Paper Towns

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Paper Towns Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the beginning of the chapter, Quentin writes that Margo was the “queen” of Winter Park High School, and that after she disappeared, there was nobody to stop the other popular kids from creating chaos. The day after Margo disappears, Quentin arrives at school to find that Chuck and two other popular boys — Taddy Mac and Clint Bauer — have used Clint’s truck to destroy twelve underclassmen’s bicycles. One girl also claims that someone has posted her phone number in the boys’ bathroom. A few minutes after arriving at school, a boy wearing a ski mask and carrying a squirt gun runs past the band room where Quentin and his friends gather every morning. The boy in the ski mask knocks Quentin down and drenches two freshmen boys with his squirt gun. The drenched boys shout that the squirt gun was filled with urine, not water.
The lawlessness and cruelty that reign in Margo’s absence, and the speed with which the atmosphere changes after she disappears, are so overblown as to feel unbelievable. Just as Margo constructed a persona to fulfill the archetype of the thrill-seeking cool girl, the students at Winter Park seem determined to style themselves as stereotypes: the thuggish, popular athletes torment the sniveling band geeks, although they have no clear reason for doing so. They are paper people, as Margo says: everyone is playing their role, but nobody questions whether the animosities are necessary, or even sincerely felt.
Themes
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Quentin assures the students who have been wronged that he will handle the situation. When he gets home in the afternoon, he uses a fake email address to write an anonymous message to Jase. In the email, Quentin threatens to release the naked photo of Jase unless the underclassmen are paid for their destroyed bikes and the general treatment of the “less socially fortunate” improves. In his response, Jase tells Quentin that he knows who he is, and tries to shirk responsibility for the destroyed bikes, harassment, and squirt guns filled with urine. Quentin stands his ground, however, and he ends the email exchange certain that Jase and the other popular students will not cause any more trouble in the future.
Though Jase seems like a daunting opponent, with his money and social capital, he gives in quickly when Quentin confronts him. Although tormenting their peers may seem like a way for the popular kids to solidify their dominance, it seems here that their basic desire is to be led, rather than to lead. Jase is willing to take orders from Quentin, now that Quentin feels assertive enough to make them, and the other popular kids will listen to Jase when he orders them to rein in their pranks.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Later that night, while Quentin and Ben are playing a video game called “Resurrection” in Quentin’s room, Jase and Chuck arrive at the Jacobsen’s front door. Chuck apologizes for crushing the bikes and ordering the urine squirt gun attack on the freshmen. Ben, pretends to offer Chuck a conciliatory hug, then punches Chuck in the stomach. The punch hurts weakling Ben more than Chuck, but Jase compliments Ben on his “guts” and shakes his hand.
This exchange upends the social hierarchy that Quentin has accepted for years, putting tough jocks at the mercy of nerds. This disruption inspires Ben to behave with startling boldness, and forces Jase to acknowledge that boldness with respect. The disruption in the accepted social order has made it possible for people to behave in unexpected ways, and to make visible new possibilities for respect and relationships.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
After Jase and Chuck leave, Ben and Quentin go back to playing “Resurrection.” Ben soon falls asleep, and Quentin is left meditating on his satisfaction at having kept the popular kids in line during Margo’s absence. Though he figures Margo will be back by Monday, he is proud of having stood up for his friends.
Though standing up to Jase is an uncharacteristically courageous undertaking that seems to suggest that Quentin is seriously changed after his night with Margo, he seems to feel that the change is entirely temporary, and that he will cease to be so bold once Margo returns home. Quentin has trouble perceiving and respecting developments in himself in much the same way his parents and friends have a hard time recognizing changes in him.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
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