Being in new kid at school can be difficult and emotionally trying. However it can be even more difficult when on one of your first nights there, you get thrown in the lake with your hands, feet, and mouth duct taped. One night, when Miles first arrived at Culver Creek, this dreadful experience occurs to him. He wakes up to find himself being josteled around by the "Weekday Warriors" and realizes he's been duct taped and blindfolded. Suddenly, he feels himself being flung off a platform and plunges into the lake on campus. This plugning can be seen as a sort of baptism or rebirth. It marks a significant change in Miles's life, because being pranked is a ritual performed on all new students. When the teenager first arrived at the school he was simply Miles. However, the Colonel gives him the nickname of "Pudge" as a joke on his twig like bone structure. When he gets thrown in the lake, he officially becomes a student at the school, this truly adopting his nickname and leaving his old name behind. Pudge is cleansed of his old life during this plunge and actually becomes a member of the student body, thus demonstrating it's rebirthing effects. This prank also sparks his friendship with the Colonel, Alaska, and the others because of the way that it brings them together to defeat the common enemy of the "Weekday Warriors, considering their prank nearly killed Pudge. Because of this, it can be determined that this prank is a rebirth and baptism in Pudge's adolesence, because this scene is when he truly becomes a member of the Culver Creek student body and when he leaves his old life as Miles behind.
At first glance, there's not much to the title of Looking for Alaska. Some may even wonder why you have to look for a state, I mean all there is to it is a quick glance at a map after all. However I think the simplicity of the title creates an intruiging effect- sort of like when a math problem is so easy, you begin to question whether you did it right or not. It draws readers in, it encourages them to consider what the plot is about. To truly understand the significance of the title, the novel must be read, from beginning to end. The plot has everything to do with the title. For example, when reading the novel, it can be noted that the title doesn't actually refer to a state, but a rather an actual girl whose name is Alaska Young. To be able to explain the importance of the novel, some spoilers have to be disclosed, so SPOILER ALERT-Alaska dies. Her death is extremely important to the novel and the title's significance. When she dies, she is drunk driving and runs right into a cop car, thus causing her death. The mysterious thing about her death however is the fact that she didn't attempt to swerve away from the car. Yes, she was intoxicated, but that doesn't necessarily mean she wouldn't be able to simply turn her wheel so she didn't hit the stopped car. The vehicle was in plain sight and she ran straight into it, with no hesitation. This leads to the question of whether or not this was a suicide.
This is where the title comes into play. Because of the fact that Alaska's dearest friends don't know whether she took her own life or not, they are forced to look for answers themselves. To truly understand what Alaska was thinking at the moment of her death, Pudge and his friends must look farther than the surface of her. They have to actually look for Alaska, they have to search for her and for what pain was actually inside of her. They have to look for a deeper meaning to her death, rather than she was simply driving under the influence. They have to really understand her and her pain, they must look for Alaska, they must look for what their dear friend wished of her life, and they must look deep down into what was inside of her. This is why the title is important, because to fully understand her death, you have to look for Alaska.
Often times, white flowers are considered to symbolize purity and innocence. In Looking for Alaska, Alaska Young was the witnes of her mother's death when she was just 8 years old. Before Mrs. Young's passing, she would alway pick white daisies from her yard and tuck them behind her little girls ear. In the novel, these flowers come to symbolize her mother's life and the happy times they shared. Every year without fail, on the anniversary of her mother's death, Alaska puts a single white daisy on her mothers grave. The white flowers also symbolize the once innocent and pure little girl she used to be, because it's one of the few aspects of her young life that was always constant to her. The white daisies also seem to resemble Alaska wishing to revert back to that time of simplicity and purity and innocence in her life. The way she doodles them all over the place describes how often she thinks about her mother and the time before her death- the time before she lost that pureness about her. The white flowers also symbolize Mrs. Young's hope for her daughter that she remains as innocent and pure as she was when she was just a little girls. When a white flower is given to another, it can almost be seen a sort of reminder to stay pure: like the flower itself. This is an accurate representation of Mrs. Young's feelings towards the flowers she gives her daughter. There's also the well known saying, "fresh as a daisy". Because of the way that Alaska annually places white flowers on her mother's grave, this ritual can be seen as her way to become "fresh" again because she was able to spend time with her mother. This time may be Alaska's way of recharging and feeling connected to the mom she lost, thus helping her feel "refreshed."
There is a lot of truth to the plot of Looking for Alaska. For example, the students in the novel often partake in underage drinking as well as smoking, which is an accurate reflection of teenage generation today. While not all teenagers perform substance abuse, like the characters do, it is still a common issue. I believe one purpose of the novel is to provide more awareness of the consequences of these substances. The novel also puts it in a more realistic context than most stories teenagers hear of these affects. Most stories told to adolescents about the negative affects of substances, drinking in particular, can sometimes seem extremely unrealistic or extremely unlikely to happen to them. Because Looking for Alaska places the death of student due to drunk driving in a more simplistic and more likely situation, it demonstrates the severity of this issue and how one decision could affect an entire student body, or even a whole town.
I think the novel also gave readers a glimpse of what it would be like to lose someone they loved due to drinking and driving, in hopes of influencing teenagers to prevent their friends from drinking and driving. Because the characters were in so much pain, this hopefully sparked inspiration within the audience to ensue extra caution when utilizes dangerous substances.
It is also because of these purposes that I believe that John Green has lost a dear friend and possibly love of his. By included this traumatic scene in the novel, it's possible that Green hopes to prevent anyone else suffering from such a loss.
In Looking for Alaska, there is a primary example of communion. During the novel, Pudge, the Colonel, Alaska, Lara, Chip, and Takumi set out to pull a series of pranks on the group of students called the "Weekday Warriors". As they sit and wait for the pranks to take affect, the group of students gather in an old barn on campus in the early hours of the morning and share snacks and drinks. In this scene of communion, all they characters tell their story and how they came to be who they are. Each story has it's own heart-wrenching details that include abusive fathers, lonely childhoods, and whitnessing a mother's death. This is the first scene where this group of friends really come together and share who they are with eachother, and they do so taking pulls from a bottle and passing snacks around the circle- thus making it an act of communion. This is the first scene where Pudge is truly accepted by his peers and becomes a member of this group of friends, serving as a major turning point in the novel. This act of communion is also contains a major portion of the characterization that occurs in the novel. The way each student tells his or her story reflects who they are as an individual and helps paint a more vivid picture for the readers about the characters past and how it affects his or her present. The way these students behave after sharing his or her stories also shows a great deal about them. For example, after Alaska shares her sorrowful story of watching her loving mother die of an annuerism, she simply grabs the bottle full of alcohol and takes a long pull and explains that her past has affected her future by influencing her smoking habit. Alaska's process of dealing with pain exemplifies the way she prefers to keep things to herself and hide her suffering with substances. In contrast however, the Colonel gets very emotinal after talking about his abusive father and how all he wants is to make enough money to buy his mother a house so she can move out of the trailer she lives in. This display of emotion exemplifies the Colonel's soft side that he hides under a hard exterior. Because the characters share so much of themselves together in this scene and do so while sharing food and a bottle of wine, it can be viewed as a scene of communion.
Okay this is crazy. This story resembles Looking for Alaska like nothing else. I mean it, it's insane. In true John Green fashion, I will put all of these into a list, because if you read his books, you will find that he includes numerous lists throughout the stories. They often look something like this:
1) The first striking resemblance between the book and this video is that the main character, Miles "Pudge" Halter's is a junior in high school and attends a boarding school in Alabama-just like Green had
2) Green says that his uncles senior prank was streaking across school grounds with solely an American flag wrapped around himself, while Pudge's dad's prank in the novel was- wait for it- streaking across school grounds also!
3)Green and his senior class had decided to host a fake senior prank in order to divert the administration from the true prank. This occurs in the story as well, and conveniently it's the exact same "pre-prank".
4) Green's "pre-prank" was setting off a series of fireworks throughout the campus in hopes of making the staff believe the senior prank is over and done with. Pudge's "pre-prank", performed alongside his friends Alaska, Chip "The Colonel", Takumi, and Lara, is to set off numerous fireworks next to the deans house to lure him outside, so that they can sneak in and change the grades of the "Weekend Warriors," who have been pranking the group of friends all year.
5) The "pre-prank" in both the video and the novel involve synchronizing their watches, painting their faces black, dressing up in all black, and running around campus in the wee hours of the morning.
6) The punishment for these pranks in both Greens story and in Looking for Alaska is work hours, where one has to work in the cafeteria or clean the dinning hall, etc., etc.
7) Once a year at Green's school and at Pudge's school, the junior and senior classes pick speakers to come in and speak to the student body. Now this is where it gets weird. Both John Green and Pudge along with his friends, select an "expert on adolescent sexuality." The slight difference is that in Green's case it is a women, and in Pudge's case it's a man. While Pudge is only a junior, he and his friends perform this prank in honor of their deceased friend Alaska Young, not as a senior prank. But anyway, both "experts" end up being strippers! They strip in front of the entire student body! And in both cases it's always the student no one would expect that provokes them to take off their clothes.
The similarity between John Green's story and the story told in his novel is striking. It makes me wonder however, how similar is Green's life to Pudge's? Is there underlying similarity he is not letting on? Was Green just as rebellious as Pudge? Did he drink? Smoke? Almost drunkenly hook up with a girl who had a boyfriend? And most importantly, did he lose the girl he was so madly in love with, never to see her again? I'm not sure when readers will get the answers to these questions, if they ever do, but I believe it's safe to say that the novel Looking for Alaska is, to some degree, is indeed based on John Green's life and experiences he encountered while growing up.