School starts back up and Dr. Hyde decides to write Alaska’s exam question—How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering—on the board, and leave it for the rest of the year. He says that the questions that religions seek to answer now have much more significance for everyone, and he hopes the students will remember Alaska when what they study seems boring or foreign to them. Dr. Hyde then asks the class how they’re doing, and a number of people who didn’t know Alaska well speak about their grief, while Miles and the Colonel remain silent.
The other students’ grief over Alaska’s death can be interpreted in one of two ways. On the one hand, they might be faking how much they cared about her and using the moment to get attention. But on the other hand, the Culver Creek community is a tight one. Alaska was a big personality, and even if these people were not her friends, there is a very real chance that they still care for and miss her.
The Colonel hates the way the other students pretend like they were close to Alaska, but Miles isn’t bothered by it, because he realizes he doesn’t know her as well as he thought he did because if he had known her well, he would have stopped her. He also thinks that everyone else has more of a right to grieve than he and the Colonel do, because he stills feels responsible for her death.
Miles feels that because he let Alaska go driving that night, he does not have the right to mourn her death. Alaska was a mystery for the entire time Miles knew her, but now he must wonder if he really knew her at all. His guilt is compounded by the fact that he will never be able to learn more about her.