Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

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Turtles All the Way Down: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning at school, Daisy announces she has a crisis. She explains that she agreed to a date with Mychal, but told him it would be a picnic double date with Aza and Davis. Aza says she hates eating outside and asks why they can't go to Applebee's. Daisy lists her four concerns, none of which concern the location of the date, and Aza texts Davis before school starts and asks if he'd like to get dinner with friends on Friday. Davis agrees.
Life moves on, even if the case is stalled. Aza and Daisy will continue to grow up, go on dates, and figure out who they are as they experiment with new relationships. Aza's fear of eating outside is likely due to her fear of bacteria, which shows again how much her fear and anxiety control her life.
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After school, Aza drives to her appointment with Dr. Singh. Aza tries to think about what to say to Dr. Singh. She wants to say that she's getting better because "that was supposed to be the narrative of illness." In the office, Aza tells Dr. Singh that she feels like she's not driving the bus of her consciousness. Aza describes Dr. Singh: always in motion, but with an amazing poker face that never betrayed surprise. Dr. Singh asks Aza about her intrusive thoughts and when she last put her Band-Aid on. Aza insists that she's still crazy.
Aza expresses discomfort at the fact that she's not adhering to the generally accepted narrative of illness. This shows an instance when Aza tries to use the language or ideas of others to describe and make sense of her situation, but the language she's trying to use fails her. This suggests that she'll have to come up with her own language or story to make sense of her illness and come to terms with the self she has.
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Dr. Singh tells Aza she's being cruel to herself by calling herself crazy. Aza asks how a person can be anything to their self, since that would make the idea of self not singular. Dr. Singh suggests that self is an integrated plurality, like a rainbow. She asks Aza if her thoughts are impeding her daily life. Aza describes her thoughts of cleanliness and bacteria and not being able to find the part of her that's clean, which she thinks might be evidence that she's soulless like the bacteria. Dr. Singh says this isn't uncommon and asks Aza if she'd try exposure response therapy again. Aza refuses and remembers how scared she was when she tried it before.
Dr. Singh encourages Aza to see that by changing the language she uses, she can actually change the patterns of thoughts in her head. She's also encouraging Aza to accept that although the bacteria may be a part of her, she doesn't need to think of bacteria as foreign invaders. Aza often feels entirely alone in her thoughts, but Dr. Singh's catchphrase (that these thoughts "aren't uncommon") suggests that these are questions that many people struggle to address.
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Dr. Singh asks Aza if she's taking her medication. Aza says she is, but says it freaks her out because it makes her wonder who's in control. She doesn't know if the people who manufacture the pill (Lexapro) are then in control of who and what she is, but says that she hates the "demon" and takes the pill to get rid of it. Dr. Singh comments that Aza tries to understand her thoughts through metaphor. She says that pain is hard because language can't represent pain like it can represent physical objects. Dr. Singh continues to say that to some extent, people can't know what they can't name, which makes it seem as though pain isn't real.
Aza seems to desperately want to be in control of her own thoughts, which explains her discomfort around taking medication and her fear of bacteria. Dr. Singh again insists that it's a common human problem to struggle to find the language that appropriately represents pain and suffering—it’s not just a problem that plagues Aza. Essentially, Dr. Singh wishes to impress upon Aza that this is a human problem as much as it's an Aza problem.
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Dr. Singh asks Aza to frame her mental state around a word other than crazy. She asks Aza to try "courageous," but Aza refuses "that therapy stuff." Dr. Singh insists that the therapy works, and moves on to talking about a plan for Aza's medication. Aza tunes out and wonders if the twinge in her stomach means she has a C. diff infection. She feels she must read the case study from a woman who had no symptoms but a stomachache. Aza starts sweating and decides to tell Dr. Singh her fears, since Dr. Singh is a doctor.
Dr. Singh makes another attempt to convince Aza that her words have the power to control how she experiences her mental chaos. Aza once again uses the story of another person to make sense of her own situation, which is represented by the case study she mentions.
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Dr. Singh immediately tells Aza she doesn't have C. diff, and runs through the symptoms with Aza. Aza nods but thinks that Dr. Singh isn't a gastroenterologist. Dr. Singh sees that Aza is spiraling and leads her in a breathing exercise. She asks Aza to return in ten days. Aza tells the reader that the time between appointments is indicative of how crazy you are.
Aza desperately wants to trust Dr. Singh, but at this point, her fear of bacteria greatly overpowers her belief in the power of her own words. It's worth noting that the medication Aza is on, Lexapro, is most effective when it's taken regularly and can build up in a person's system. She's likely getting little help from it the way she's currently taking it.
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Aza looks up the case report on her way out to Harold. The woman did have a fever, and Aza tries to think that she's fine since she doesn't have a fever. Her thoughts spiral further and her stomach continues to bother her.
Although Aza gives in to her intrusive thoughts and checks the case study, it doesn't give her much relief and she continues to spiral. She'll have to find a better way of relieving herself, or her condition will worsen.
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