The novel is written in first-person perspective, through the eyes of the main character. His name is Miles Halter, and he is a seventeen year old boy living in Florida. He doesn’t have any “real” friends, only the people he sits with while eating lunch at school.One of his hobbies is reading the last pages of biographies of random famous people, so he can memorize their last words. I believe the reason that he does this is so that he can really understand what kind of people they were, in essence what made them tick. That way, he could copy them and their beliefs so that he could become a person of great influence as well.
But that’s only my theory. Miles wanted to change schools and attend the Culver Creek Boarding School, which is located in Alabama. There, he’s room-mates with “The Colonel”, whose real name is Chip Martin.Within five minutes of meeting each other, The Colonel decides to nickname Miles “Pudge”, and throughout the story the name sticks.
The Colonel comes from a very poor family (single mother who works for minimum wage) and only got into Culver Creek because of his incredible ability to remember everything he reads. His education is riding on the faith that he’s able to keep his scholarship, and not get kicked out of the Culver Creek fir misbehaving. The reason why this is a major issue is because The Colonel and Alaska (one of his best friends) enjoy pulling pranks on the Weekday Warriors.The Weekday Warriors are the rich kids who only stay at school for the week and go home to their big mansions on the weekends and party. The Colonel hates the Weekday Warriors with a burning passion, and does everything in his power to annoy the hell out of them. The Colonel then explains how things work at “the creek”, such as snitching is the worst possible thing that someone could do, etc.
He then takes Pudge to meet Alaska and Takumi, the other two main characters in the novel.Takumi is Asian (if you couldn’t tell from the name), and has mad beat-boxing skills. He also enjoys pulling pranks on the Weekday Warriors, along with the Colonel and Alaska. He’s sort of The Colonels right hand man. Alaska is a whole different story.
Basically, she runs the show. She’s extremely intelligent, but along with that is also very self-destructive. She’s always getting into trouble with the Eagle (the principal of Culver Creek) for getting caught smoking, drinking, and sneaking off campus to visit her older boyfriend, Jake.If you’ve read through the book a few times, as I have, you’re able to pick out these seemingly meaningless things that she says.
They’re the complete opposite of meaningless though, because you have to take the puzzle pieces and fit them together, to ultimately prove what kind of person she was. This is pretty near impossible though, because she was incredibly complex. She didn’t WANT to be understood. She was such a mystery, even to the people closest to her, that they couldn’t see the warning signs and save her life.
The novel is split into two different parts.The before, and the after. Before is while Alaska is still alive. It shows how Pudge starts falling in love with her, all the crazy stuff they get into (pulling pranks on the Weekday Warriors, etc.
) and how The Colonel and Pudge start becoming best friends. Also, it’s when Pudge gets set up with a girl by Alaska (which is kind of ironic, because Pudge is actually in love with Alaska). It also shows the gradual decline of Alaska’s outlook on life, and her general attitude towards everything. The after portion of the novel is after Alaska dies in a car accident.It’s where you can really see Pudge grow as a character.
He’s not just a love sick teenage boy who likes memorizing last words anymore. He really becomes much more of a three dimensional character. His entire outlook on life totally changes. In this section of the story Pudge becomes obsessed with finding out if Alaska killed herself, or if it was just a freak accident. The Colonel and him spend a good amount of time doing some serious detective work, attempting to understand what exactly went through her mind right before she died.
Eventually though, The Colonel gets bored playing detective, and he soon stops trying to help. Pudge, however, keeps on with the investigation, perhaps bordering on the brink of insanity with his need to fully understand Alaska. He feels as though it’s his fault that he didn’t understand what was happening sooner, and that if he figures out what pushed her to this point it will make up for his ignorance. To really prove the kind of person that Pudge became after Alaska’s death, I am going to include the last portion of the novel.It is an essay written by Pudge for his religious studies course. The student could pick any question that they wanted, and they attempted to dissect it and come up with a theological answer.
I feel that even though it’s the last part of the novel, it’s where everything really comes together emotionally. “Before I got here, I thought for a long time that the way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it did not exist, to build a small, self-sufficient world in a back corner of the endless maze and to pretend that I was not lost, but home.But that only led to a lonely life accompanied by only the last words of the already-dead, so I came here looking for a Great Perhaps, for real friends and a more-than-minor life. And then I screwed up and he screwed up and we screwed up and she slipped through our fingers.
And there’s no sugar-coating it: She deserved better friends. When she ****** up, all those years ago, just a little girl terrified into paralysis, she collapsed into the enigma of herself. And I could have done that, but I saw where it led for her. So I still believe in the Great Perhaps, and I can believe in it in spite of having lost her.Because I will forget her, yes. That which came together will fall apart imperceptibly slowly, and I will forget, but she will forgive my forgetting, just as I forgive her for forgetting me and him and everyone but herself and her mom in those last moments she spent as a person.
I know now that she forgives me for being dumb and scared and doing the dumb and scared thing. I know she forgives me, just as her mother forgives her. And here’s how I know: I thought at first that she was dead. Just darkness. Just a body being eaten by bugs. I thought about her a lot like that, as something’s meal.
What was her - green eyes, half a smirk, the soft curves of her legs - would soon be nothing, just the bones I never saw. I thought about the slow process of becoming bone and then fossil and then coal that will, in millions of years, be mined by humans of the future, and how they would heat their homes with her, and then she would be smoke blowing out of some smokestack, coating the atmosphere. I still think that, sometimes, think that maybe ‘the afterlife’ is just something we made up to ease the pain of loss, to make our time in the labyrinth bearable.Maybe she was just matter, and matter gets recycled. But ultimately I do not believe that she was only matter.
The rest of her must be recycled, too. I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts. If you take her genetic code and you add her life experiences and the relationships she had with people, and then you take the size and shape of her body, you do not get her. There is something else entirely. There is a part of her greater than the sum of her knowable parts. And that part has to go somewhere, because it cannot be destroyed.
Although no one will ever accuse me of being much of a science student, one thing I learned from science class is that energy is never created and never destroyed. And if she took her own life, that is the hope I wish I could have given her. Forgetting her mother, failing her mother and her friends and herself - those are awful things, but she did need to fold into herself and self-destruct. Those awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be. When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they on’t know how right they are.
We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old.
They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us great than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail. ” I’m not going to lie, I became so emotionally attached to this character, that when I read his essay I cried.I feel that he has finally come to peace with the understanding that he will never be able to fully understand Alaska, even though he was in love with her.
As he said, a person is greater than the sum of their parts. He only knew Alaska for a short period of time, so he will never be able to fully grasp the kind of person that she was, nor fully appreciate the outlook she had on life. The ability to seize the moment, and act purely on impulse. I believe that this is one of the greatest books ever written, as it has fully impacted my outlook on life.I realized after reading this that I, as a single person, would never be able to fully understand why certain things happen to me or the ones that I love. Nor would I be able to fully appreciate them, as I can never truly or fully know them.
There is more to life than can be experienced through any one person or experience, and that we will never truly understand everything that happens to us or the ones we love. We just have to accept these things, whether they be good or bad, and hope for the best.