At two a.m. on Wednesday, Violet wakes up to rocks hitting her window—Finch is outside. She opens her window and tells him to go away; she’s still angry at him for getting her detention. But Finch threatens to climb the tree if she doesn’t come out, so Violet meets him on the porch. Finch tells Violet to put on some shoes, get a coat, and leave her parents a note. She complies. Then, Finch drives them into Bartlett’s downtown and parks. He explains that he does his best thinking at night, when there’s no one else awake to disturb him. Violet wonders if he ever sleeps.
Violet is upset about the detention in part because people see her as popular and perfect, and getting detention messes up this image. It’s also telling that, thus far, Violet is the only person who seems to question if Finch’s sleeping habits are normal. Readers are aware that Finch doesn’t sleep when he’s in a period of “Awake” (heightened mood and energy) between his depressive episodes. This is a part of his mental illness—so it’s concerning that only one person seems to notice that something might be amiss.
Finch then leads Violet into the local bookstore, where Finch’s mom works when she’s not selling houses. He pulls muffins and sodas out of a fridge and leads Violet to the beanbags in the children’s area. Violet watches him search the shelves. Finch admits that he’s looking for something, but the store doesn’t have it. Then, he sits down and immerses himself in a kids’ book. Violet says she’s still mad about detention. But Finch reaches out to take Violet’s hand. It feels like an apology.
Reading children’s books allows Finch and Violet to see the world from a different perspective. They can experiment with a simpler, more aspirational vision of the future—and perhaps of the past as well. And when Finch and Violet make up while reading these books, it suggests that being exposed to these new ways of thinking can help people form healthier relationships.
After a while, Finch and Violet start to read Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! aloud. They take turns reading stanzas, and after a while, Finch gets up and starts acting it out. Watching him is more fun than anything else as he makes his voice sad and then light again. Near the end, he pulls Violet to her feet, and they dance around before collapsing, laughing.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! encourages young readers to understand that life is worth living even though it’s hard. The fact that Finch throws himself so fully into acting the book out suggests that he’s trying to take its message to heart.
Finch and Violet go to the Purina Tower, which is only accessible by a steel ladder. Finch brings up the blanket, and he and Violet huddle under it. From this high up, it’s hard to tell which lights are stars, and which are houses. Violet says that it’s lovely, and Finch takes her hand. He says she should use the word “lovely” more often. Suddenly, Violet is jealous of Finch’s brain and his way with words.
Finch seems to be trying to show Violet that it is possible for her to regain some semblance of her former self, if only she makes an effort to notice how beautiful and interesting words can be. Violet’s jealousy likely stems from her feelings of being stuck—she’s not quite ready to take his advice to heart.
Finch notes that everyone would be happier if they celebrated the small things and remembered that there are places like the Purina Tower. Violet says that she likes writing, but maybe that part of her is over. Finch suggests that everything has “a built-in ending,” like lightbulbs that are only supposed to burn for so many hours. Most people live a long time, but Eleanor only lived to 18. Finch says that Violet gets to decide if she’s reached the end of her writing time and hands her the pen and notebook. He goes to the guardrail and shouts all the things he hates and wants to change.
Readers know that Finch regularly considers suicide, so it’s especially significant that Finch seems to seek out “the small things” and “lovely” places like the Purina Tower. He seems to be trying to convince himself of what he’s telling Violet: that life is worth living, and that there are many things in life that are worth celebrating. The idea of “built-in endings,” meanwhile, offers Violet and Finch a framework to think about their identities. Everything in their lives—including aspects of their identities—might change or disappear at some point, and that’s normal and expected.
Finch calls for Violet to do the same. Instead, she stands a little behind Finch, holding his shirt, and wonders why Eleanor left her. Finch starts singing Dr. Seuss. Later, when Finch drops Violet at home, Violet wants him to kiss her. He doesn’t, but he says that he’s certain she’s not a bad writer.
Again, Violet is still grieving Eleanor, so she isn’t on board with joining Finch in shouting what she wants to change. She’s still stuck in the past to some degree, and she wants that happy time back.