Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

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Turtles All the Way Down: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On Thursday morning, an orange VW Beetle is parked in Aza's school parking spot. Daisy is in the driver's seat. Aza reminds Daisy that the banker said to not spend money, but Daisy insists the car, which she named Liam, will only appreciate in value. As they walk towards the school building, Daisy hands Aza the Fiske Guide to Colleges. She says that it's obvious that she's only going to Indiana University because college is so expensive. Aza thinks that Daisy won't be able to afford a better college if she buys cars, but asks Daisy again about "the jogger's mouth." Daisy says that the mystery is over and runs to Mychal.
Both Daisy and Aza's cars borrow their names from members of the band “One Direction.” Once again the girls make use of the words and stories of others to create meaning and purpose in their everyday lives. Aza is judgmental of Daisy's car purchase, but is far more appreciative of the college guide, suggesting that because Aza has clear priorities, she can't understand why Daisy would purchase a car.
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Aza spends the morning poring over the college guide. She explains that she'd never considered going anywhere but Indiana University or Purdue where her parents went, but she allows herself to dream about college and consider the many possibilities as she reads.
Aza's world suddenly opens up: her life in a small circle of Indiana is now widening to include colleges in all of the United States as a positive outcome of the money from Davis.
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Aza comes up from the depths of the college guide at lunch, when she listens to Daisy tell the table about purchasing her car. Aza texts Davis and asks what time she needs to arrive for the meteor shower. He replies that it's going to be overcast, but Aza insists they see each other anyway.
For Daisy, purchasing her car was an exciting and brand new experience, and a sign that she's moving up in the world. For Aza, having access to a car is normal, and purchasing one like Daisy did is just irresponsible. Aza’s inability to see the situation from Daisy’s perspective shows that she is sometimes selfish and lacking in empathy.
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Daisy and Aza go to Aza's house after school. Daisy comments that school is much easier without a job and pulls a new laptop out of her backpack. Aza quietly tells Daisy to not spend all her money at once. Daisy insists that Aza already had a car and a computer and rolls her eyes.
Aza evidently hasn’t considered the fact that having things like a car and a computer opens up other basic opportunities for people. Daisy is investing in herself by buying one.
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Daisy scrolls through comments as Aza tries to read for school. Finally, Daisy says that it's infuriating when Aza judges her. She says that Aza knows nothing about being poor, even if she thinks she's poor. Aza says she'll stop talking about it, but Daisy continues and says that Aza is so stuck in her head, she can't think about anyone but herself and it's painful for everyone around her. They study quietly and both apologize at the same time when Daisy leaves.
Daisy is painfully aware of the fact that Aza has more opportunities than she does, but she also realizes that Aza doesn't understand this. Just like Davis, Aza is blind to her privilege and the things her socioeconomic status does get her. Daisy also points out that Aza's silence is hurting other people.
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A few minutes before seven, Davis texts from Aza's driveway. She runs out to meet him and yells a brief goodbye to Mom on her way out. Mom calls her as Davis pulls out and tells her to turn around so she can meet Davis. Davis agrees and turns around. When Aza watches Davis walk through her house, she realizes how small the house is and feels ashamed of the peeling linoleum and family photos.
Suddenly, Aza truly does feel poor: her family photos are quaint compared to the modern art that lines the walls of Davis’s house. Before she met Davis, Aza's house was what it was. It takes this comparison for Aza to begin to question this part of her identity.
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Mom hugs Davis in greeting and they all sit at the kitchen table. She asks Davis who's looking after him. Davis mentions the lawyer and his house manager. Mom informs him that Aza isn't "some girl from the other side of the river." She continues that Davis can have anything he wants, but he's not entitled to Aza. Davis starts to say something but starts crying. Mom apologizes and tells Davis to be good to Aza. Aza says that they have to get going, and Mom tells her to be home by 11pm.
Mom very much wants for both Aza and Davis to see Aza as a strong, independent individual who is in charge of her own story, not a passive person to be taken advantage of by someone with wealth and power. Mom also shows that she sees Davis as little more than a spoiled rich boy. Just as Davis fears, Aza’s mom sees him as nothing more than his money and what that can get him.
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In the car, Davis tells Aza that he can't have anything he wants, especially a mother. He says that most adults are hollow and try to fill themselves with money or God or fame, which destroys them in the end. He says that adults think they wield power, while the power actually wields them.
Davis suggests that people aren't powerful as much as the things they occupy their time with, like money or God, are powerful. He suggests that the people themselves aren't the ones in control: rather, power controls people.
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At the Pickett mansion, Aza and Davis see two candlelit place settings at the dining room table. Rosa greets them, hugs Davis, and said she made spaghetti for Davis and his "new girlfriend." Davis insists that Aza is just an old friend. Rosa tells him to take food to Noah and do his dishes before she leaves for the night. Aza notes that Rosa acts like a parent, but Davis says she cares about them but is also paid to do so.
Davis insists on seeing Rosa through a similar lens that Aza's mom insists on seeing Davis: it's obvious that she cares for Davis, but he insists on remembering that she cares about him because she gets a paycheck. He distills their relationship down to their exchange of money, and refuses to acknowledge any true emotions he may have toward her.
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Davis says there's a rumor at his school that he killed both his parents. He says he's fine, but he’s worried about Noah. Noah got in bed with him the night before and cried, and Davis thinks that Noah is realizing that a caregiver isn't a superhero and his dad might even be a villain. Aza asks Davis about "the jogger's mouth," but Davis explains that his father doesn't believe in exercise because he truly believes that Tua will be the key to "curing death," and that's why he's leaving everything to her.
Noah is struggling with the process of growing up before he's truly ready to do so. He had a very particular idea in his mind of what the story of his life would be, and now that the story is changing to something entirely unknown, it's a difficult thing for him to deal with. Notice that Mr. Pickett is intent on controlling life and how it's lived, as evidenced by "curing death" via Tua.
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Davis says that his dad doesn't owe him anything, but he wishes he'd do the "dad stuff" like take Noah to school and not disappear. Aza apologizes and Davis asks if she's been in love. She hasn't, and neither has he. He says they should go outside to see the meteor shower.
Like Noah, Davis also has an idea of the narrative he'd like his father to follow, though he accepts that it won't actually happen. Asking Aza if she's been in love is an attempt to ascribe order and meaning to Davis and Aza's budding relationship.
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Davis leads Aza to two pool loungers set up on the golf course. He deems the cloudy sky disappointing, but Aza asks him to describe what they'd be seeing if it weren't cloudy. He explains what the shower would be like and Aza insists that the meteor shower is still beautiful and romantic, they just can't see it. She thinks about the phrase "in love" and how love is the only thing you're ever "in." She thinks it's just like being in her thought spirals.
When Aza draws an equivalence between being "in love" and "in thought spirals," she suggests that both are situations in which she's out of control and at the mercy of her mind or emotions. By calling attention to the language she uses to talk about being “in love” or “in a thought spiral,” Aza tries to create a sense of meaning out of an absence of knowledge and control.
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Aza mentions the "widening gyre" in the poem "The Second Coming." She says that the widening gyre isn't scary—what's scary is the tightening gyre. She says it feels like a prison cell. Davis suggests she write a poem in response to Yeats and admits that he writes bad poetry. Aza asks to read some of it and Davis refuses, but finally recites one for her. He says he likes short poems with weird rhyme schemes.
What's scary for Aza is being forced to exist inside her own brain, not the rest of the world as represented by the "widening gyre." Davis’s poetry shows him attempting to use language to make meaning of what's happening in his life.
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Aza leans over and kisses Davis. When she pulls away, she asks him for another poem. He recites a couplet and they kiss again. Aza thinks she enjoys kissing him until she realizes his tongue has been in her mouth. She begins to spiral and thinks she needs to check to see if his microbes stay in her body. She tries to resist but finally, the spiral wins and she pulls away. She quickly pulls out her phone and finds a study that says that gut microbiomes are "modestly but consistently altered" by kissing.
Aza's fear of bacteria is far stronger than her enjoyment of this intimate moment with Davis. The study's results represent proof that other people have the power to literally change her identity and her microbial makeup, which reinforces her fears that she's not in control. It also adds another face to her multiple identities, as now Davis will be a part of her forever.
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Davis tries to touch Aza, but she jerks away and tries to mentally talk herself down from her growing desire to go to a bathroom. Finally, she tells Davis she needs to use the restroom. Aza starts sweating and feels sick and pathetic. Davis directs her towards a guest bathroom. Aza opens up her finger pad and replaces the Band-Aid. She can't find mouthwash, so she gargles water in her mouth a few times before returning to Davis.
Once again, physical intimacy with Davis makes Aza so psychologically uncomfortable that she has to excuse herself. Her fear of bacteria keeps her from being able to enjoy one of the experiences that are so memorable and exciting for so many teenagers: their first time holding hands or kissing somebody.
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Davis leads Aza to sit down with him and asks if she's okay. Aza says she's fine, just panicky, and explains that kissing freaks her out. She says she gets into thought spirals and can't get out. Davis says they don't have to kiss, but Aza insists that she's not going to get better and she can't be normal if she can't kiss someone. Davis insists that it's fine, and Aza suggests they watch a movie. Davis leads her downstairs and asks if she'd prefer Star Trek or Star Wars. Aza says she doesn't like space movies, but they decide on a Star Trek movie anyway. Her thoughts continue to run wild.
Aza is intensely disturbed by the "self" that she is right now, which only increases her fear that she possesses multiple identities. She's aware that what she's experiencing isn't normal, and when her lived experience doesn't match up with the story in her head, it's understandably off-putting for her. Aza has already hinted at what the fix might be for her spirals: following them inward makes her more anxious, but she hasn't tried following the spirals outward.
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In the theater, Davis asks how Aza can be friends with Daisy and not like space operas. Aza worries that they're both trying to act normal, when they both know that nothing is normal. Davis asks Aza if she has read Daisy's fanfiction. Aza hasn't, and Davis suggests she try it. Aza pretends to watch the movie and thinks of the Pettibon spiral painting while trying to practice her breathing exercises.
Aza fears that this entire evening is a play or a fiction. Davis tries to distract her by talking about real fiction in the form of Daisy's stories, but Aza is experiencing too much inner chaos and turmoil to be able to engage in this line of conversation.
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When the movie ends, Aza says she's tired. Davis drives her home and kisses her on the lips on her doorstep. Aza goes into the garage to get her dad's phone and sneaks past Mom, asleep on the couch. She plugs in the phone in her room and scrolls through the photos until Mom interrupts her and asks if she's talking to her dad. Aza says she was telling him secrets. Mom apologizes for hurting Davis’s feelings, but Aza only replies by saying she's going to change in the bathroom. In the bathroom, she thinks about how disgusting her body is and changes her Band-Aid. 
Aza's fear of bacteria and infection causes her to actively despise her body, which hosts bacteria and can contract infection. She sees her body as entirely separate from her mind, which continues to heighten the sense of having multiple identities. Her physical body represents weakness and fear, though her mind isn't necessarily safe either.
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Mom is waiting for Aza when she comes out of the bathroom. Mom asks if Aza is feeling anxious, but Aza insists she's fine. She crawls into bed and turns out the light. Mom comes into Aza's room and sings a lullaby until Aza falls asleep.
The lullaby, which is presumably one that Aza is familiar with, shows Mom trying to use past narratives to give Aza a sense of calm and control in the present.
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