Turtles All the Way Down

by

John Green

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Themes and Colors
Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Order and Control Theme Icon
Language and Meaning Theme Icon
Privilege, Power, and Wealth Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Turtles All the Way Down, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Identity, Selfhood, and Mental Illness

While questions of identity are par for the course in coming of age novels and young adult novels alike, Turtles All the Way Down goes a step further in exploring the subject of identity. Rather than simply questioning who she is, Aza is consumed by more fundamental and heady questions about whether she exists at all and how much control, if any, she has over her own thoughts, actions, or circumstances.

Aza's questions of identity…

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Chaos vs. Order and Control

Simply by nature of Aza's mental illness, she's extremely interested in making order out of the chaotic situations in which she finds herself. Often, the novel examines the idea of "order" through circular or spiral patterns: not only is Aza's name a circle of sorts (her name goes from the beginning of the alphabet to the end, then back again), but she often describes her intrusive thoughts as "thought spirals" that leave her…

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Language and Meaning

All the characters in Turtles All the Way Down are intensely interested in the English language. They're all very well read, and the novel is filled with allusions and references to a number of classic novels, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The characters are also interested in the mechanics of language itself. They ask questions about parts of speech and sentence structure, as well as the words…

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Privilege, Power, and Wealth

Turtles All the Way Down presents a cast of characters from a variety of different financial backgrounds. Davis's family is exceptionally rich: they collect art, have a golf course on their property, and built an onsite sanctuary for Mr. Pickett's pet tuatara, Tua. Aza and Mom, by contrast, are solidly middle class—Aza's mom works as a high school teacher, and Aza has a car. Finally, Daisy works at Chuck E. Cheese's to…

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