Paper Towns

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Paper Towns Part 2, Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After school on Tuesday, Quentin and Lacey wait together for Ben and Radar to finish band practice. The four of them have made plans to visit the strip mall. Quentin admits he is no longer sure that looking for Margo in pseudovisions is the right approach. He and Lacey agree that the thought of her living with the rats and dust in the strip mall sounds wrong, given the elegance and flair for which she was known.
Quentin and Lacey spending time together alone shows a growing closeness between them. Though both of them know how incomplete their understanding of Margo has always been, they both hold onto certain convictions about who she is —they can’t forget what she symbolized for them.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
In the car, heading toward the strip mall, Radar states his belief that Margo has gone on a tour of America’s strangest roadside attractions, like the world’s largest ball of twine in Minnesota. Ben repeats his conviction that Margo is in Orlando, watching them look for her. Lacey defends the possibility of New York. Quentin thinks about how each of them have formed their own private version of Margo, each of which reflects more about the person who constructed it than about Margo herself.
Quentin has invented countless theories about Margo and her intentions, from deciding to pursue her through Orlando’s pseudovisions to assuming her disappearance was designed as an opportunity for him to prove his romantic worth. At this moment, however, he does not add to his friends’ list of theories. Quentin has become more suspicious of his version of Margo.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Inside the strip mall, Quentin and his friends encounter another group of people exploring the building. Lacey recognizes Gus, the security guard from the SunTrust Building, among them. Gus confirms that Margo used to spend a lot of time in the strip mall, and his friend Ace tells Lacey that they visited the building shorty after Margo ran away to look for her.
Gus makes it clear that the strip mall was not only a haven for Margo after she ran away, but was an important fixture in her life for years before. The parts of her life almost nobody knew about keep multiplying, and every new detail creates mystery as much as it does understanding.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Gus explains that he and his friends are explorers, who break into abandoned buildings and photograph them as a hobby. Ace tells them Margo used to explore with them while she was in school, but Gus says she never had much interest in looking around — she wanted to get into the buildings and then stay there. Another of Gus’s friends, the Carpenter, remembers how Margo would sit in corners and write in a black notebook while the rest of them explored.
Margo was famous for her adventures, but the explorers’ stories suggest that adventure itself was not what she sought out in those experiences. Her reasons for sitting with her notebook instead of exploring are not yet clear, but Margo seems to have been looking for something besides excitement in these abandoned buildings.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
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Gus remarks that Margo “seemed pretty depressed.” This makes Lacey furious, and she screams at him, cursing him for never asking Margo why she seemed so depressed. In response, the Carpenter insults Lacey, and Ben gets involved, tackling and punching the Carpenter. Gus and his friends leave quickly.
That Gus never asked Margo what was troubling her shows how easy it is for people to overlook the signals other are giving them when they try to communicate their feelings. Lacey’s fury at the explorers may in fact reflect her anger at herself for never asking Margo these questions.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
With the explorers gone, Quentin and his friends look around the rooms. Lacey says she remembers Margo’s black notebook, though she never saw Margo writing in it. She feels terrible for never asking Margo about it, or about anything else that now seems important. Ben speculates that the holes in the wall must be places where Margo hung up postcards or pictures. After an hour of exploring, Quentin happens upon a pile of brochures advertising subdivisions. Grovepoint Acres is among them, and Quentin, thrilled by this new development, writes down the names of the others. He recognizes the name Collier Farms on one of the brochures; it is one of the pseudovisions from his list that he has not yet visited. Quentin does not tell his friends about his discovery. He still hopes to be alone when he finds Margo.
The interior of the strip mall is constantly yielding new clues, but these clues emerge slowly and in tiny pieces — no great mysteries are solved all at once. This frustrating process mimics the difficult work of trying to understand another person, or to become close to them. Quentin’s desire to find Margo alone shows that he is still hoping that something monumental will happen when they are reunited — perhaps that they will share some special moment of connection.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon