Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

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Turtles All the Way Down: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Before school on Monday, Aza tells Daisy about kissing Davis and texting him. Daisy says that kissing is gross when Aza describes it in terms of bacteria, but she suggests that maybe it's making Aza healthier. Aza wonders if kissing will get less scary as time goes on. Daisy assures her she'll be fine and runs off to kiss Mychal.
Daisy has a point: though there are a number of theories as to exactly how it works, it's generally accepted that kissing does come with health benefits as a result of sharing bacteria. Even though Aza's mind believes otherwise, kissing Davis was not only not dangerous—on the contrary, it may have been beneficial. 
Themes
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
At the Pickett estate after school, Lyle lets Aza through the gate and then takes her to Davis in his golf cart. As they ride, he asks her how Davis is doing. Aza says he's fine, but Lyle insists he's fragile. He asks Aza if she has lost someone and then says that she understands since she has lost someone. Aza thinks that losing someone yourself isn't enough to truly understand someone else's pain.
Even if Lyle is paid to care about Davis, he demonstrates here that he genuinely cares for Davis, and wants to make sure the people that Davis brings into his life feel the same way. Though Lyle insists that the story of loss is one, single story, Aza's thoughts show that she doesn't agree.
Themes
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
At the pool, Davis and Noah are sitting hunched on a pool lounger. He tells Aza that he needs a few minutes, so she gets back in the golf cart with Lyle and they drive to the onsite lab for a tour. Aza tells Lyle her dad is dead as they drive. Lyle lets Aza into the lab, where Malik is looking through a microscope. He remains engrossed for a minute before explaining that Tua's blood doesn't last very long outside the body. He explains that tuatara have been around a thousand times longer than humans. Malik explains that Mr. Pickett loves that Tua is forty years old and still in the first quarter of her life. Aza asks if this is why Tua will inherit the estate, and Malik says there are worse uses for the money. Aza isn't sure she agrees.
It's interesting to note the relationship between Tua, a reptile, and Aza's reptilian or "lizard brain": the limbic system, or the primitive part of the brain that is partially responsible for Aza's anxiety, fear, and intrusive thoughts. Tua represents an actual reptile who is doing just fine in life with her reptilian brain, while Aza struggles to move through life because of the reptilian part of her brain. Aza will have to conquer that part of her brain and become, in a sense, more human if she wishes to become well.
Themes
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
Malik explains that the molecular evolution rate of tuatara is exceedingly slow. He explains that tuatara today look the same as their fossils and change very slowly, but on a molecular level, they evolve faster than any other animal. Malik says that this raises a bunch of questions that are currently unanswerable, which is why he loves science.
Although what Malik describes is somewhat chaotic, it is a controlled chaos. Science is, at root, an attempt to ascribe order to a world that appears chaotic. In contrast to Aza, for whom unanswerable questions are a source of anxiety and dread, Malik sees unanswerable questions as a welcome challenge—and a source of joy and wonder.
Themes
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
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Davis comes in the door behind Aza. Aza thanks Malik for the tour and follows Davis out of the lab. He explains that Noah got caught with pot at school and is suspended. Aza thinks that kids get arrested—not suspended—for having pot at her school. Davis says that Noah seems to want to get in trouble and needs a dad. He says that Aza is the only one he can talk to, and Aza fixates on the "only."
Aza’s remark highlights the difference between Noah's private school with wealthy pupils and Aza's public school in how they deal with illegal substances. Drug possession is a small, excusable offense for Noah, while it could put a public school student in jail.
Themes
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
In the theater, Davis starts Jupiter Ascending and says that if Aza doesn't like it, she can choose the next ten movies. Aza holds Davis’s hand and giggles at the movie. She thinks that holding hands feels nice and leans over to kiss him. It's fine for a minute, but then the thoughts flood her mind and she has to pull away. Davis suggests they take it slow and says she'll love the next scene of the movie.
Aza very much wants to be able to participate in this intimate moment with Davis. She doesn't fear intimacy; she fears the bacteria that come with intimacy. She fears the addition of extra identities to her body in the form of bacteria.
Themes
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Aza thinks of a poem about counting snowflakes and thinks that you can only count a few before it becomes a blizzard, and her thoughts are the same way. She thinks about Davis's saliva and bacteria and finally excuses herself to the bathroom. Noah is playing a video game and calls Aza's name when he hears her, but Aza runs to the bathroom. She tries to shut down her thoughts, but fails. She squeezes hand sanitizer into her mouth and swallows.
Aza's situation is getting serious. Drinking hand sanitizer is dangerous, as she'll later learn, but at this point it's her last-ditch attempt to clear Davis’s bacteria from her body. Noah sees Aza as the one person who truly cares and has agreed to help him bring order to his life, whether or not she truly will.
Themes
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
When Aza comes out of the bathroom, Noah tells Aza that nobody wants to find his dad. Noah wonders why his dad isn't trying to contact them, or if he is trying and they just don't know it. Aza suggests that Mr. Pickett is waiting until it's safe and that maybe he's scared, but she promises Noah to keep looking.
In Noah's youthfulness, he's more willing to believe that it's a breakdown of language that's keeping his dad from contacting him than a simple desire to not have contact. Believing this allows him to keep believing his father loves him.
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Back in the basement, Davis asks Aza if she's okay. She apologizes and says she can't talk about it, and tries to hide her hand sanitizer breath. Davis says he heard her talking to Noah, and Aza struggles to stay present with Davis while her thoughts tell her she needs to drink more hand sanitizer. She tells Davis that Noah should see a psychologist, but Davis insists he just needs a father. They decide to watch the movie in silence and Aza's spiral tightens.
Aza's identity is beginning to show signs that it's splitting. She struggles to divide her attention between the war going on inside her mind and her real-world interactions with Davis. Language fails Aza and Davis here, as Aza can't make Davis understand how she feels, or that Noah needs more help than either Aza or Davis can provide.
Themes
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Language and Meaning Theme Icon