Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

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Smoking Symbol Icon
When Miles arrives at Culver Creek, one of the first things the Colonel and Alaska convince him to do is to start smoking cigarettes. Miles says he doesn’t really have a reason for smoking, but to him it just seems like the thing to do. At the beginning of the novel at least, smoking represents fitting in for Miles. For the Colonel and Alaska, smoking cigarettes is a way of defying authority—something the Colonel makes very clear when he smokes in front of the Pelham police officer. However, even if Alaska smokes to be cool, she also smokes because she is sad. She tells the others, “Y’all smoke to be cool. I smoke to die.” Smoking was something her mother did before she died, and smoking is, for Alaska, an activity connected to her mother’s death. And while the others seem to smoke as a way to pass time or keep up appearances, Alaska invests in the fact that she is knowingly bringing about her own slow demise through smoking. Once she dies, smoking takes on a new meaning. All that is left of her is a vague memory, like the smoke rings she used to blow. Alaska’s friends privately remember Alaska by each throwing a cigarette into the Smoking Hole (where they all used to smoke together) in her honor.

Smoking Quotes in Looking for Alaska

The Looking for Alaska quotes below all refer to the symbol of Smoking. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Speak edition of Looking for Alaska published in 2008.
6. One Hundred Ten Days Before Quotes

“Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.”

Related Characters: Alaska Young (speaker)
Related Symbols: Smoking
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Early in the novel, Miles, Takumi, the Colonel, and Alaska go down to the Smoking Hole to talk. Miles asks Alaska why she is smoking so quickly, and she says that she is smoking to slowly kill herself. The chapter ends with Alaska's comment, but presumably everyone who hears it takes it as a dark joke. No one takes the comment entirely seriously because Alaska is constantly setting herself apart from the rest of the group, and always trying to be mysterious and morbid. Even when Alaska is doing the same thing as everyone else, she thinks of her motivations as different. Further, the fact that she jokes about smoking to die shows how flippant her attitude toward death can sometimes be. 

Alaska's comment gains significance when the group learns about Alaska's mother's death. Alaska's mom smoked, and Alaska ties herself to her mother by carrying on this tradition. It would obviously be difficult for Alaska to fully enjoy smoking if every cigarette reminded her of her mother. Alaska feels an immense amount of guilt over her mom's death, and her smoking habit could be seen as a way of punishing herself. After Alaska's death, Miles thinks about this comment and wonders if he should have suspected that Alaska might commit suicide. 

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Smoking Symbol Timeline in Looking for Alaska

The timeline below shows where the symbol Smoking appears in Looking for Alaska. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
2. One Hundred Twenty-Eight Days Before
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
After buying cigarettes from Alaska, the Colonel and Miles go down to the lake and Miles smokes for... (full context)
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
The Colonel leaves and Miles tries to smoke another cigarette. He tells the reader that he doesn’t have a good reason for smoking,... (full context)
6. One Hundred Ten Days Before
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...Miles, but when they finally get out of class, the four walk down to “the Smoking Hole ” in the forest behind the school. They talk about who might have ratted on... (full context)
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...of literary references that Miles doesn’t understand. When they finish, Miles asks Alaska why she smokes her cigarettes so quickly. She says to him, “Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke... (full context)
9. One Hundred One Days Before
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...named “Blue Citrus.” Hank suggests to Alaska that it would be healthier for her to smoke weed instead of cigarettes. Alaska tells him, “I may die young…but at least I’ll die... (full context)
11. Ninety-Nine Days Before
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
Miles, the Colonel, Takumi, and Alaska go down to the lake to smoke. The Eagle happens to be by the lake and he catches the Colonel and Alaska... (full context)
12. Ninety-Eight Days Before
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...get in trouble and upset her dad. Miles doesn’t understand, and asks if Alaska’s mom smokes. Alaska says that she used to. (full context)
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Alaska and the Colonel take the fall for smoking and keep Miles and Takumi out of trouble. Alaska has been in trouble enough times... (full context)
17. Sixty-Seven Days Before
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...a safe spot, and he takes Miles to another spot in the forest where they smoke. He tells Miles that Alaska was the one who told on Marya, and that she... (full context)
22. Forty-Seven Days Before
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
...gets to her room, she is melting down a candle. Miles tells her not to burn herself, and she quotes back, “Night falls fast./ Today is in the past.” Miles recognizes... (full context)
24. Forty-Four Days Before
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
Miles and Alaska go to Coosa Liquors, where Alaska buys her alcohol and cigarettes. Getting cigarettes is easy, but they ask for an ID card for buying booze, so... (full context)
28. Three Days Before
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...to all of them, and the group goes to set up in the barn. Alaska smokes, despite the fact that she is in a building filled with hay. The Colonel finally... (full context)
29. Two Days Before
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...see her as she was being lifted onto her Buddhist funeral pyre. Miles decides to smoke a cigarette even though he knows it’s dumb to smoke in such a flammable environment. (full context)
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...it’s not her fault. Miles thinks back to when Alaska said that her mother doesn’t smoke anymore and now understands what she meant. Everyone is quiet for a long time and... (full context)
33. Two Days After
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...spent the night memorizing the capitals of every country in the world. They decide to smoke in their bathroom but they can’t make the cigarette light. The Colonel throws the cigarette... (full context)
36. Seven Days After
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...of anything she wouldn’t want her aunt to find. Her room still smells like Alaska: cigarette smoke and vanilla. Miles is overwhelmed by her Life’s Library and all of the things... (full context)
39. Thirteen Days After
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...Pelham Police Department to talk to the police officer whose car Alaska hit. The Colonel smokes in front of the officer even though he’s underage. The officer tells them that he... (full context)
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...Miles about a time last year when he and Takumi and Alaska were at the Smoking Hole and Alaska jumped into the river to pick up a white flower that was floating... (full context)
40. Fourteen Days After
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...lost a loved one and she drank heavily. Miles remembers when Alaska said that she smoked to die, but the Colonel brushes the comment off as a joke. Miles also mentions... (full context)
41. Twenty Days After
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
...to know anything about Alaska and Jake. He asks the Colonel to give him his cigarettes, but instead the Colonel grabs him and screams that all Miles cares about is his... (full context)
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Miles goes to the Smoking Hole and screams at the top of his lungs about everything that has happened. He’s mad... (full context)
43. Twenty-Seven Days After
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
...Miles tells the Colonel to cry just before the Eagle walks in. Miles lights a cigarette to cover the smell of alcohol, and when the Eagle comes in Miles tells him... (full context)
47. Forty-Five Days After
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
People have stopped giving Miles and the Colonel cigarettes out of sympathy, so Takumi drives them to Coosa Liquors to buy some more. Miles... (full context)
48. Forty-Six Days After
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
That evening, Lara, Takumi, the Colonel, and Miles each throw a cigarette into the Smoking Hole, which is actually more like a fishing hole, in memory of... (full context)