Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

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Mischief Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
Mischief Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Looking for Alaska, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Mischief Theme Icon

The more time Miles spends at Culver Creek, the more comfortable he becomes with mischief. At the beginning of the novel, he is extremely upset when Dr. Hyde kicks him out of class for looking out the window, but by the end, he is blatantly coordinating and participating in a prank against the school. At one point, Alaska tells him that mischief will always win out over good deeds, and Miles learns that misbehaving at least makes life more exciting, because you never know what will happen next. Even the Eagle appreciates Miles’ newfound willingness to get into trouble, to a certain extent at least, because he recognizes how well the prank Miles and the Colonel play captures Alaska’s mischievous spirit. The mischief Alaska encourages also forges bonds among her friends, making them very loyal to one another. They do not want to get caught, and as a result, they grow closer by looking out for each other and doing their best to make sure no one gets in trouble.

While Alaska’s insistence on breaking the rules loosens Miles up a bit and encourages him to live more freely, Alaska takes mischief to the extreme. Indeed, she uses her mischief-loving personality as a cover for how reckless she really is. The night she dies, her decision to sneak off campus is not inspired merely by wanting to break the rules. Instead, she leaves because she does not value her own life enough to stop herself. Alaska can be wild and fun, but she can just as easily be destructive and dangerous. When she dies, Miles and the Colonel feel so guilty and ashamed that they behave recklessly, too. The Colonel, for example, smokes in front of a police officer even though he is clearly too young to do so. By the end of the novel, however, the Colonel and Miles value themselves enough to behave responsibly, while still having fun and pulling pranks. Green doesn’t try to instruct his readers to always follow the rules—instead he demonstrates that breaking the rules can be fun and worthwhile, but also can have dangerous consequences.

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Mischief ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Mischief appears in each chapter of Looking for Alaska. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Mischief Quotes in Looking for Alaska

Below you will find the important quotes in Looking for Alaska related to the theme of Mischief.
2. One Hundred Twenty-Eight Days Before Quotes

“Anyway, when you get in trouble, just don’t tell on anyone. I mean, I hate the rich snots here with a fervent passion I usually reserve only for dental work and my father. But that doesn’t mean I would rat them out. Pretty much the only important thing is never never never never rat.”

Related Characters: Chip Martin (The Colonel) (speaker), Miles Halter
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn about the key rule of life in Miles's new prep school: never rat on another student (AKA, the "schoolboy code"). The Colonel tells Miles, who's new at school, to always remain loyal to other students over the administration--even if the breaking this "loyalty" could result in the expulsion of people neither the Colonel nor Miles likes.

Why is it so important not to rat on your classmates at prep school? While Green doesn't answer the question, he implies that the honor code is important because it creates a bond of trust and loyalty between all students, even those who don't like each other. Miles and Colonel will argue and compete with their peers (the "Weekend Warriors"), and yet they'll also feel a bond of brotherhood with their enemies in the face of a larger authority.


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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. 

11. Ninety-Nine Days Before Quotes

“Sometimes you lose a battle. But mischief always wins the war.”

Related Characters: Alaska Young (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Eagle catches Alaska and her friends smoking, and tells them that they'll be brought in for questioning (and probable punishment) soon. Miles is worried about being punished, but Alaska insists that there's no point in being worried: in the grand scheme of things, she and her friends will always win out in the end, with their mischievous pranks--the Eagle and his discipline are useless.

Alaska's speech suggests that she's carefree and eager to have fun, even if doing so involves breaking the rules. And yet her pronouncement seems a little too aphoristic, a little too glib. As we'll come to see very clearly, Alaska isn't truly carefree or adventurous: beneath her "manic pixie dream girl" facade she's fragile and frightened of her own past. Mischief isn't a way for her to "win the war"; it's a way for her to distract herself from her deep inner sadness.

33. Two Days After Quotes

“Goddamn it! God, how did this happen? How could she be so stupid! She just never thought anything through. So goddamned impulsive. Christ. It is not okay. I can’t believe she was so stupid!”

Related Characters: Chip Martin (The Colonel) (speaker), Alaska Young
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

In times of crisis, everybody has different ways of coping. Miles chooses to blame himself almost immediately, while the Colonel chooses to throw all the blame back on Alaska herself: he claims that she was stupid and foolish, and that she caused her own death (claims that seem harsh, but are also partly true).

The Colonel copes with death by ignoring his own sense of guilt. Deep down, as we'll see soon, the Colonel knows that he's partly responsible for Alaska's tragic death: if he had just stopped her from getting in the car, she would still be alive. Instead of facing his feelings, the Colonel tries to bury them away with rage and frustration. Although he's usually a fairly calm person, the Colonel's emotions are clear in this passage: he has a lot of emotion to bury.