Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska


John Green

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Themes and Colors
How to Live and Die Theme Icon
Mystery and the Unknown Theme Icon
Loyalty and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Memory and Memorial Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Mischief Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Looking for Alaska, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

How to Live and Die

While life and death are certainly important topics in Looking for Alaska, how to live and die are much bigger themes. Indeed, the novel is not titled Alaska, but rather Looking for Alaska—it’s the search that matters. Miles and Alaska are both naturally inclined toward looking for meaning. Miles memorizes last words because they help him understand how people lived, and Alaska reads and memorizes poetry from her Life’s Library, which helps…

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Mystery and the Unknown

Mystery is at the heart of this novel—so much so that it is embedded in the structure of the book. Rather than separating the novel into chapters, Green sections his book into days, each of which is titled with a number of days and the word “before” or “after.” For example, the first section of the book is called “one-hundred thirty-six days before.” Before what, however, is not made clear to the reader until…

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Loyalty and Forgiveness

Friendship, and particularly loyalty among friends, is extremely important at Culver Creek. The Colonel emphasizes to Miles that under no circumstances should he tell on a fellow student, and Alaska suffers emotionally for having done so to her roommate, Marya. This code of loyalty, while strict, encourages the students to forgive one another, or at least not to hold grudges. Friends are willing to take the fall for other friends if necessary, and when…

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Memory and Memorial

In Looking for Alaska, characters are defined and even introduced to others by their ability to memorize things. The Colonel memorizes countries, Miles memorizes last words, and Alaska memorizes poetry. Despite the fact that these characters find solace in the words and numbers they memorize, they still struggle with their memories of other people and themselves. Indeed, while Alaska may be outwardly defined by her ability to quote poems about sadness and femininity…

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Coming-of-age stories, known as bildungsroman, often begin with a young person looking for the answers to life’s questions, as Miles does in Looking for Alaska. In a traditional bildungsroman, loss or grief would motivate the main character to depart from home and go on a quest for knowledge, while in Looking for Alaska, a death interrupts the search on which Miles has already embarked. Like Looking for Alaska, however, a bildungsroman

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The more time Miles spends at Culver Creek, the more comfortable he becomes with mischief. At the beginning of the novel, he is extremely upset when Dr. Hyde kicks him out of class for looking out the window, but by the end, he is blatantly coordinating and participating in a prank against the school. At one point, Alaska tells him that mischief will always win out over good deeds, and Miles learns that misbehaving at…

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