Paper Towns

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Themes and Colors
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Paper Towns, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Friendship Theme Icon

Friendships are the central relationships in Paper Towns, and are often more intimate than either family relationships or romantic ones. However, both Quentin and Margo fail to appreciate their friends, and both are forced to consider the people they have taken for granted in a new light. Before leaving Orlando, Margo cuts ties with three of her closest friends. This includes Lacey, whom Margo dismisses as spiteful and disloyal. However, Lacey proves herself to be both a good-hearted person and genuinely invested in Margo, and when the two meet again at the end of the novel, Margo is forced to acknowledge her own self-centeredness in leaving her friend behind without a word.

The relationship between Margo and Lacey has parallels with Quentin’s relationship with Ben, who is eager to enjoy his final weeks of high school to the fullest and constantly urges Quentin to ease up on his investigation and devote more attention to his friends. Quentin finds the things that interest Ben to be both boring and unimportant, and he makes fun of Ben for devoting so much energy to prom and his girlfriend, but Ben proves his loyalty again and again by indulging Quentin’s obsession even when he finds it absurd. Though he is one of the least serious characters in the novel, Ben exemplifies the constancy and sincerity that Quentin and Margo believe are missing in the “paper people” around them. Radar encourages Quentin to be more forgiving of Ben’s shortcomings, and to remember the things he likes and appreciates about his friends before dismissing them for their flaws. Quentin put this advice into practice during the twenty-one hour road trip that he takes with Radar, Ben, and Lacey to find Margo, an experience that he realizes is richer because he shares it with people about whom he cares deeply. These developments are part of the novel’s larger ethical code, which holds that all people are complex and deserving of compassion, but learning to recognize the value of his friends is also a critical part of Quentin’s journey out of the narcissism of adolescence and into a more nuanced and adult relationship with the world around him.

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Friendship Quotes in Paper Towns

Below you will find the important quotes in Paper Towns related to the theme of Friendship.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

It was so pathetically easy to forget about Chuck, to talk about prom even though I didn’t give a shit about prom. Such was life that morning: nothing really mattered much, not the good things and not the bad ones. We were in the business of mutual amusement, and we were reasonably prosperous.

Related Characters: Quentin Jacobsen (speaker), Ben Starling, Radar, Chuck Parson
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Quentin describes the ordinary day leading up to his adventure with Margo. Before Quentin becomes entangled with Margo, he lives a life almost entirely without extremes. He has few troubles and no great sorrows — but at the same time he has no real sources of joy. Quentin captures the mild emotional power and low stakes of his life when he describes his activities, including his relationships with his best friends, as "amusement." Though he seems successful on paper — he has friends and a social life, good grades, and has been admitted to an elite university — his life is emotionally shallow.

This moment, like a calm before a storm, will provide a contrast with the strong emotions and powerful ideas Quentin will encounter as he delves more deeply into Margo's world. His deepening love for and understanding of Margo will help Quentin better appreciate the relationships and experiences he has always taken for granted, and challenge him to evaluate his life with a more critical eye than ever before, disrupting his contentment and shocking him into a deeper and more intense experience of life.


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Part 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

“I didn’t need you, you idiot. I picked you. And then you picked me back … And that’s like a promise. At least for tonight. In sickness and in health. In good times and in bad. For richer, for poorer. Till dawn do us part.”

Related Characters: Margo Roth Spiegelman (speaker), Quentin Jacobsen
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Though Quentin feels sure Margo is only using him — that she would never deign to include him in her plans unless she stood to gain something from doing so — the truth is that Margo desperately needs a friend at this tumultuous moment in her life. Margo has concocted this nighttime crusade as a way of incinerating all her most cherished relationships, and she knows she will be leaving her family and community behind in just a few hours when she runs away to start a new life. At this moment of profound uncertainty and loneliness, Margo seeks support from Quentin, with whom she shares a history of friendship. Though their relationship has fizzled over the years, Quentin is now, essentially, the only friend Margo has left. 

Part 2, Chapter 14 Quotes

“You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves. I mean, I could hate you for being massively unpunctual and for never being interested in anything other than Margo Roth Spiegelman, and for, like, never asking me about how it’s going with my girlfriend — but I don’t give a shit, man, because you’re you.”

Related Characters: Radar (speaker), Quentin Jacobsen, Ben Starling
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

When Quentin, frustrated when Ben refuses to discuss new information about Margo's disappearance, declares Ben an "asshole" during a conversation with Radar, Radar chastises him for refusing to accept that Ben is a person with his own values and priorities, which may not always align with Quentin's. He encourages Quentin to focus on the things that make Ben a worthwhile person and a good friend, rather than on his shortcomings, and suggests implicitly that this is the only way relationships can be successful: that everyone has flaws which might make them unbearable to be around if those were their only characteristics, but that no person is defined entirely by their flaws. 

This conversation with Radar is part of Quentin's long journey to become a more compassionate and humane person — not  just with regard to Margo, but with regard to people who seem much more ordinary and less deserving than Margo. Ben is not the exciting, complex, intellectual person Margo is. He cracks immature jokes and craves the acceptance of his peers. These qualities make him easy to dismiss, but Radar urges Quentin to extend his compassion to Ben rather than reserving it for people who seem "special" and therefore worthy. 

Part 2, Chapter 16 Quotes

I couldn’t help but think about school and everything else ending. I liked standing just outside the couches and watching them — it was a kind of sad I didn’t mind, and so I just listened, letting all the happiness and the sadness of this ending swirl around in me, each sharpening the other. For the longest time, it felt kind of like my chest was cracking open, but not precisely in an unpleasant way.

Related Characters: Quentin Jacobsen (speaker), Ben Starling, Radar, Lacey Pemberton
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

Since the beginning of the novel, Quentin has maintained a cool, critical distance from the experience of finishing high school: he refuses to go to prom, balks at the sentimentality of his parents and peers, and takes a laissez-faire attitude toward the graduation ceremony itself, ultimately skipping it to drive to Agloe in search of Margo. In this scene, attending a laid-back party with his friends and acquaintances from the school band, he allows himself to feel emotional about the coming transition for the first time. The fact that Quentin allows himself this moment of authentic feeling—after months, or possibly years, of acting aloof and disinterested in order to maintain some semblance of being "cool"—is a sign that he is developing a more mature understanding of himself and the people around him. After working so hard to understand Margo and break down the barrier of her larger-than-life persona, Quentin is coming to a greater appreciation of the power of sincere emotion in an anxious, inauthentic world. 

Part 2, Chapter 17 Quotes

“I know you want to find her. I know she is t he most important thing to you. And that’s cool. But we graduate in, like, a week. I’m not asking you to abandon the search. I’m asking you to come to a party with your two best friends who you have known for half your life.”

Related Characters: Ben Starling (speaker), Quentin Jacobsen, Margo Roth Spiegelman
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

When Quentin declines Ben's invitation to a casual party at Radar's house, Ben offers this firm but uncharacteristically gentle argument to convince him to attend. Ben never really becomes emotionally involved with the search for Margo, and on more than one occasion refuses outright to help Quentin chase down new clues. In light of this, his sympathetic recognition of the fact that Margo is "the most important thing" to Quentin becomes a gesture of solidarity and understanding.

Though Ben is not always the kind of friend Quentin wants him to be, this conversation shows that Ben is trying to be the kind of friend Quentin needs: understanding and compassionate, not jealous or resentful of the fact that Quentin spends more time searching for a girl he barely knows than relishing his last weeks with his best friends, but also protective of Quentin's happiness and psychological wellbeing. Ben wants Quentin to have a normal end-of-high-school experience, and to take the time to reminisce and appreciate what he has gone through.

In some ways, this is also an effort to ensure that Quentin keeps moving forward: that he goes through the normal process of transitioning from childhood to adulthood, because otherwise he risks becoming trapped in this moment, too obsessed with Margo's disappearance to go on with his own life. Despite all the ways in which he fails to meet Quentin's expectations, Ben shows himself here to be a genuine friend.