Paper Towns

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Downtown Orlando, which consists mostly of office buildings in skyscrapers, is deserted when Margo and Quentin arrive. Though he is aware of Margo sitting next to him, Quentin feels completely alone among the buildings, as though he has survived the apocalypse and now has an amazing, endless world to explore on his own.
By this point in the night, Quentin feels liberated and sees the world around him as being full of possibility. Margo has made this happen for him, but in pushing Quentin to be confident and courageous, she has made herself less essential to his satisfaction.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Margo directs Quentin to a towering green sculpture, known to teenagers in town as The Asparagus. As he parks near The Asparagus, Quentin notices Margo staring into the distance and thinks for the first time that something might be seriously wrong. Not knowing what to say, though, he ignores her troubled expression and asks what they’ve come for.
Though Quentin has spent the entire night helping Margo terminate her most important friendships, he has been too caught up in the thrill of the evening, and too absorbed by his own thoughts and feelings, to consider her seriously. He freezes when confronted with her emotions, as he has also done at other points in the night. This is a reminder that he is still emotionally immature, though he seems bolder and more adult than he has at other points in the night.
Themes
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Margo tells Quentin that they are going to the top of the SunTrust Building to check their progress. Quentin resists, but Margo reveals that she knows the security guard, Gus, who was a senior at Winter Park High School when she and Quentin were freshmen. When they walk in the front door, Gus invites them to take the stairs to the top of the building.
Margo’s friendship with Gus places her in a different world from the one in which Quentin is used to seeing her. Besides being older, Gus is a working-class man who exists outside the shelter of subdivisions. It is clear that Margo has made an effort to expand her experience and connect with people whose lives are different from hers.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
In a conference room on the twenty-fifth floor, Margo surveys the city through one of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Leaning against the glass, she points out their houses and Jase’s, then pulls Quentin up next to her. He leans his forehead on the glass despite being worried about breaking it with their combined weight.
The symbolic image of Quentin and Margo leaning against the glass reflects the fragility of this intimate moment. They are vulnerable in the literal sense — Quentin worries the glass will break under their weight — and their bond is similarly precarious, since their night is drawing to a close and it is not clear what will happen next.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
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Quentin remarks that Orlando is beautiful, and Margo scoffs. He scrambles to justify himself, points out that it is impossible to see the city’s imperfections from such a great height — that instead, they see Orlando as someone once imagined it. Margo says everything is uglier close up. Quentin says that isn’t true of her, and Margo smiles and tells him he’s cute when he’s confident.
Quentin is eager for Margo’s approval, and willing to alter his opinions to align with hers, which shows the weak sense of self that is still integral to his character. Margo praises his confidence when he flirts with her, but it is clear Quentin still lacks the confidence to defend his beliefs and ideas.
Themes
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
Still staring at the city below, Margo tells Quentin that Orlando is a “paper town.” She claims that everything about the town is fake, and that the “paper people” who live there are obsessed with material possessions. She tells Quentin that, in the eighteen years she has lived there, she has never met anyone who cared about anything really important.
Margo has made comments throughout the entire night about what is not important — rules, friendships, college, material possessions. However, she never speaks about what she thinks actually is important. Margo knows what she does not value or want for her life, but doesn’t know what a satisfying life would look like.
Themes
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
Quentin tells Margo that he won’t take her comments about “paper people” personally. Margo apologizes, saying her experience might have been different if she had spent her time with Quentin and his friends instead of Jase, Becca, and Lacey. She goes on to say that she isn’t even terribly upset about Jase’s cheating, but simply that it is the last “string.”
Margo uses the same language to talk about herself that she once used to explain Robert Joyner’s suicide: the metaphor of “strings.” While this doesn’t necessarily suggest that Margo is considering suicide herself, it does convey her feeling of being lost. Strings keep things connected, and the loss of valued relationships that gave her life structure and purpose has left Margo without that stability.
Themes
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Quentin tells Margo she would be welcome to eat lunch with him and Ben tomorrow. She smiles, and he spends the rest of their time in the SunTrust Building trying to make her laugh by racing her down the stairs and leaping around clicking his heels. In his narration, he claims that he thought he was cheering her up, but recognizes in hindsight that he was wrong.
Quentin’s attempts to make Margo feel better are naïve, but kind and well-intentioned. The more mature voice he uses to reflect on his actions creates distance between the person Quentin is at this moment and the person he will become in the wake of these experiences.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon