Paper Towns

Paper Towns Summary and Analysis of Part II (Chapters 1-6)


Part II is called "The Grass." After sleeping for half an hour, Quentin awakes for school. He banters as usual with his parents, who suspect nothing, and then drives to school with his mother. Q tells Ben and Radar about the night before once they are in private, and the three of them see Chuck Parson walk down the hall with two missing eyebrows (having evidently shaved the second one off to match the one Margo and Quentin applied Veet to). Quentin falls in and out of sleep in his classes for the first half of the day and then meets Ben for lunch in "RHAPAW" or "Rode Hard And Put Away Wet"(p.90) which is a car that Ben's siblings had all driven first and passed down to him. They talk about Jase and Margo and then Quentin returns to the rest of his normal day, noting that Margo's car was still missing as it had been that morning, meaning she had skipped school all day. Quentin feels a curious and jealous of whatever adventures she got up to without him and by that night there are many rumors passing around about where Margo is.

Margo often ran off for multiple days, so people are not surprised, but it does mean that the popular bullies begin to pick on freshmen and band geeks again, which Margo seemingly prevents while present at school. Chuck, along with two other bullies, run over bikes and shoot a water cannon full of pee on a small freshman boy. Quentin vows to him that this will be fixed. At home in the afternoon, Quentin creates a fake email account and emails Jase, threatening the release of the photo. Though Jase knows that it's Quentin sending the email, the threat still convinces him to stop the attacks. Ben comes over that night to play a video game called Resurrection and Jase and Chuck come by to make peace, shaking their hands so hard that Ben lets out a load groan after they leave.

Quentin keeps a lookout for Margo, who still hasn't returned 48 hours later when Quentin awakes on Saturday morning. When he emerges from his room, he finds his parents and Margo's sitting with a large detective named Otis Warren. The detective asks Quentin if he saw Margo after she came to his window on Wednesday night, to which Q lies, "No, why?"(p.101.) Margo's parents are quite upset and say that they are going to change the locks since Margo is 18 and is not treated as a missing minor anymore, unlike the last five times they've had to file missing person reports on her. The detective brings up that Margo has been known to leave a trail of clues, like leaving a bowl of alphabet soup with only the letters M, I, S, and P when she ran away to Mississippi. The detective asks to speak to Quentin privately, and once in a separate room the detective asks Quentin to admit if he knows where Margo is or if she has been arranging her past escapades with anyone else. Quentin responds truthfully that he doesn't know where she is and then tells the detective, whom he decides to trust, the entire story of Margo and his night together. The detective wearily tells Quentin an extended metaphor about run-away young girls as balloons with cut strings. Once the detective and Margo's parents leave, Q and his parents discuss their troubled parenting. Ben wakes up and Quentin invites Radar over to play Resurrection with them. While they play, Quentin glances over at Margo's house and sees that the window shade on her bedroom's window has been pulled down, revealing a picture of Woody Guthrie. They decide that it is a clue left specifically for Quentin, and that they must go over to her house to investigate.

Quentin, Ben, and Radar wait for the detective and then Mr. and Mrs. Spiegelman to leave before approaching the house. Ruthie, Margo's pre-teen sister, opens the door and they bribe her $5 to let them go inside her room and to tell them if the parents come back. Margo's room is full of clothing and a surprising collection of hundreds of vinyl records. Quentin rifles through the records, discovering in the B's that a record of Billy Bragg's Mermaid Avenue has the same picture of Woody Guthrie on the back. They play the record but find only that the artist sings Woody Guthrie's songs, in their opinion, better than Woody Guthrie. However, on the song list one song is circled in black pen - "Walt Whitman's Niece." Radar also reports that Margo used Omnictionary a lot in the week before she left, but that since she erased her browsing history he can't tell what she viewed and edited. They decide to look further into the Walt Whitman clue, and find a book of his poetry - Leaves of Grass. They go back to Quentin's house and Radar and Ben leave for their own homes. For the rest of the afternoon, Quentin tries to make sense of the two lines highlighted in green and many lines highlighted in blue throughout the book.

On Monday morning, a popular girl named Lacey Pemberton approaches Quentin and Ben outside the band room. She asks Quentin about Margo - specifically whether Margo was mad at her. Lacey suggests that Margo might be in New York since she once called it "the only place in America where a person could live a halfway livable life"(p.120). Quentin leaves Ben with Lacey so that he can have some chance of asking her to prom and when he later looks out the door of his classroom he sees Ben dancing outside in the hall. At lunch, Quentin, Ben, and Lacey talk about Leaves of Grass, the fact that Lacey has had her cousin put up posters around NYU looking for Margo because of the New York clue, and how Ben and Lacey plan to match clothing as impromptu dates for prom. That afternoon, Quentin continues to read Leaves of Grass in class and in RHAPAW to no further success. Amidst loud bragging about going to prom with Lacey, Ben suddenly realizes that Margo may not have meant the lines of Whitman to be symbolic or metaphoric but instructional. That is, the lines "Unscrew the locks from the doors!/ Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!"(p.116) might actually mean to literally unscrew Margo's door from the wall. They drive directly to Margo's house but cannot figure out how to unscrew the doorjambs. Once they look it up on Omnictionary and execute the task, they still find nothing. Disappointed, they return to Ben's house to play video games and Ben and Radar decide that Margo must have gone to New York and be waiting for a mole to tell her that Quentin has gone there to find her. Quentin contemplates this, knowing it's not true and that he couldn't miss two days of school anyway, but liking the feeling of having a plan. Still, he leaves for home after deciding not to go.

Quentin thinks about a case his psychologist mother told him about once in which a kid was normal until age nine when his father died. The kid took a pencil and a compass and started drawing circle after circle on a piece of paper until it was completely black, over and over. Quentin's mom explained that he created a routine to cope with his loss and was only able to stop after Quentin's mom got him to finally cry over his father's death. Quentin likens himself to the child in that he likes routine, but thinks about Margo potentially off in New York and feels that sticking to his routine is somehow taking him farther away from her.


In this section, Margo runs away and Quentin begins his pursuit. Green uses many explicit extended metaphors to describe Margo's disappearance and Quentin's reaction. One Green gives through Detective Otis Warren - the balloon metaphor. Warren explains that these girls who go missing are like lost balloons and that while he sees a sky full of them, their loved ones (like Quentin) can only see the one. This metaphor is interesting because it gives no hope of Margo returning (a balloon can never come back down to where it was released) and, if read into deeper, seems to place blame on Margo's family and friend. A balloon has no agency, no ability to pull away from the holder, but is released into the sky accidentally or on purpose. In any case, Quentin refuses to read into or believe the detective, choosing to keep his eyes peeled on metaphorical sky.

Another clear extended metaphor, this one for Quentin's behavior, is Quentin's mother's story about the boy drawing circles. In her story, a young patient of hers lost their father and began drawing pages and pages of circles with a compass. This only ended when she caused him to cry, after which time he "stopped drawing circles and presumably lived happily ever after"(p.129). Quentin links this to himself, noting that he finds it a "reasonable insanity"(p.130) because he has always preferred routine in his life. However, this is not only a story of boring routine but one of coping with loss through obsession. While Quentin may feel like his pursuit of Margo is breaking him out of a life of boring routine, what he comes to cling to because of his loss of Margo is an obsession that soon comes to a similar repetition of action (re-reading "Song of Myself," revisiting places Margo has been, etc.). As throughout the book, Green provides a situation in which Quentin seems to have knowledge about himself and the world but fails to look a step deeper to expose true flaws.

Quentin, Ben, and Radar begin to follow Margo's clues in this section. The fact that Margo leaves clues at all when she runs away (and has done so in times previous, like with the M, I, S, and P alphabet soup) seems to point to her wanting to be found. Though everyone at school seems to find her escapes mature, daring, and mysterious, the fact that she leaves clues makes it a childish act of hide-and-seek. However, this time is different - her age prevents her parents from looking for her this time, since she is not a minor anymore. Quentin, who is still a child in many ways and still remembers Margo that way, is the one who consents to play seeker this time.

As Quentin's teacher will note in the next section, Margo's clues seem somewhat hurried and less than inspired. Though Quentin, Ben, and Radar use Omnictionary to look up the figures she leads them to - Woody Guthrie, Walt Whitman, etc. - she uses their works only to bounce from one clue to the next. Quentin continues to read clues deeper than she intended when, for the rest of the story, he pores over Leaves of Grass when she only intended it to be read and used in the most literal sense.

The character Ruthie, Margo's younger sister, only appears a few times in the book, but has a point. Ruthie can be seen as a double for Margo's young self; like Margo she seems self-assured - she is not scared of her parents or intruding older boys. However, Margo does not use this similarity to take special care of Ruthie. Margo leaves Ruthie each time she runs away and Ruthie copes by involving herself in the investigation scheme of older kids, though only when useful to them. A reader, especially an adult reader, might blame lack of parenting for Margo's acting out, and what Green presents us in Ruthie is a chance to see another example of family effects - a younger daughter who has not yet run away, but has gotten perhaps too used to an unstable family situation.