Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

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Circles and Spirals Symbol Icon

Circles and spiral patterns are how Aza tries to make sense of her mind and her world. She consistently picks up on the circular patterns around her as she talks about the circular freeway system around Indianapolis and the light cycle that's created between her phone and Davis' phone on facetime. She struggles with thought spirals that trap her in a conversation with her own mind, and listens to Davis talk about how the galaxy is actually a very large spiral. By identifying these patterns, Aza begins to create a sense of order, or at least provide a name for her chaos. In this way, the circles and spirals are symbolic of Aza's greater project of finding her place in the world and beginning to make sense of the world's natural chaos--and the human tendency to find patterns in the chaos.

Circles and Spirals Quotes in Turtles All the Way Down

The Turtles All the Way Down quotes below all refer to the symbol of Circles and Spirals. 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 5 Quotes

I have these thoughts that Dr. Karen Singh calls "intrusives," but the first time she said it, I heard "invasives," which I like better, because, like invasive weeds, these thoughts seem to arrive at my biosphere from some faraway land, and then they spread out of control.

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker), Dr. Singh
Related Symbols: Circles and Spirals
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

When my thoughts spiraled, I was in the spiral, and of it. And I wanted to tell him that the idea of being in a feeling gave language to something I couldn't describe before, created a form for it, but I couldn't figure out how to say any of that out loud.

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker), Davis Pickett Jr.
Related Symbols: Circles and Spirals
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

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 13 Quotes

Him: When you're on a Ferris wheel all anyone ever talks about is being on the Ferris wheel and the view from the Ferris wheel and whether the Ferris wheel is scary and how many more times it will go around. Dating is like that. Nobody who's doing it ever talks about anything else.

Related Characters: Davis Pickett Jr. (speaker), Aza Holmes
Related Symbols: Circles and Spirals
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

As I looked at his face looking at mine, I realized the light that made him visible to me came mostly from a cycle: Our screens were lighting each of us with light from the other's bedroom. I could only see him because he could see me.

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker), Davis Pickett Jr.
Related Symbols: Circles and Spirals
Page Number: 191
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:

Please just let me out. Whoever is authoring me, let me up out of this. Anything to be out of this.

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker)
Related Symbols: Circles and Spirals
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

... the stupidity of Ayala, Aza, and Holmesy and all my irreconcilable selves, my self-absorption, the filth in my gut, think about anything other than yourself you disgusting narcissist.

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker), Ayala
Related Symbols: Circles and Spirals
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

I know that girl would go on, that she would grow up, have children and love them, that despite loving them she would get too sick to care for them, be hospitalized, get better, and then get sick again. I know a shrink would say, Write it down, how you got here.
So you would, and in writing it down you realize, love is not a tragedy or a failure, but a gift.

Related Characters: Aza Holmes (speaker)
Related Symbols: Circles and Spirals
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:
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Circles and Spirals Symbol Timeline in Turtles All the Way Down

The timeline below shows where the symbol Circles and Spirals appears in Turtles All the Way Down. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
...though she knows Dr. Singh would tell her not to. She tells the reader that spirals never end, they just keep tightening. (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...this nickname for much of the novel) if she's okay again. Aza only says "thought spiral" in reply. Daisy suggests they hang out later as a classmate informs her that her... (full context)
Chapter 5
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...in to the invasive thought. Aza says that the same thing will repeat and the spiral will continue to tighten. (full context)
Chapter 6
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
...still make it home for curfew. Instead, she turns up the radio and drives the circular highway around Indianapolis until she returns to where she started, and then drives home. She... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
...reporter will get in trouble when his bosses find out what he did. Aza's thoughts spiral and she insists the junior reporter will find them. Daisy insists that he'll learn an... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...that Chewbacca is a person because he has a soul, feelings, and a language. Aza's spiral loosens. She asks if Chewbacca is a person because he's sentient. Daisy grumbles on about... (full context)
Chapter 8
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 9
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 11
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...on and sits, embarrassed. Daisy kindly tells Aza to not be cruel to herself. Aza spirals: she wonders why she gives herself an open wound on her finger, which is one... (full context)
Chapter 12
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...the only thing you're ever "in." She thinks it's just like being in her thought spirals. (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
...kissing him until she realizes his tongue has been in her mouth. She begins to spiral and thinks she needs to check to see if his microbes stay in her body.... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...just panicky, and explains that kissing freaks her out. She says she gets into thought spirals and can't get out. Davis says they don't have to kiss, but Aza insists that... (full context)
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...suggests she try it. Aza pretends to watch the movie and thinks of the Pettibon spiral painting while trying to practice her breathing exercises. (full context)
Chapter 14
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...he just needs a father. They decide to watch the movie in silence and Aza's spiral tightens. (full context)
Chapter 16
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...reader that she and Davis texted and facetimed almost every night for a while, her spirals continued, and the medication and changing the Band-Aid kind of worked. One night, Aza begins... (full context)
Chapter 17
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
...changes the subject and tells her that the Milky Way galaxy is a massively huge spiral that rotates around a black hole. He asks Aza about her spirals. She tells him... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...even possible if she's both the threat and the self. As she descends into the spiral and begins to fall asleep, she asks whoever's authoring her to let her out. (full context)
Chapter 19
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Aza's thoughts spiral: she thinks that Daisy hates her, remembers Davis's tongue, and thinks about Mom's warm breath.... (full context)
Chapter 22
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
Davis and Aza make small talk as Aza's mind begins to spiral about the dangers of kissing Davis. Davis brings Aza out of her reverie, and she... (full context)
Chapter 24
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
...the sky and realizes how big it is. She thinks that Davis must know that spirals do get smaller as they go inward, but they also get bigger if you follow... (full context)
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
...she doesn't know any of that yet. In the box on her table is the spiral painting by Pettibon with a note on the back, which says that Davis stole the... (full context)