All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

by

Jennifer Niven

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All the Bright Places: 38. Finch: How to survive quicksand Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Finch moves into his walk-in closet, which feels like a warm, cozy cave. He brings in the jug of water from Mudlavia and a picture of Violet in with him, along with the license plate from the accident site. Finch pulls out his computer, puts an unlit cigarette in his mouth, and tells himself he knows how this goes. He’s done this before. Then, he explains that although MythBusters says it’s impossible to drown in quicksand, people have died this way. Finch starts to write the “Eight Steps to Surviving Quicksand.”
The way that Finch frames moving into his closet suggests that for him, the best way to gain control of his worsening mental health is to control his surroundings. And writing out the steps to surviving quicksand suggests that Finch is also trying to gain control by describing how he’s going to get through this difficult period. 
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It’s already too late for Finch to follow step one, which is to avoid quicksand. Second, people need to take sticks with them to check for quicksand. Finch thinks he’s already bypassed this step also. The third step is to drop everything if you end up in quicksand—heavy things will make you sink faster. Moving into the closet is Finch’s way of following this step. Fourth and fifth, a person must relax and breathe deeply. Next, it’s essential to get on your back and take your time. The last step is to take frequent breaks, because it’s exhausting to get out of quicksand. Taking breaks and keeping one’s head up buys a person time.
Finch likening his worsening mental state to quicksand shows again how inadequate the English language is to describe mental health issues and emotional turmoil more broadly. But this metaphor nevertheless allows Finch to share with readers what it’s like to experience a mental downturn like this (it’s “exhausting,” and it’s essential to relax). And further, likening what’s happening to being stuck in quicksand also makes it clear that the stakes here are high. The fact that some people have drowned in quicksand suggests that Finch could die during this downturn.
Themes
Mental Health, Stigma, and Suicide Theme Icon
Language, Meaning, and Control Theme Icon