All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

by

Jennifer Niven

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All the Bright Places: 11. Violet: 151 days till graduation Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Violet is in the parking lot after school with Eleanor’s old bike, which Eleanor named Leroy. Brenda saunters past and points out Finch. She also warns Violet that she’ll beat her up if she breaks Finch’s heart and offers her condolences for Eleanor. Violet approaches Finch, thinking about The Waves. He forgot his bike at home, so Violet follows him in his car to his house. He says that Violet can put her bag in his bedroom. She’s surprised that the inside of the house looks totally normal—but she’s shocked when she sees the inside of Finch’s room, which is painted red. Everything else is black, and there are concert posters and pieces of paper on the wall.
Because of Finch’s reputation, Violet seems to expect something more interesting than a normal-looking house. The fact that Violet made assumptions about this suggests that she’s using Finch’s reputation at school to extrapolate more about him. But seeing how normal Finch’s home shows her that Finch might not be so different from her, despite what others say about him. 
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Finch explains that the wall of notes is just that—ideas. Violet studies them and wonders about one, which reads “Is today a good day to?” She asks about another that reads “obelisk,” and Finch explains that it’s his favorite word. Violet says nothing. She used to love words, but now they all frustrate her. Back outside, they mount their bikes. Finch’s shirt rides up to reveal a huge scar; he says he drew it on because girls like scars. When they discuss that Violet hasn’t been in a car since the accident, Finch insists that’s ridiculous, and Violet threatens to head home.
The “Is it a good day to?” note is presumably the first part of the novel’s first line: “Is today a good day to die?” The fact that Finch didn’t finish it suggests he doesn’t want to alarm anyone by putting in writing that he’s thinking about suicide, at least where people might see it. (He does have the documents on his computer about suicide, but the novel implies that he expects those to stay private.)
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As Finch and Violet pass cornfields, Violet almost feels like her old self. Finch says he likes driving because of its “forward motion,” “like you might go anywhere.” He remarks that he’d expect Violet to wear a helmet or body armor for safety, and he asks what she’d do if Bartlett was affected by a zombie apocalypse. She stays silent, so Finch asks where she’d go if she could go anywhere. Violet thinks she’d go to New York, but she says she’d go to California. Privately, she thinks she’d go to the California of four years ago, where Eleanor is still alive. Violet says that California is warm and doesn’t snow. Finch says that he’d go to the top of Hoosier Hill with a pretty girl.
On some level, it seems that Violet truly does want to get back to being who she was before Eleanor died. Wanting to go to New York suggests that Violet is still dreaming about attending NYU, even if she hasn’t applied. However, these desires for the future conflict with desires that are driven more by her grief. Wanting to go back to her old life in California is, of course, impossible, but dreaming about it is one way that Violet can process her grief.
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When they reach the spot, Finch and Violet leave their bikes. Some kids on a fence point them in the right direction. Finch puts on an Australian accent and ask if they can scale the summit, but the kids just shrug. Finch leads Violet along a narrow dirt path. Suddenly, they come out into a brown circle, with a marker saying they’re 1,257 feet high. There’s a stone pile to mark the spot and a picnic table; it’s wildly underwhelming. Finch takes Violet’s hand and pulls her onto the stones. Violet feels an electric shock in her hand and tells herself it’s just from touching someone new, but she also can’t concentrate as Finch talks about the view in various accents.
Hoosier Hill might not seem like much, yet someone still thought it was worth it to mark this spot and market it as a local attraction. Hoosier Hill’s outward appearance, in other words, doesn’t mean that it’s not meaningful—a lesson that both Violet and Finch could take to heart. Moreover, this also becomes the place where the chemistry between them starts to intensify, thereby imbuing the place and this trip with more significance.
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Violet notices how blue Finch’s eyes are as he says that standing next to Violet makes him feel like he’s on Mt. Everest. Violet rips her hand away but can still feel the electrical current. They wander the brown circle, and Violet thinks that 10 months ago, she could’ve written something amazing about Hoosier Hill. She then insists this place is ugly. Finch says he used to think the same, but he tries to remember that it’s beautiful to someone—some people chose to live here. He smiles. Violet wishes he had glasses she could borrow, so that she could see the same thing.
Again, Finch suggests that what makes a place special is the people in it, not necessarily the place itself. And Finch also insists that perspective largely determines what people find beautiful or not. When Violet wishes for glasses so that she could see what Finch sees, it shows that she’s starting to take this idea to heart.
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Finch makes jokes as they discuss their project, and Violet stops herself from laughing. He tells her that it’s okay to laugh—even if she ends up in hell, they’ll be too busy with him to bother with her. Violet wants to know everything about Finch; there are so many rumors. She asks if the stories are true, and he says they probably are. He looks at Violet as though he wants to kiss her. For a second, she wants him to—but then she asks where they’re going next. Finch makes no move to get the map out of his backpack and then suggests they jump off the rock mound.
Finch seems to suspect that Violet feels guilty about enjoying life after Eleanor’s death. But he also suggests to her that she shouldn’t worry so much, since life does—and indeed, should—go on after a loss. As the chemistry and flirtation intensifies between Violet and Finch, Violet also starts to see that her life will indeed go on. She just has to be open to connecting with someone else.
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Violet pulls out her phone to take some pictures, and Finch shoves a notebook at her. Though she’d rather do anything than write, she scribbles a few notes. Then, they sit at the picnic table to study the map. Finch insists they need to see more than two sites—ideally, they’d see them all. Violet protests, but Finch draws red circles around a bunch of different landmarks. Violet insists that there are too many.
It's significant that Finch is able to convince Violet to write, even just a little bit. Finch is uniquely able to show Violet that it’s necessary to overcome her aversion to writing, if only so that she can complete her schoolwork.
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Violet and Finch get back to Bartlett in the evening, and Violet waits outside Finch’s house as he fetches her bag. When he gets back to the driveway, Violet remembers Suze saying that Finch knows what to do with a girl—and suddenly, Violet feels shy. She puts on Eleanor’s glasses. Finch says he wanted to do this project with Violet because she smiled a genuine smile at him.
Violet’s gesture of putting on Eleanor’s glasses implies that Violet didn’t wear them on their trip to Hoosier Hill. Given that the glasses symbolize her grief and desire to keep Eleanor’s memory alive by looking and acting like her, this perhaps suggests that Violet was more herself while on that trip with Finch. But as spending time with Finch starts to seem more intimidating, Violet retreats back into where she’s comfortable: with Eleanor’s memory.
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Violet’s dad makes chicken piccata that night. Violet joins her dad and Violet’s mom at the table and tells them about the project. Her dad offers to help, but both Violet and her mom cut him off (he’s notorious for taking over projects). Violet’s mom starts to ask about Finch, so Violet changes the subject by asking her dad to explain the history of chicken piccata—he can’t resist explaining the history of things. After dinner, Violet goes upstairs and checks Facebook. Finch messages her that he feels like he just walked into Narnia. Violet researches quotes from The Chronicles of Narnia, but instead of sending one, she marks the day off on her calendar. She thinks about graduation and about Finch. This is the best day she’s had in months.
Finch saying that he feels like he walked into Narnia suggests that whatever’s brewing in his relationship with Violet is wholly new to him. It feels so different as to be fictional and fantastical. As Violet considers Finch alongside her impending graduation, she starts to see the value in focusing on the time between now and then. These days, after all, could be filled with fun, meaningful experiences with Finch—they don’t have to just be days on the calendar. As Violet starts to make this shift, her outlook on life begins to improve.
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