Looking for Alaska Symbols and Motifs

John Green

Looking for Alaska

  • 81-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 58 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a PhD in English and a Master's degree in Philosophy
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Looking for Alaska Symbols and Motifs

The Labyrinth

 Alaska first mentions the concept of the labyrinth, which features in a book that she has been reading: The General in His Labyrinth. This is an account of the last days of the military leader Simon Bolivar, whose last words are, “How do I get out of this labyrinth!” Alaska is fascinated with this question, though, to begin with, she is unsure what the labyrinth symbolizes. Initially, she thinks that it symbolizes either life or death, but she comes to the conclusion that the labyrinth is suffering. The question, then, is how to find a way out. Based on Alaska’s notes (which Miles and the Colonel find after her death), her answer would seem to be “straight and fast.” Whether she killed herself as a means of achieving this exit, no one knows for sure. In any case, her death would see to exemplify this method of departure.

Miles is puzzled by the idea of the labyrinth for the most part, but, by the end of the novel, he has concluded that the way out of the labyrinth is forgiveness. A life of guilt, blame, and resentment is a life of suffering, and only forgiveness can set a person free. The Colonel, meanwhile, agrees with Alaska’s view that “straight and fast” would seem to be the only way out, but he prefers to remain in the labyrinth. The labyrinth may indeed entail suffering, but the Colonel would rather choose a difficult life than an easy death.

The labyrinth, then, serves as a pivotal motif and is thought-provoking for both the characters and readers. It epitomizes the philosophical themes that run throughout the novel and raises the twofold question of what the labyrinth is and how one might find a way out.

White Flowers 

When Miles notices some white tulips in her dorm room, Alaska tells him that they were an anniversary present from Jake. They gain greater significance later in the novel, however, when they are found in her car following her death. These flowers therefore form part of the puzzle that emerges in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Takumi is able to…

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