Paper Towns

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Paper Towns Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Margo is dressed in black and wearing black face paint. Standing outside his window, she tells Quentin that she needs to use his mother’s minivan. When Quentin reminds her that she has a car of her own, Margo tells him that her parents have locked the keys to her car in a safe under their bed, and that her dog, Myrna Mountweazel, will bark and give her away if she tries to steal the keys back. She also tells Quentin that she needs him to drive, because she has “eleven things to do tonight, and at least five of them involve a getaway man.” Quentin resists, telling Margo she should get Lacey or Becca to help her, but Margo tells him that Lacey and Becca are part of the problem.
Margo’s flair for the dramatic is evident in all aspects of her arrival at Quentin’s window. Her face paint, the suddenness of her appearance, and her quip about her agenda for the night give this moment an air of performance, and make it clear that she wants to make a certain impression on Quentin. The sudden reconfiguration of her relationships — her belief that her friends have become a “problem” and her decision to enlist Quentin as a companion though they are practically strangers — hints at her actual isolation even within her popularity.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Margo and Quentin’s conversation comes to a sudden close when Margo’s father appears outside and orders her back into the house. Margo tries to deflect her father with jokes, but eventually she disappears out the window with a promise to Quentin that she will be back in a minute.
Margo’s father disrupts her cool persona when he appears unexpectedly and exercises his authority to order her inside. His hostility and her disregard for him are early signs of the strained relationship between Margo and her parents.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
Waiting for Margo to return, Quentin collects his car keys. He remembers his disappointment when, on his sixteenth birthday, his parents gave him a key to his mother’s minivan instead of a car of his own. When Margo returns, Quentin is still hesitant to go with her. She appeals to their friendship, and when he insists that they are neighbors, not friends, she gets frustrated and reveals that she has been subtly looking out for him throughout high school, ordering other popular students not to bully Quentin and his friends. Finally, she tells him that they have to go, and he follows her.
Quentin’s access only to his mother’s minivan (as opposed to his own car) is a symbol of his continued dependence on his parents — a reminder that he is not an adult. Though she seems exasperated when Quentin insists they are not friends, Margo’s strong reaction to that statement suggests she is more vulnerable than she would have Quentin believe. She seems genuinely to want and need his companionship. At the same time, while secretly “protecting” someone can be considered a nice thing to do, it is also condescending and not actual friendship. Margo’s relationship to Quentin is unequal: she expects him to do what she wants, and he does.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Driving through Jefferson Park, Margo tells Quentin that her parents don’t care about her sneaking out, but are only worried about being embarrassed in front of their friends and neighbors. She describes the extreme measures they have taken to prevent her from leaving the house at night, putting a baby monitor in her room so they can hear her sleep breathing. She was only able to sneak out because she paid her little sister, Ruthie, to sleep in her bed.
Margo tries to seem unaffected when she talks with Quentin about her relationship with her parents, but she betrays her frustration and disappointment with their superficial fear of embarrassment. Their efforts to control her trap Margo in a state of extended childhood, sleeping with a baby monitor and sneaking out like a cliché rebellious teenager.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
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Quentin asks Margo where they are going. She tells him that their first stop is the grocery store Publix, and that their next stop will be Wal-Mart. She tells him that they are going to spend the night righting wrongs, and pulls out several hundred dollars in cash, which she claims is money from her bat mitzvah. As they pull into the empty Publix parking lot, she tells Quentin, “[T]his is going to be the best night of your life.”
As their adventure begins in earnest, Margo resumes use of dramatic words and gestures — such as pulling out a stack of hundred-dollar bills — to reassert herself as a confident ringleader. However, it also seems like she’s playing a role she might have watched on TV. That her money is leftover from her bat mitzvah, a rite of passage for young teenagers, is a reminder that Margo, for all her posturing, is not actually the self-sufficient adult she seems to be.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon