Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Turtles All the Way Down can help.

Bacteria (C. diff) Symbol Analysis

Bacteria (C. diff) Symbol Icon

Aza shares with the reader that the human body is made up of about 50% bacteria; essentially, half of a person's cells aren't technically that person. Aza's OCD makes this knowledge unbearable for her and she's obsessed with keeping herself as clean and bacteria-free as possible. The way she conceptualizes bacteria as controlling, invasive, and malicious symbolize a literal split in Aza's identity: the bacteria provide Aza proof that her identity is not her own.

Bacteria (C. diff) Quotes in Turtles All the Way Down

The Turtles All the Way Down quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bacteria (C. diff). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dutton Books edition of Turtles All the Way Down published in 2017.
Chapter 1 Quotes

... and meanwhile I was thinking that if half the cells inside of you are not you, doesn't that challenge the whole notion of me as a singular pronoun, let alone the author of my fate?

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker), Daisy, Mychal
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

His bacteria would be in me forever, eighty million of them, breeding and growing and joining my bacteria and producing God knows what.

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker), Davis Pickett Jr.
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

It was saying that my bacteria were affecting my thinking--maybe not directly, but through the information they told my gut to send to my brain. Maybe you're not even thinking this thought. Maybe your thinking's infected.

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker)
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Turtles All the Way Down LitChart as a printable PDF.
Turtles All the Way Down PDF

Bacteria (C. diff) Symbol Timeline in Turtles All the Way Down

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bacteria (C. diff) appears in Turtles All the Way Down. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...her best friend since elementary school. Aza shivers as she realizes she can hear the bacteria in her stomach digesting her sandwich. (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
...she's been listening to the conversation, but instead thinks only about the sounds of the bacteria inside her. She explains that humans are made up of about 50% bacteria. Aza's palms... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Aza explains that excessive abdominal noise can be a symptom of an infection from the bacteria known as Clostridium difficile. She pulls out her phone and rereads the Wikipedia article about... (full context)
Chapter 2
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
On her way to history class, Aza checks the "Human Microbiota" Wikipedia article again. Her mom yells at her from her classroom to put her phone... (full context)
Chapter 8
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 9
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Chapter 12
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
...mouth. She begins to spiral and thinks she needs to check to see if his microbes stay in her body. She tries to resist but finally, the spiral wins and she... (full context)
Chapter 13
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Chapter 14
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 17
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...article that talks about the "gut-brain informational axis," which is the relationship between someone's gut bacteria and their thoughts. The thought that Aza's bacteria are indirectly controlling her thoughts is horrifying... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Aza's brain reminds her that clearing out healthy bacteria can make room for malicious bacteria like C. diff. Her stomach hurts and she tries... (full context)
Chapter 19
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...she stay, and Aza tries to tell herself that she's at low risk for a C. diff infection and will leave healthier than she arrived. (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
...asleep in the recliner next to the hospital bed. Aza can feel Mom's breath and microbes floating over her cheek. Mom wakes up momentarily to check on Aza, and then goes... (full context)
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...to turn one's thoughts away from someone. Aza thinks that it's how she thinks about C. diff and it's not romantic at all. (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
...pain meds. Aza doesn't text back, but continues to fixate on her potential for a C. diff infection. She pinches her finger, but it doesn't work to make her feel real. (full context)
Chapter 20
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...and Aza thinks she's better until she feels nauseous. Her brain tells her that the bacteria are already inside her and are going to kill her. She manages to tell Mom... (full context)
Chapter 22
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...Applebee's and hugs Davis. Aza thinks that Davis is going to want to "put his bacteria in her mouth." She remembers Dr. Singh saying that unwanted thoughts are like cars on... (full context)