Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

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Turtles All the Way Down: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Davis texts Aza early the next morning and asks if she'd like to watch another movie. Aza declines the offer and apologizes for freaking out and sweating. Davis observes that Aza doesn't seem to like her body much and compliments her on her body. Aza says she can't date, and Davis agrees that dating is too much work. He likens it to a Ferris wheel: when people are on a Ferris wheel, all they can talk about is the wheel, and when people date, they can only talk about dating.
A Ferris wheel is, like Aza’s compulsive thoughts, circular—and Davis sees it as a circle that never ends and is entirely consuming. Perhaps Davis’s thoughts are, like Aza’s, also trapped in repetitive loops. Although the metaphor is a simple one, it shows that Davis enjoys using language to create meaning in unexpected ways.
Themes
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The next day, Aza has an appointment with Dr. Singh. Aza tells her about Davis and Dr. Singh notes that a change in circumstances can trigger anxiety, even if the change is objectively good. When Dr. Singh asks about intrusive thoughts, Aza recounts her experience making out with Davis and how grossed out she is that his bacteria will be a part of her forever. Dr. Singh says it's a fear of intimacy. Aza groans and the conversation turns to her medication, and Aza again tries to explain that she thinks it's disturbing that she can only become "herself" by taking a medication that fundamentally changes her.
Dr. Singh points out that physical intimacy naturally entails the kind of bacterial exchanges that Aza finds terrifying, but Aza's fear seems to go deeper than a simple fear of intimacy. Remember that she wanted to kiss Davis, and liked it until her intrusive thoughts began. Aza is battling her mind, not the fear of another person. Her continued unwillingness to take her medication represents her underlying fear of changing her self, even if her current self isn't well.
Themes
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Aza tells Dr. Singh that she fears she's a fiction. She explains that she wonders if there's a part of her that would stay the same no matter what her circumstances, and explains that she doesn't control her thoughts, can't control if she gets cancer, and therefore isn't in control of her body, which makes her a story told by her thoughts and her body and not actually real. Dr. Singh deems this idea "interesting," and suggests that it must be scary to feel imprisoned.
Here, Dr. Singh likens Aza’s feeling of lack of control to the feeling of imprisonment, suggesting that she is trapped in her mind. Aza worries again about being “a story,” which is interesting in part because she’s correct: John Green is in control of her fate and she's not actually real. This in turn raises the question of whether anybody is actually more than the stories they tell about themselves.
Themes
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Dr. Singh mentions a moment in James Joyce's novel Ulysses where a character speaks to the author, asking him to let her out of the novel. Dr. Singh tells Aza that she gives her thoughts too much power. Aza asks if her thoughts are her, citing Descartes's dictum, "I think, therefore I am." Dr. Singh says that what Descartes was actually saying was that one's ability to doubt reality actually proves their realness.
Once again, the characters in this novel draw on the words of other writers and thinkers to help them create meaning and order in their own lives. Perhaps Joyce’s character in some way inspired Green as he was developing Aza’s character. Passages like these owe a lot to Joyce for the ways in which the fiction becomes elaborately self-referential. 
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
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When Aza gets home, Mom asks her how her appointment went. Aza says it was fine, and Mom apologizes again for insulting Davis but tells Aza to be careful with him. She says that she can see Aza's anxiety increasing. Aza insists that Davis isn't to blame, but Mom says that she seems trapped in her mind. Aza asks Mom what she wants to hear and says she has to read for school.
Mom is more correct about Aza's mental state than she realizes, though being correct isn't helpful at this point. Aza suggests that she's willing to tell Mom something to make her happy, true or not, in order to make Mom stop worrying about her.
Themes
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Mom mentions that she spoke to Aza's history teacher and he said that Aza's most recent essay was the best he's seen. Aza throws out the names of a few private colleges and says she might want to look at going there. Mom reminds Aza that the application process is rigged and expensive, and says that she thinks Aza would be more comfortable close to home. Aza finally escapes the interaction.
Mom’s reminder that the college application process is expensive shows that she not only thinks realistically about the cost of education for a middle class family, but may even have personal reasons for wanting Aza to stay close to home.  Perhaps she is making an indirect plea for Aza not to think of college as a way of escaping her problems.
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Aza does her homework and then thinks about texting Davis. Finally, she gives in and asks him what he meant when he said he liked her body. Aza is almost asleep when Davis replies. He tells her that different parts of her body are beautiful, and Aza asks why texting is fun but kissing is scary. Davis invites her to watch a movie on Monday, and Aza agrees.
Aza is able to be a flirtier, more confident person over text messages than she can be in person: she likes who she is better over the phone than in real life, perhaps because she has more control over her language and the way it is perceived.
Themes
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Language and Meaning Theme Icon