Paper Towns

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Paper Towns Part 2, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On Monday morning, Quentin arrives at school to find Lacey waiting for him outside the band room. She has heard that Quentin and Margo were together the night before Margo disappeared, and wants to know whether Margo was angry with her. Quentin admits that Margo was upset at Lacey for not telling her about Jase and Becca. Lacey insists she knew nothing, and tells Ben and Quentin that she has just broken up with her boyfriend because he was hiding Jase’s cheating from her. She refers offhand to Margo having gone to New York. Quentin asks why she thinks Margo would be there, and Lacey tells him that Margo has made comments in the past about New York being “the only place in America where a person could live a halfway livable life.” Quentin leaves the discussion there, seeing that Ben wants to turn the conversation toward prom since newly-single Lacey no longer has a date.
While Quentin feels he has a special connection with Margo for having shared a unique experience with her, Lacey’s intimate knowledge of the life Margo led from day-to-day reveals an equally substantial — though perhaps less well-maintained or appreciated — bond between the two of them. In fact, Lacey’s ability to guess where Margo might have gone based on things she has said in the past highlights the extent to which Quentin’s experience of Margo is actually solipsistic and centered around himself, rather than around closeness wit her. He knows how Margo made him feel, but he does not know what Margo might have wanted or thought, as Lacey does.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
As Quentin walks through the hallways, two freshmen whose bikes were destroyed stop to thank him for the money they’ve received from Jase. He tells one to thank Margo rather than him, knowing Margo gave him the tools he needed to confront Jase. Quentin relishes a sudden feeling of ownership and control. The school seems to belong to him in a way it never has before. He reads Leaves of Grass during calculus, looking for references to New York, but finds nothing of interest. A few minutes into class, he sees Ben doing a victory dance outside the classroom door — Lacey has agreed to go to prom with him.
Quentin has developed a new confidence and boldness that makes him seem completely different. However, when he deflects the freshman’s thanks onto Margo, it becomes clear that he doesn’t feel ownership of the person he has suddenly become. Quentin sees himself as using Margo’s tools and filling Margo’s role — not as acting or creating for or by himself.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
At lunch, Quentin finds Ben and Lacey waiting at his locker. Lacey tells Quentin that Margo never allowed people into her room, and that she had no idea Margo owned such a massive collection of records, or had any particular interest in music. She goes on to say that Walt Whitman was from New York, and tells Quentin that she has sent missing person fliers to her cousin who lives in the city, asking her to put them up in record stores. As they walk toward the cafeteria, Ben turns the conversation back to prom.
Lacey is the first person Quentin has encountered who seems to share his investment in finding Margo; Radar and Ben have been helping mostly out of loyalty to him, and no one else, including Margo’s family, has made an effort to look into her disappearance. Lacey is proof that, despite her feelings of aloneness, Margo had friends who sincerely cared about her.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
In his last period of the day, Quentin reads Leaves of Grass while his teacher, Dr. Holden, lectures the class on Moby Dick. After class ends, he sits in RHAPAW waiting for Ben and Radar to finish band practice and wondering what Margo might be doing in New York. When Ben and Radar emerge from band practice, Ben is still celebrating his good luck in getting Lacey as a prom date, and is full of ecstatic energy. Quentin is happy for Ben, but directs the conversation toward Margo and Leaves of Grass.
Though Ben, who has been excited about prom for weeks, is clearly thrilled to have a glamorous girl like Lacey as a date, Quentin is too focused on Margo to celebrate with him. While his dedication to Margo and her clues may seem like a mark of a good friend, his new fixation has made Quentin less considerate and more self-centered — a worse friend, at least to Ben.
Themes
Friendship Theme Icon
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Radar is certain that the two lines in “Song of Myself” that Margo highlighted in green — about removing doors from their jambs — contain Margo’s next clue. He wonders whether Margo was trying to make a comment about close-mindedness. Ben says Radar is overestimating the complexity of Margo’s clue, and that the highlighted lines are not a metaphor, but a set of instructions: they need to go into Margo’s room and unscrew the doors from their jambs.
Quentin and Radar have been so preoccupied with trying to coordinate this clue with their preconceived notions of what was important to Margo — her frustration with close-minded people in Orlando, for instance — that they failed to see her obvious message. Since Ben is less invested in Margo, he can see the situation more clearly, without projection.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon