All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

by

Jennifer Niven

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All the Bright Places: 48. Violet: March 21 and beyond Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Violet knocks on Finch’s bedroom door, it takes a minute for him to answer. He opens the door wearing a suit; his hair is freshly buzzed. It makes him look older and more attractive, but his bedroom is still “hospital bare.” Violet is worried and feels like the blue walls are suffocating. She says they need to talk, but he kisses her and asks how she feels about space travel and Chinese food. He asks her to take her shoes off and close her eyes, and then Finch leads Violet into his closet. Once she’s seated, Finch tells her to open her eyes.
That Violet feels like Finch’s pool-blue room is suffocating suggests that she and Finch are moving further apart as he spirals more deeply into his mental illness. The blue of the walls was comforting to him, since it reminded him of water and specifically of Virginia Woolf’s suicide note. But to Violet, it reminds her of a hospital. And describing it as “suffocating” also suggests that she’s more focused on the negative connotations of water—the fact that it can kill.
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Finch has painted his closet with planets and stars, and everything is glowing. He points to a blacklight bulb in the ceiling and notes that Jupiter and Pluto are aligned in his rendering. This is the “Jovian-Plutonian gravitational chamber.” Violet can only gape at him. She’s so worried about Finch, but this is the nicest thing anyone has done for her. The Chinese food is from Finch’s favorite restaurant, and Violet doesn’t ask if he left his closet to go get it. She tells herself he got it, because he doesn’t have to stay inside the closet if he doesn’t want to.
Violet is caught between worrying for Finch and being overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness. At first, her love for Finch seems to outweigh her worry; this is why she tells herself that Finch left his closet to get the Chinese food himself. But the fact that Finch is essentially living in a “Jovian-Plutonian gravitational chamber” nevertheless suggests that he feels like he’s floating right now, something that could be negative and reflect his declining mental state.
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Violet and Finch pass a bottle of vodka back and forth, and Violet says that all of this is perfect. She thinks that Amanda must’ve been wrong; telling her about Life Is Life was supposed to upset her. As they eat, they talk about everything except for how Finch feels. Then, Violet gives him a first edition copy of The Waves that she found in New York. Finch admits that he’s been looking for this book for months.
Because Violet loves Finch so much, she’s willing to ignore the red flags (such as that they’re eating in Finch’s closet) that suggest Finch is having a hard time. Giving Finch a copy of The Waves offers some hope that Finch might be able to replace some of the negative words in his head with words that are positive and connected to Violet.
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Finch and Violet lie on the floor. Finch tells Violet that Sir Patrick Moore was the first to explain black holes in an accessible way. He’d ordered that a map of the Milky Way be drawn on the TV studio floor. Finch shares some facts about black holes: not even light can escape them, and they engulf everything that gets too close after something passes a point called the “event horizon.” After explaining these facts, Sir Patrick Moore walked into the drawn black hole and disappeared. This, according to Finch, was magic.
The way that Finch describes black holes mimics the way he describes going into his “asleep” (depressive) phases. At some point, it’s impossible to resist—there’s nothing he can do to get out of the “asleep,” and he can’t see anything good while he’s in that state. Describing Sir Patrick Moore’s disappearance into the painted black hole as “magic” again suggests that Finch can’t effectively describe his experiences—it’s “magic” when he goes into the “asleep” or “wakes up” again.
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Finch says that being sucked into a black hole would be the coolest way to die. Nobody knows what it’d be like, but Finch likes to think he’d just be swallowed and get to stop worrying about everything. Violet takes his hand and tells Finch that he’s her best friend. She cries as she realizes how true this is—Finch is a better friend than Eleanor was. Concerned, Finch pulls Violet close. Violet says that Amanda told her about Life Is Life and the hospital, and she admits that she’s worried. She wants to help him and wants him to talk to someone.
As Finch talks about how cool it would be to die in a black hole, it shows Violet how interested he is in suicide. Black holes aren’t just cool to him—they represent what he thinks is an ideal way to die. This forces Violet to accept that something is amiss with Finch. Asking him to get help shows that she trusts him to not be angry with her for bringing it up.
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Finch smiles an awful smile and says he doesn’t need help. He’s not like EleanorViolet shouldn’t try to save him, just because she couldn’t save Eleanor. Finch says he’d love to be Violet and be normal for a day. He’s the “freak” and the “weirdo” who’s unpredictable and “crazy.” Finch says that he’s not just his symptoms, though—he’s not a diagnosis, an illness, or a problem. He’s a person. He suggests that Violet must regret getting up on the belltower that day, and he says that he warned her this would happen. Violet storms out of the closet. She knows Finch can’t follow her, though she tells herself that if he loves her, he’ll figure out a way.
Finch’s reaction suggests that to him, being asked to get help is a version of betrayal. In his mind, Violet is asking him to give up his identity as Finch, put his tumultuous feelings into words, and possibly accept a diagnosis and medication. To Finch, this is unacceptable. Lashing out at Violet is a way to deflect attention away from the problem at hand and make her feel like she shouldn’t try to help him anymore—which may end up being harmful in the long run but is exactly what Finch wants.
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When Violet gets home, Violet’s mom and Violet’s dad are watching TV. Though Violet feels terrible, she tells them that she met Finch when she climbed up onto the belltower ledge. He talked her down and saved her, and now he needs help. Violet admits that she’s been seeing Finch against her parents’ wishes, but they need to help him. She tells her parents everything. Violet’s mom tells her that she’s disappointed, but Violet was right to ask for help.
Because Violet trusts her parents to be caring and fair, she’s comfortable telling them about Finch and ask for their help. This speaks to how robust Violet’s support network is—especially now that she knows it’s okay to use it. Asking for help might go against Finch’s wishes, but it nevertheless makes it possible for Finch to finally get the help he needs.
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It takes Violet hours to fall asleep. She hears rocks hitting her window in her dreams, but then she wakes up and wonders if Finch actually was outside. When she gets up, he isn’t there. Violet spends the next day with her parents, checking her email and Facebook. All the girls she invited to contribute to Germ write back happy to contribute. Meanwhile, Violet’s mom spends the day trying to get ahold of Finch’s mom. A psychiatrist friend of Violet’s dad speaks to Decca, but Decca only confirms for him that Finch isn’t in his room or his closet.
On one hand, Violet’s life seems to be going well—everyone wants to contribute to Germ, and it seems like the project will take off. But on the other hand, Violet is forced to acknowledge that Finch’s support system is nearly nonexistent. Violet, it seems, is the only person willing or able to try to get Finch help.
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Ryan finds Violet in the hallway at school on Monday and asks if she’s heard from colleges and if Finch is going to go to the same college. Violet isn’t sure. As people greet Ryan, Violet remembers Eleanor inviting her to come along to Ryan’s brother’s party. She wonders if Ryan remembers that Eleanor died on the way home from that party. She wonders what it’d be like to be with “good, steady Ryan” after being with Finch.
Violet shows here that although she’s doing better, she’s still not entirely healed after Eleanor’s death. Ryan still brings up unhappy memories—memories that are made all the more painful by the possibility that Ryan doesn’t remember things the same way. As Violet considers what dating Ryan would be like, she suggests she’s not the same person she was a few months ago.
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Violet can’t concentrate in U.S. Geography. Charlie and Brenda haven’t heard from Finch in a few days either, but they insist this is normal. When Mr. Black asks all the students for updates on their projects, Violet tells him that Finch isn’t here. Mr. Black insists on an update anyway. Rather than tell him about Finch living in his closet and being in serious trouble, Violet simply says that she’s learning a lot about Indiana.
Just like Finch’s family, Brenda and Charlie make it clear that they don’t worry about Finch, no matter how he acts. Moreover, Finch has trained them to think this way by never letting them in on the fact that he was struggling. In this way, Finch kept his mental illness a secret and ensured that nobody would suspect anything was wrong.
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Violet hasn’t heard from Finch by Tuesday, so she bikes to his house. Decca answers and lets Violet in. Violet runs up to Finch’s room, which she can tell is empty. Finch’s guitar, laptop, and other effects are gone from his closet. Violet stands in the closet and calls his phone. She leaves him a voicemail and then rifles through his drawers. Back downstairs, she asks Decca if Finch’s mom got Violet’s mom’s voicemails. Decca says her mom hasn’t, but it’s normal for Finch to disappear. He’ll be back. Violet wants to ask everyone why they don’t care about Finch disappearing and why they think this is normal. She calls Finch one more time. He doesn’t answer.
Because Violet has grown up believing that it’s important to pay attention to people and get them the support they need, it’s shocking to her that nobody seems to be doing that for Finch. She’s seemingly the only one who deeply cares about him, and she’s starting to realize that she’s not going to be able to save Finch all on her own. And again, the fact that Decca seems unconcerned that Finch seems to have permanently left speaks to how disconnected and uncaring Finch’s family is.
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