Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

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Turtles All the Way Down: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Aza explains that she and Mom used to paddle down the White River in their canoe, but Aza hasn't been on the river in years. She says it smells of sewage because every time it rains, the sewer overflows into the river. When Aza and Daisy get to Aza's house, Aza pries open the garage door and parks Harold. Inside, Aza sits in front of her air conditioning unit and Daisy decides she needs to change out of her Chuck E. Cheese uniform. Aza and Daisy go through Mom's closet to find something as Daisy tells Aza about her theory that uniforms are designed specifically to make a person a nonperson.
Evidently Aza isn't the only one thinking about questions of personhood. Daisy is concerned specifically with what deprives a person of personhood, and the uniform suggests that sameness does just that. Looking through Mom's closet then becomes an exercise in borrowing another person's identity by borrowing their clothing. Remember that Daisy just dyed her hair pink: she's not going to let a uniform entirely deprive her of her selfhood.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Mom's closet is filled with ugly clothes, and Daisy decides she'll stick with the uniform. Aza hears Mom get home and feels nervous. Daisy grabs Aza and leads her outside to the canoe before Mom gets in the house. Daisy sweeps dead spiders out of the canoe and asks Aza to help her get it into the water. Aza mentions that the river is half urine, but follows Daisy into the canoe and pushes off with her paddle.
Daisy decides that being a uniformed nonperson is preferable to assuming the identity of a ninth grade math teacher. It seems that Daisy is very in tune with Aza—she notices her nervousness and helps remove her from the situation. Aza, it seems, is often unable to move herself to action in times of stress.
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Aza remembers playing on the river with Daisy when they were little. Daisy would throw daddy longlegs spiders at Aza. Aza would run and scream but wasn't actually scared. She says that then, all emotions were experiments. Now, she's stuck with fear, which she says is the true meaning of terror.
Aza conceives of childhood as a time when she could try on different identities and emotions, while she thinks of adulthood as a state that traps her. Her choice to use the word "terror" makes it abundantly clear how very scared she is of the world.
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Daisy explains that the White River is the only reason Indianapolis exists. Right after Indiana became a state, people decided to build the capital city in the middle of the new state on the convenient river before they realized the river was only six inches deep and non-navigable. Daisy explains that her dad told her that as her phone rings. It's her dad asking if she can switch shifts to be able to watch her little sister, Elena, that night. Daisy agrees, hangs up, and tells Aza that their destiny is coming into focus.
Daisy’s description of the White River paints the city of Indianapolis itself as some type of a fluke rather than an important city with a rich and illustrious history—and is perhaps revealing of Daisy’s outlook on her hometown. The request from Daisy's dad is suggestive again of her family's financial situation, as it implies that her parents have jobs with irregular and unreliable hours and need their oldest daughter to provide free childcare.
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As Aza and Daisy float down the river, Aza looks up through dead tree branches that fracture the sky. She tells the reader that her dad used to take pictures of the sky through branches like that, and she still has her dad's phone and its charger in Harold. Finally, Aza and Daisy get to an island in the river. They get out of the canoe and wander in different directions. Aza remembers a birthday party she had on the island and thinks that she was really good at being a kid. When Aza wanders back to Daisy, Daisy asks Aza if she remembers the birthday party. Aza remembers that Davis lost his beloved Iron Man action figure, but Mom found it. Daisy asks Aza again if she's okay, and Aza can only say "yeah."
Aza still takes active steps to remember and grieve for her dad, even though he died many years ago. She also continues to hold up childhood as a time when life and existing were easy, which suggests that she's not enthralled with the business of growing up, coming of age, and formulating her adult identity. When the girls separate on the island, it shows that they can be independent while having a shared experience. However, when Daisy brings up the birthday party, it shows that they're more connected than not.
Themes
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
After sitting for a while, Aza and Daisy wade through the river until they get to the bank of the river. Aza climbs the floodwall and then helps Daisy up. They walk through a small forest and notice the Picketts' golf course and their mansion in the background. Daisy finally finds the night-vision camera. The camera isn't password protected, so Aza connects her phone to the camera and begins downloading photographs of animals. Daisy quietly says that a golf cart is coming their way. Aza continues going through photos and finally comes to a photograph of Mr. Pickett in his nightshirt, with a 1:01am timestamp. Aza takes a screenshot of the picture as Daisy nervously says that the golf cart is coming closer.
The picture of Mr. Pickett represents the first major clue that Daisy and Aza have uncovered in their search for information about Mr. Pickett, though it’s not immediately clear that the information will be useful. Notice that Aza isn't afraid that she and Daisy are going to be caught trespassing, while Daisy obviously is. Daisy fears real-world things, while Aza fears what happens in her own mind. The golf cart is a symbol of wealth and power, which throws Daisy's lack of wealth and power into sharp relief and makes her feel vulnerable and out of place.
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Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
The next photo (the one after the photo of Mr. Pickett) won't load. Aza is calm as she waits, but Daisy is obviously agitated and runs off. When the photo finally loads, Aza sees it is just a photo of a coyote. Aza looks up at the man in the golf cart and runs after Daisy. As she scrambles down the floodwall, Daisy is prepared to smash a rock into the canoe. Daisy explains that she's going to "damsel-in-distress this situation." After she creates a hole in the canoe, she lets it take on water.
Daisy uses a literary trope to help them in their real-life predicament, which begins to show how the characters borrow phrasing and conventions from the things they're reading to create meaning out of what's happening in their own lives. Notice, though, that Daisy takes active steps to do something about their perilous situation, while Aza still seems too caught up in her own head.
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
The man in the golf cart calls down to Aza and Daisy from the top of the wall. Daisy explains that their canoe has a hole in it and that they're friends with Davis Pickett. The man introduces himself as Lyle, head of security, and says he can get the girls home.
Though Daisy and Aza certainly didn't help their case by running, Lyle seems more interested in being helpful and kind than in punishing the girls, perhaps because he knows he's in control.
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