Paper Towns by John Green

February 28, 2018

In the novel Paper Towns, by John Green, Margo Roth Spiegelman suddenly disappears after seeking revenge on all of her enemies during one sleepless night with her neighbor, Quentin Jacobsen. The story, targeted at modern-day teenagers, expresses many of the problems associated with high school-- such as getting introduced to party culture, leaving home, and once-normal-but-now-superficial peers-- with an apathetic tone. Green develops his theme regarding change through the use of metaphors, hyperboles, and rhetoric.

Green uses metaphors to demonstrate how people-- even Quentin-- can be shallow and the importance of making connections for the satisfaction of picking up and leaving. For example, upon receiving a car as a surprise gift for his graduation, Quentin is upset to find that his parents gave him a used minivan. He expresses his disappointment by remarking, “Minivan, you albatross around my neck! You mark of Cain! You wretched beast of high ceilings and few horsepower!” (232) By comparing the generous present from his parents to historically infamous things, the reader can infer that Quentin is not always grateful, although he presents himself with a “holier than thou” attitude. On the other hand, when he finally left Winter Park High School, Quentin realized the relief which leaving caused and how easy it was once he actually did it. He explains, “Leaving feels good and pure only when you leave something important, something that mattered to you. Pulling life out by the roots. But you can’t do that until your life has grown roots.” (234) He now understands in full that the only way to feel good about leaving is to make a life, or plant “roots”, in the place to which you will never return. Metaphors help Quentin better understand Margo.
A huge part of the high school experience is submitting to party culture. Quentin watches as his friends assimilate into the popular crowd. Hyperboles help John Green express the changes Quentin watched his once-innocent friend go through. For instance, he exclaims, “I could damn near smell the booze in his breath,” while referring to Ben. (176) This exaggeration makes clear that this was not a side of his friend he had previously seen, due to the use of the phrase “smell the booze in his breath”. When one uses this expression, it is often associated with unusual behavior. By the same token, the night after a huge party, Quentin sought out Ben’s help, to which he responded, “I have to sleep for ten thousand hours. I have to drink ten thousand gallons of water, and take ten thousand Advils.” This shows how Ben slowly abandoned his loyal friends in favor of party culture. This relates back to the theme of how easy leaving is once you get it over with.

After Margo left Orlando, her friends were left with the aching question of “why?” The author employs rhetoric to exhibit the concerns of her friends and leave the audience wondering. After finding the abandoned strip mall in which Margo sometimes resided, Quentin wondered, “But why here? How is this better than home?” (170) He was left with all the questions to which he will never have answers, like if she left only for attention or if she actually wanted to fade away. Similarly, Margo left clues for her friend, including a poem where the following lines were highlighted: “A child said, What is the grass? Fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child?... I do not know what it is any more than he.” This made the friends question why Margo even bothered to grow roots in Orlando if she was planning on leaving all along. The use of rhetoric displays the characters queries and evokes questioning within the reader.

The author, John Green, in order to appeal to the intended audience of teenagers, uses an apathetic tone.  As Quentin moves through the story, he watches his friends migrate toward different social crowds or leave home without so much as a warning. He also develops the theme of change by utilizing the devices of metaphors, hyperboles, and rhetoric.

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