name, there has been a lot of buzz about Margo Roth Spiegelman, one of the main characters. She is the novel’s catalyst, as is Alaska Young in Green’s Looking for Alaska. Some people have suggested that teenagers romanticize these characters and want to become like them. (In fact, there’s a Wikihow page that tells you how to be like Alaska.) This begs the question I want to begin with: Why do people want to be like Margo and Alaska?
It’s easy to morph Margo and Alaska into one person, but they’re clearly different people with distinct lives, problems, and interests. Margo is described as a “mystery,” and Alaska is a “hurricane.” However, they do share similar characteristics. Despite their struggles, they are confident, fun, unique, and beautiful. Guys are infatuated with them. Young women, especially teenage girls, want to be this; many long to be confident, mysterious, alluring, and naturally beautiful, qualities that Margo and Alaska have in abundance. They want a guy to care enough to write a book about them. Even Margo, who struggles with her identity as a “paper girl,” seems confident and is clearly fun to be around. We want these traits; we want to be exciting.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that these novels are written in third person, not first. We are getting a look at these young women through biased lenses. Green does an excellent job demonstrating how Miles Halter (aka Pudge) and Quentin Jacobsen, the narrators of Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, respectively, fail to see the complete persons they are infatuated with. Miles immediately found Alaska attractive, and this attraction is the basis of his infatuation. Green says on his Tumlbr that “that [Pudge’s] failure to imagine her complexly proves so disastrous to him and to her” (http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/post/57820644828/hey-john-i-was-just-wondering-what-your). Quentin has also cared for Margo ever since they met, and he realizes that he doesn’t truly know her—this is summed up perfectly in one of my favorite sentences in the book: “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” However, Quentin is still in love with Margo as he learns more about her.
If we could hear Margo and Alaska’s stories, we may be able to more accurately understand how deep their problems are. Alaska had significant childhood problems, and Margo is coming to terms with her own paperness. As readers, we can only speculate as to whether or not there are any mental disorders involved. We live in a society that is all too eager to diagnose human conditions. Clearly, Margo and Alaska struggle with both serious life issues and typical teenage issues. They are admirable in their own ways, so it is tempting for young people to romanticize them; however, we should not aspire to become more “broken” than we already are. We can take the positive qualities and weigh the consequences of the negative ones, and if we seek to understand Margo, Alaska, and others like them, we can get a fuller picture of them and of ourselves.
Green, John. “Hey John, I Was Just Wondering…” John Green’s Blog. Tumblr. 09 August 2013. Web. LINK: http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/post/57820644828/hey-john-i-was-just-wondering-what-your
Green, John. Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton, 2015. Print.
Green, John. Paper Towns. New York: SPEAK, 2008. Print.
“Questions about Looking for Alaska (SPOILERS!).” John Green Books. WordPress, n.d. Web. LINK: http://johngreenbooks.com/alaska-questions/
Also, check this post out. It has some really great points!
“Paper Girls: Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns”