Paper Towns and the Main Symbols
The book, Paper Towns by John Green, starts of when a boy and a girl, that were about 7 years old, who have been neighbors since little, see a dead man in hang up in a tree. Then the author does a jump in time and tells us about the story of this same two characters, being the boy, Quentin, the protagonist and narrator. Q (short for Quentin) talks about his experience in high school. The whole story starts when his neighbor of the whole life, Margo Roth Spiegelman, that has been Quentin’s crush since they met each other, asks to Quentin for help to do some pranks on classmates. After that adventurous night, Margo was reported missing. This story takes place mostly in Jefferson Park, Orlando. Quentin with the help of his friends Ben, Lacey and Radar look for clues to find Margo, know her better and know why she ran away. Looking at Paper Towns through the Symbolic Interaction perspective, lets us understand better why Margo ran away, and what is what she really believes.
One of the main symbols in this story are the strings. When it was first mentioned by Margo (who is the creator of the strings as a symbol), she talks about how she thinks that the dead man in the tree may have had all the strings inside him broken. Later on in the story, Margo describes herself as a paper girl, and telling about how her friends were the only strings that were still holding on her to stay in Florida (the so-called by margo “Paper Town”). Also, the detective who was in charge of finding her described Margo to Quentin with the same symbol. He talked about how Margo is like a balloon whose strings have been cut off. He also mentions to Quentin that is better to not waste all the time in finding Margo, because if she truly wanted to leave and float away, no one in the ground would be able to stop her from doing that. However, Q never gave up, he knew that Margo had a string that was still strong and not broken, and that gave him hope. The string that was still not broken was the one of Margo and Quentin. Lastly, the strings also represent the clues Margo left when she ran away. Margo had already cut all the strings that tie her to Orlando, but there were still some strings in the form of a Walt Whitman poem and a Wood Guthrie poster. Quentin found those still tied strings and found the way to connect all the clues together and find where Margo was hiding.
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Seeing Paper Towns as a sociologist leads to many questions. Why did she run away but leave clues to find her? Why does she call herself a Paper Girl if she hates Orlando and calls it a Paper Town? Well, when you see this metaphor of the strings through the Symbolic Interaction perspective you realize it is the way that Margo sees the world, what she believes. She calls Orlando a Paper Town because she feels and believes that everything is fake, like made of paper. She also calls herself a Paper Girl because she also thinks that her life in Orlando and her are fake, that everything she is doing is fake, even all the strings she has. That is why she ran away and cut all strings with everything in Orlando. She wanted to find the true Margo, by staying away from the Paper Town, and only having one string, the one with herself. But she left some clues, those clues were for the people who truly knew who she was, or believed in what she was able to do. Those people were Quentin and his friends. The strings are a way to show that she does not truly know herself. She keeps cutting strings but tying them back together, she wanted to run away but wanted for her to be found.
The whole adventure she had was to find the true Margo but she is still not sure who she is. That symbol has a big meaning on her life, is like all of her possessions. Those possessions is everything in her life, her hometown, her friends and relatives. She can easily cut the string with them, but can also tie it really easily back together. She believes that cutting all the strings will lead to a completely new Margo, like what happened to the dead man in the tree. All his strings were broken, it wasn’t him anymore. But the strings also mean freedom, that she was able to do what she wanted. Cutting all the strings with people, cut all the communication with them, making Margo the privilege to do what she wanted, because she does not depend on anyone neither affects anyone when she does something. The Symbolic Interaction Perspective states that people behave based on what they believe and not just on what is true and in that individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world, and that is what Margo does by seeing the world as a place full of strings, strings that can be tied together to form a new life adventure alone or with other people, strings that can be cut to keep out places and people from your life adventures, and strings that make you realize who stays, who is true to you and who to keep in your life adventures.