Green is particularly skillful in relating multiple literary allusions to his characters and the plot development of this novel. Several of these allusions are the purported final words of significant historical figures, and two of the these references actually contribute to the overriding thrust of the work: Simon Bolivar is quoted as saying, “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth;” and poet Francois Rabelais, at his moment of death, exclaimed: “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” This second quote is the impetus for the book’s protagonist—Miles (did you catch the irony of his name)—to move away from a blasé life in Florida to attend his father’s alma mater in Alabama, where his life becomes anything but boring. While I admire Green’s attempt to address some of the significant religious and philosophical quandaries, as well as the identity issues, faced by many “thinking” teens, I was, nevertheless, taken aback by his gratuitous use of vulgarities and rather graphic sexual encounters. I would definitely have not wanted my daughter as a teenager reading this book. You may call me a “prude,” yet I would argue that Looking for Alaska makes the oft “banned book” from a previous generation--The Catcher in the Rye--another work dealing with teenage angst and identity, seem like elementary literature in comparison. And while some of the author’s narrative does evoke an emotional response from me, I really felt that much of the dialogue and characterizations are simply not believable. This lack of credulity is certainly acceptable in a dystopian autocracy like Panem, yet I find it somewhat troubling in a work that deals in real settings with presumably real people attempting to find hope and purpose in the labyrinth called “life.”
O.K. So, for what it is worth, I have given my opinion, and if you are a John Green fan you certainly have the right to disagree. Nevertheless, I do wish for you to write a response to a significant question posed by the author near the conclusion of his work. You need not have read Looking for Alaska to intelligently respond to the “Old Man’s” (not me by the way, a character in the book—ha ha) final essay prompt:
How will you—you personally –ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? Now that
you’ve wrestled with three major religious traditions, apply your newly enlightened
mind to Alaska’s question.
While I realize you have not read about the three religions mentioned by the "Old Man" in the book—Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism—you have had ample exposure to religious beliefs in your home, in school, and in church youth group. Please write a response of at least 200 words to this important issue, a question that you will inevitably confront as you increasingly deal with others who have not received the teachings you’ve been exposed to in your formative years.
You can post your "essay" here as a comment, so others will have the opportunity to read and respond. Or if you prefer, you can directly e-mail me your response.