Paper Towns

Paper Towns

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Paper Towns Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Admiring the streetlights as they drive on the highway, Quentin quotes T.S. Eliot, calling them “the visible reminder of Invisible Light.” Margo thinks the words are beautiful, and though she is disappointed to learn that the line is a quotation, she asks Quentin to say it again.
In order to appreciate something fully, Margo needs to respect its source and context. She is moved by Eliot’s words, but the fact that they do not come from Quentin directly diminishes their power and authenticity.
Themes
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
As their conversation continues, Margo reveals that Jase has been cheating on her with Becca. Quentin is dumbfounded, and tells Margo he saw her laughing with Jase at school that morning. He realizes that he misinterpreted the scene in the hall: Margo had only just found out about Jase’s cheating when Quentin saw her, and she was not laughing but screaming at Jase and Becca.
Quentin’s mistake illustrates the extent to which he has both idealized and dehumanized Margo. He believes her life is totally glamorous and without problems, and is convinced of that to the point where he cannot differentiate between laughing and screaming.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Quentin wonders aloud why Jase would have sex with Becca. Margo suggests that, since there is nothing pleasant about Becca’s personality, it must be because Becca is hot. Quentin answers without thinking that Becca is not as hot as Margo, but Margo responds that she isn’t pretty up close, and that people tend to find her less hot as they get closer to her. When Quentin tries to argue, she immediately shuts him down.
Though Margo talks about physical beauty and ugliness, her comment about not being “hot” up close also speaks to her fear of being discovered to be less than she appears when someone gets to know her too well — becomes too “close” emotionally to believe the image she projects.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
As he and Margo continue driving, Quentin meditates on the injustice of the fact that someone as unpleasant as Jase should get to have sex with both Margo and Becca, while he, who is perfectly likeable, doesn’t get to have sex with anyone. He tries to engage Margo in conversation with a comment about how Becca “does sort of suck,” but Margo barely answers. Looking to the passenger seat, Quentin thinks she might be crying — however, Margo immediately pulls up the hood of her sweatshirt and begins giving Quentin directions for the next phase of the evening.
Margo has given Quentin a lot of substantial information by this point: she has shared her ideas about life and adulthood, talked about her family, and now revealed the painful fact of Jase’s cheating. Despite all these openings, and Margo’s obvious pain at this moment, Quentin says nothing. He has no idea how to talk seriously with Margo, or how to comfort her as a friend.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
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Quentin and Margo reach Becca’s neighborhood and drive around looking for Jase’s Lexus. When they find it, Margo uses The Club to lock Jase’s steering wheel into place. She instructs Quentin to drive to Becca’s house, and while they drive she explains the next phase of her plan. Quentin concedes that her ideas are brilliant, but is silently nervous about what lies ahead.
Margo tells Quentin what she has been keeping from him, but the reader does not learn these details. The reader’s exclusion heightens the sense that Margo has brought Quentin into a special conspiratorial intimacy — literally nobody knows her plans but the two of them.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Outside Becca’s house, Margo and Quentin use a pair of binoculars — which Margo stashed in the car early in the day, before asking for Quentin’s help — to look into the basement. Quentin uses his cell phone to call Becca’s father. When Mr. Arrington answers, Quentin tells him that Becca and Jase are having sex in their basement. He and Margo hide behind a hedge with a digital camera and soon see Jase crawling out the window of Becca’s basement in his underwear. Quentin snaps a picture, and Jase stares at him briefly before running away.
Margo’s plan has an elegant choreography — each part is perfectly timed to lead into the next. She has clearly put great effort into planning this night, but it is hard to know whether her commitment comes from her penchant for larger-than-life performances and thrills, or from a genuine anger and hurt that she does not know how to deal with in any other way.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Margo tells Quentin they have to get into the basement while Becca is upstairs getting a lecture from her parents. She brings a catfish and the can of blue spray paint. Quentin collects Jase’s clothes and baseball cap and writes a note for Becca that says her friendship with Margo “sleeps with the fishes.” Margo hides the catfish in Becca’s drawer, and sprays a blue letter “M” on Becca’s wall. As they flee the Arrington’s house, Becca’s father appears in the front yard with a shotgun. Margo and Quentin make it to their minivan and speed away.
Margo uses exaggerated gestures to express what are ultimately simple sentiments: she is angry with Becca and uninterested in continuing their friendship. By retaliating with dead fish and spray paint and cliché lines from gangster movies, Margo turns the dissolution of this relationship into a game. Whatever feelings of anger or pain she has about the situation — if she has any — become invisible amidst the absurdity of her revenge plot.
Themes
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
When they encounter Jase running blindly through the streets near Becca’s house, Quentin takes pity on him and throws Jase’s shirt out the car window. Margo is furious, and yells at Quentin for helping someone who has wronged her. She punches the dashboard and tells Quentin that she’d thought, after hearing about Jase’s cheating from her friend Karin, that it might not be true. Quentin tells her that he’s sorry, and Margo says she can’t believe she cares.
Quentin here reveals both an instinct toward kindness and a lack of loyalty toward Margo — though he has no reason to be sympathetic toward Jase, he is not emotionally invested in her project. Margo’s outburst shows her emotions slipping out of her control. Though she does not want to care about Jase — intellectually, she does not think this is important — she cannot force herself to stop feeling hurt from his betrayal.
Themes
Friendship Theme Icon
Quentin’s heart is still pounding from the stress and fear of being chased by Mr. Arrington. Though Margo insists the pounding heart is evidence that Quentin is having fun, he pulls into the parking lot of a 7-Eleven to calm down. Margo calls his anxieties childish, and paints her nails while she waits for Quentin. Quentin thinks of her arm around him in Wal-Mart, and tries to tell himself that there is nothing to be afraid of.
Quentin and Margo seem to be totally incompatible at this moment: he has no stomach for the escapades that thrill her, and she has no sympathy for his timid behavior. Their partnership seems especially remarkable at this moment, since it is clear that they are not naturally suited to one another.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon