Distance plays an important role in Looking for Alaska
—so much so that it becomes a part of certain characters’ identities. The Colonel
’ name to “miles
” travelled, and in this way his name comes to refer to how far he feels from Alaska
when she dies, and how much distance he would have to cross to know her better. While Miles wants to get closer to Alaska—he is always counting the
layers that separate them from each other—Alaska seeks distance. She chose her name when she was young because Alaska
was as far away from Alabama as possible, and she consciously avoids letting people get to know her too well. And yet, despite the fact that Miles is the one who wants closeness while Alaska wants space, it is Alaska who is ultimately unable to distance herself from her past. Miles, on the other hand, comes to see himself more clearly only when he leaves his home and gains new perspective on his life.