Paper Towns

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Quentin flatly refuses to follow Margo to SeaWorld. He worries about getting caught, and though Margo agrees that they probably will, she insists that nothing bad will come of it. She tells Quentin that, after everything she has done for him over the course of the night, the least he can do is stop being so terrified and enjoy this last adventure. Quentin is furious at the implication that Margo has been helping him, rather than the other way around. He reminds her that everything they’ve done over the course of the night has been for her benefit. He yells that she didn’t choose him as an accomplice because he was important to her, but rather because his living next door made him a convenient choice.
Margo’s condescension when Quentin refuses to participate in this last stage of her plan is characteristic of her behavior throughout the night, but Quentin’s aggressive reaction to her remarks is not. He challenges Margo’s narrative of their night and resists her evaluation of his character in ways he would never have done at an earlier point in the novel. Though his experiences have not transformed him into the daring adventurer Margo is, Quentin has clearly become more confident in himself. This confidence allows him to have a more honest and equal conversation with Margo than has been possible at any other point during the night.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Margo is repulsed by the idea that she needed Quentin to accomplish her plans. She tells Quentin that it would have been easy for her to steal the safe from under her parents’ bed, or to climb through window and take his keys while he was asleep. She insists that she didn’t need Quentin —she picked him, she says, and he picked her back when he agreed to help her. She tells him that their picking one another is a “promise,” and that they have to stand by each other at least until the night is over.
Here, Margo allows herself to be more vulnerable to Quentin than she has been at any point during the night. She makes it clear, through her comments about their picking each other, that she values the connection they share and needs him to stay with her. Margo has been let down by people she trusted, and Quentin’s “promise” is obviously precious to her.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Quentin grudgingly agrees to break into SeaWorld with Margo, but tells Margo that his parents and Duke University will both be mad when they find out what he has done. Margo assures Quentin that he is going to be very successful for as long as he lives. She predicts that at the end of his life he is going to think that everything he ever did was a waste, except the night he broke into SeaWorld with her.
Yelling at one another, Margo and Quentin share an intimacy and honesty that is totally new in their relationship. Now that their fight has calmed, Margo undermines that intimacy with flippant comments that seem intended to insult Quentin. She pushes back on their closeness by emphasizing her anger instead of the trust that made her “pick” Quentin.
Themes
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Driving to SeaWorld, Quentin thinks about Robert Joyner. He notices that the metaphor Margo once used to explain why Joyner killed himself —that all the strings inside him broke —is similar to the one she used when explaining that her friends’ disloyalty was “the last string.” He points out this connection to Margo, worried that the connection may imply that she is considering suicide, but Margo assures him that she is “too vain” to allow herself to die the way Joyner did, and to have children who don’t know her discover her body the way they discovered Joyner’s.
Quentin has noticed troubling things about Margo on many occasions during the night, but has never said anything about them. Now, reaching out to her about the possibility that she may be suicidal, he invites Margo to change the dynamic between them — where she is the inspiring and beautiful heroine and he is the bumbling sidekick — and enter into a more equal, adult relationship in which they can talk about serious things.
Themes
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Human Connection Theme Icon
Leaving Home and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
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When they reach SeaWorld, Margo reveals her plan to sneak in by wading through a drainage ditch that runs along one side of the park. Quentin is concerned there might be alligators in the ditch — a reasonable fear, since alligators are common in central Florida — but Margo inspires his confidence by telling him that they are ninjas. Quentin wades fearlessly into the disgusting water, and Margo follows.
In this moment, Quentin begins to see the limited usefulness of fear. There are many valid reasons to be fearful of going into the drainage ditch —it is really possible that alligators might be lurking in the water — but the risks are not nearly so high as Quentin fears, and when he dares to jump in the water, everything is fine.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
While crossing the moat, Margo is bitten by a snake. Fearing the snake is a water moccasin, Quentin tries to suck the poison out of the bite. Margo soon realizes the snake is a harmless garter snake. She and Quentin laugh about the incident, and they climb over the fence into SeaWorld.
Quentin leaps at the chance to play the hero in this moment, saving the damsel in distress from danger. The revelation that the snake is not poisonous puts a damper on his heroism, but also confirms that the ditch is not a dangerous place.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Margo and Quentin wander past a row of tanks, but do not see any animals. They encounter a security guard, who considers arresting them but eventually accepts a one-hundred dollar bribe from Margo and leaves them alone. Quentin’s relief at having avoided trouble so narrowly gives him intense, unexpected pleasure.
Quentin’s pleasure at escaping arrest may be understood as an exhilarating sense of freedom from fear. Like the drainage ditch that did not actually harbor dangers, the world of rule-breaking — of failure to live the values that have been taught to him — is not nearly as perilous as he imagined it would be.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Margo and Quentin continue walking through the park past the animals’ empty tanks. Margo talks about the anticlimax of breaking into theme parks: the things that make them spectacular during the day are closed down at night. She tells Quentin that the pleasure is in planning rather than being inside, and speculates that nothing ever feels as good as the person planning it hopes. Quentin answers that he feels great, despite the fact that there is nothing much to see.
It is easy for Quentin to have an amazing experience of an inactive theme park, because he is more enchanted with the aesthetics of having broken in — with the knowledge that he has lived a story worth telling — than with the actual place. Margo, by contrast, is looking for something more fulfilling. Though she is famous for the stories she has lived, they are not enough to satisfy her.
Themes
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Authenticity and Artificiality Theme Icon
Margo and Quentin stop in front of the empty seal tank. Quentin imagines spending the night with her on the grass, and wants to tell her that the real pleasure of the adventure is being with her — “watching our strings cross and separate and come back together” —but thinks the sentiment is too cheesy to share. He and Margo dance to the jazz music playing on the park’s speakers.
Quentin uses the metaphor of the strings here, but changes it to assert a positive vision of human connection rather than the negative one Margo tends to perceive. While Margo sees strings break — connections and relationships come apart — Quentin sees them entwine. In his version of the metaphor, people can separate and grow close again without breaking the relationship; connections are not fragile, but constantly developing.
Themes
Human Connection Theme Icon