Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

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Turtles All the Way Down: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Life continues for Aza, and she says that she isn't crazy all the time. On Friday night, she spends two hours getting dressed and trying to do her makeup. When she comes out of her bedroom, Mom fails to disguise her disappointment at Aza's decision to wear makeup. Aza explains she's having dinner with Daisy, Mychal, and Davis, and deflects when Mom asks if she's dating Davis. Mom says that Aza doesn't talk to her, but Aza tells the reader she always feels in tune with her mother. She tells Mom that she doesn't talk to anyone. Mom tells Aza to be careful with Davis, since wealth is careless. Aza insists that Davis is a person, not wealth.
Mom confirms Davis’s fears that people see him only in terms of his money, while Aza shows that she believes the exact opposite. However, Mom also seems to believe that Aza should be her "true self" by not wearing makeup, which suggests that Mom has conflicting ideas about identity and what truly defines a person. Aza also insists that the lack of verbal communication doesn't mean she doesn't love her mother, suggesting that she doesn’t need to talk to feel intimate.
Themes
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
Aza is the last to arrive at Applebee's and takes a seat next to Mychal. Daisy begins a conversation of whether Wookiees are people, and Davis eagerly joins in. Mychal tells Davis that Daisy is a famous fanfiction writer, and Davis looks her up. Holly arrives, Daisy orders waters for the table, and when Davis looks confused as to why Aza isn't having Dr. Pepper, Holly explains they have Pepsi products and the coupon doesn't cover soft drinks. Davis orders everyone Pepsi. Aza realizes she hasn't spoken since she arrived, and she drifts in and out of following the conversation.
The question of what makes a person a person persists. Having these conversations allows these teenagers to talk in a roundabout way about what makes them people, as they're in a life stage in which they're forging their own identities and discovering what makes them unique people. Again, though Aza is silent according to her friends, she continues her mental monologue for the reader: her language never stops.
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Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Daisy tries to include Aza by asking about her internet usage, but Aza insists she doesn't feel the need to contribute to the internet. Daisy insists the world needs Aza's Wookiee love stories, and the conversation shifts away from Aza again. Aza picks at her food when it comes and picks up the check when Holly drops it. Davis insists on taking it, and Aza lets him.
Aza's comment about not contributing to the internet suggests that she's not interested in using language in a public way. She's much more comfortable with the language in her head and the language of this particular book, which to her, are both private spaces.
Themes
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Daisy announces that they should do something like see a movie. Davis suggests they go to his house, since they "get all the movies." Mychal is confused as Davis tries to explain that they actually get the movies at his house when they come out in theaters. Aza makes herself agree to go.
Davis's privilege and wealth is confusing for Mychal; it's entirely beyond his comprehension how someone could have a real movie theater inside their house.
Themes
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Aza and Mychal drive their cars behind Davis to the Pickett estate. When they get there, Mychal excitedly tells Aza that he's always wanted to see the Pickett mansion, which was built by a famous architect. When they enter the house, Mychal starts rattling off the names of the artists whose work lines the walls. Davis tells him to check out the Rauschenberg upstairs, and Mychal charges up. Aza studies the painting by Pettibon of a colorful spiral. Davis explains some facts about the artist, and then leads Aza downstairs to see the theater.
The art that Mr. Pickett collects is a strong status symbol because the artists are all important, highly recognizable names. Mychal, as an aspiring artist, recognizes the artists and likely idolizes them to some extent. Davis shows that he has internalized some of his father's art knowledge, as he himself knows and appreciates that what Aza sees as a "pile of trash" is in fact a very important artwork.
Themes
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
Davis leads Aza into a basement room lined with Mr. Pickett's collection of first edition books. He tells her she can't touch any of them but Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When she touches the book, the bookshelf opens to reveal a theater with stadium seating. Davis suggests that it's obvious he's trying to impress her, but Aza insists she always goes to mansions with hidden movie theaters. Davis asks if she'd take a walk outside and uses his phone, connected to the house's sound system, to tell Daisy and Mychal that they're going outside.
The gimmicks like the hidden theater and the pathway over the pool to Tua's geodesic dome are also demonstrations of wealth for wealth's sake—as they serve no real purpose. Green weaves in an allusion to mental illness by including a mention of Tender Is the Night, the plot of which is based loosely on F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife's struggles with mental illness.
Themes
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
Davis leads Aza to a sand bunker on the golf course. They lay down and he points to Jupiter. Davis begins to explain light time to Aza: traveling at the speed of light, it would take 45 minutes to travel to Jupiter, which means the Jupiter Aza sees from earth is actually the Jupiter from 45 minutes ago. Davis points to other stars and says that they're hundreds of light years away, which means that the actual star might have blown up hundreds of years ago. Aza remarks that they're looking at the past.
By viewing the stars in terms of light years, Davis sees the sky much as one sees a physical book: you can actually see moments that happened in the "past" by turning to different pages in the book. Looking at the sky in this way allows Davis to feel a sense of control over his life. Even if he doesn't always understand what's going on here on Earth, he thinks he understands what's going on in the sky.
Themes
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Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Aza feels Davis fumbling for her hand and takes his. Davis turns his head towards her. Aza wants to kiss him, but is scared to turn towards him. Davis resumes talking about stars and finally remarks that Aza doesn't talk much. Davis suggests she say what she's thinking. Aza says that she doesn't like living inside of a body. She mentions her sweating hands and wipes her sweating forehead. She thinks that she finds herself disgusting, but she can't really recoil from herself because she's stuck in her body. She tells Davis about a type of bacteria that lives in fish that causes infected fish to try to get eaten by birds. She realizes that she's trying to tell Davis that she feels like the fish in that she's not in control.
Davis confirms for the reader that to experience Aza in the "real life" of the novel is to experience being around an extremely quiet person—though the reader knows that Aza's mind certainly isn't ever quiet. When Aza tells Davis about the bacteria that live in fish and birds, she attempts to express how little control she feels over her body and her life. She's also using that story to ascribe meaning to her own life, though in this case, the comparison only makes sense to her.
Themes
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Aza tells Davis that she presses her nail into her finger pad to convince herself that she's real. Davis is quiet for a bit and then says that his mom was hospitalized for six months after her aneurysm. She was in a coma, but would squeeze Davis’s hand sometimes. When she did, Davis felt loved. He says that once his dad came and tried to tell him that his mom wasn't actually "there" and squeezing of her own volition. Davis tells Aza that she's real, but he doesn't know why.
While it’s not clear exactly when Davis's mom died, it seems to have been around the same time that Aza's dad died, which means that Davis was around eight. His dad's reaction here shows that he didn't want Davis to feel better about his mom's condition; he tried to deprive Davis of the types of stories that make life livable.
Themes
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Aza asks Davis what he's thinking, and he says that Aza is too good to be true. He says that he knows she saw the picture from the night vision camera, though Aza insists that she won't let Daisy turn in the picture. Davis insists he can't trust her, and says the picture won't make any difference but the police will wonder why he didn't turn it in. Suddenly, Davis gets up and mutters that this problem is solvable.
Even if Davis is blind to his own wealth sometimes, he's not blind to the fact that wealth is attractive to many people. Notice here that Aza is positioning herself as the noble heroine who puts Davis's wellbeing over her friend's financial success, something that Daisy will take issue with later.
Themes
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Aza follows Davis to the cottage. Davis walks to the bar area and pulls out cereal boxes. He shakes bundles of bills out of the boxes and explains that his dad hid money everywhere. He offers Aza a stack of bills and explains that for his dad, $100,000 is a mere rounding error, and Aza should take it as a reward for not saying anything. Davis says that Simon Morris will call Aza. Davis insists that from now on, when Aza calls him, he'll know it's not because she wants the reward. He puts the money in a bag and hands it to Aza.
This passage is a shocking glimpse into the way that Mr. Pickett (and, to a degree, Davis) view money: it's expendable, endlessly available, and giving away $100,000 in cash is no big deal. However, his mention of the lawyer Simon Morris shows that he's aware that, legally speaking, $100,000 is a lot of money and will require special handling after it changes hands.
Themes
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Aza sprints with the bag back to the house. She runs upstairs, hears Daisy talking behind a closed door, and opens it to find Daisy and Mychal kissing. Daisy asks for privacy, and Aza heads back downstairs. She sits down next to Noah, who is wearing superhero pajamas even though he's thirteen. He asks Aza if she's found anything about his father. Noah asks if he can send Aza the notes from his dad's phone. The last note was "the jogger's mouth." Aza gives Noah her number and says that she'll try to figure out what "the jogger's mouth" means.
Noah is very obviously a child, even if he is technically a teenager. He still very much wants to define himself in terms of and in relation to his father, which suggests that he admires Mr. Pickett and desires his attention. Asking Aza for help shows that he's somewhat desperate for someone to find his father—since the police are surely looking and have more tools and intelligence at their disposal than Aza does.
Themes
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Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
In a small voice, Noah says that Davis thinks they're better off without their dad, but that he still wants him to come home. Noah leans into Aza and starts sobbing. She comforts him as he sobs and says he can't think straight. Noah asks Aza to let him know if she finds anything, and Aza suggests that Noah go to bed. He goes upstairs without saying anything. Aza leaves and thinks about how light the bag of money is.
Davis seems to be trying to convince Noah to grow up and see the truth about the kind of person their father is. Noah shows that he really needs a true parent figure who will provide the order and structure he craves, and one who isn't Davis. Even if Davis is trying to be a good big brother, a big brother isn't a parent.
Themes
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