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Jessica's Monomyth Project

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FC: Paper Towns | Paper Towns | and the monomyth | and the monomyth | by Jessica Rodgers | by Jessica Rodgers

1: Departure, pt. I: The Call | Quentin lives a very predictable, very boring existence. "My days always had a pleasant identicalness about them. I had always liked that: I liked routine. I liked being bored. I didn't want to, but I did. (Green 23)" However, he's infatuated with Margo Roth Spiegelman, the girl next door who's incredibly adventurous and mysterious. For years and years, he's stayed in love with her even when they've grown apart from their childhood closeness: "'I barely even know her,' I said, which had become true. (Green 17)" In this story, the Call is his love of Margo and everything she is, which is everything he's not.

2: Departure, pt. II: Refusal of the Call | If Q's infatuation with Margo is the Call, then his Refusal is when he stands by and watches her hang out with other people, instead of being with her, because he doesn't want to leave his comfort zone. At first, he even tries to refuse Margo when she appears at his bedroom window and demands that he be her getaway man in a series of late-night vengeance pranks. (He asks her, "Can't you enlist some of your underlings to drive you around? [Green 26]") He accepts the Call when he makes up his mind to go on the prank spree with her, which leads to her disappearance the next day, and his need to find her.

3: Departure, pt. III: Supernatural Aid | Every time Margo runs away from home, she leaves clues. However, these clues aren't substancial enough for her parents to follow. As her mother told Q: "The clues. The stupid clues. But you can never follow them anywhere, trust me. (Green 102)" However, Q and his friends find that Margo's clue - a poster of Woody Guthrie on her window - appears to be just for him, and it leads to them finding a chain of clues. These were left by Margo so that if he really cared enough to find her, he would, or so they assume. Margo is the story's Supernatural Aid, and what she gives them is the clues that will lead them to her.

4: Departure, pt. IV: Crossing the First Threshold | One of Margo's clues leads to a half-completed minimall in an abandoned subdivision. Seeing this desolate place, Q can't help but think: "It seemed to me that this was not a place you go to live. It was a place you go to die. (Green 139)" This was not Orlando, the city that had seemed so surreal and fake to Margo; it was a place of rotting wood and rotting animals, and Q starts to wonder if she's still alive, if she's here at all. In the end, she's only left another disturbing message. This is the part of the story where Margo's breadcrumb trail no longer seems like a game, but a desperate race. When Q makes a silent promise that "I don't know who she is anymore, or who she was, but I need to find her, (Green 141)" he crosses the threshold and begins to uncover the truth about Margo.

5: Departure, pt. V: The Belly of the Whale | The final clue is a comment on Omnictionary.com that is clearly from Margo: she says that the population of Agloe, NY (a fictional town called a "paper town") will be one until May 29. From the time he reads it, Q realizes that he has less than 24 hours to find her there. He and his friends immediately begin the long drive from Florida to New York, skipping their own graduation ceremony in order to find her before time runs out. This is the point of no return, because if they go back now, they may never see Margo again.

6: Initiation, pt. I: The Road of Trials | In this instance, the Road of Trials really is a road. They have to drive along the interstate for over twenty hours solid. Because of their deadline - noon the next day - they must stop for gas, snacks, and pee-breaks as few times as possible. Their trials seem somewhat trivial: they have to pee and can't afford to stop; they don't have much food; there's traffic, and they don't have much time; they're all wearing nothing but their graduation robes. During this time, Q discovers more about who he is: "Traveling, I am finding, teaches you a lot of things about yourself. (Green 206)"

7: Initiation, pt. II: Meeting with the Goddess | I don't believe that this story, or even most heroic stories, perfectly fit the monomyth. In this case, I believe that Lacey would be considered the goddess, even though they met her long before the journey began. She's Margo's best friend, who helps them figure out the clues, and eventually becomes Ben's girlfriend. She almost becomes a sort of mother to them, keeping them all sane and somewhat nourished on this crazy trip: "She looks at me kind of the way a mom does, and that shouldn't crack me open, but it does. (Green 269)"

8: Initiation, pt. III: Temptation from the True Path | This story didn't have a temptress, so much as an obstacle that nearly kept them from reaching their goal. Driving nearly eighty miles per hour at 3:00 in the morning, Q very nearly hits an immense white cow in the middle of the road. The only thing that saves them all is when Ben grabs the wheel, and they somehow manage to avoid crashing into the giant cow. "We were dead, and then Ben managed to spin the car in just the right way, like some kind of brilliant vehicular ballerina. (Green 271)"

9: Initiation, pt. IV: Atonement with the Father | Q's father is not an important character in this story, and his (male) friends are not exactly fatherly. However, Walt Whitman, whose poems had so appealed to both Margo and Q, was a sort of "father." Throughout the story, Q keeps remembering quotes from his poem "Song of Myself," from the book Leaves of Grass. At the end of the story, Margo and Q talk about what drives people to leave their homes. Q brings up Whitman's analogy of a field of grass, where everyone's separate, but their roots are connected. "But we're not different sprouts from the same plant. I can't be you. You can't be me. (Green 302)" He's realizing that nobody is at one with anybody, but at the same time, they can all try to understand each other; this is where he's atoned with Whitman.

10: Initiation, pt. V: Apotheosis | In the same moment where he reaches atonement, Q also reaches apotheosis. You could say he's become godlike when he finally has the courage to say everything to Margo (and to kiss her); he also starts to philosophize about human nature, and there is some kind of new understanding. "...No one is dead as long as someone is alive. (Green 301)"

11: The Return, pt. I: Refusal of the Return | Q doesn't refuse to return to Florida, but he refuses to go to New York City with Margo. "It's in the moment that she kisses me that I know without question that we're headed in different directions. (Green 303)" He realizes that they really aren't the same, and they can't really be together, even though they both want to. "I hope this is the hero's errand, because not following her is the hardest thing I've ever done. (Green 304)"

12: The Return, pt. II: Master of Two Worlds | Before this journey, Q was perfectly content with his average existence; now that he has learned so much about himself, and what it means to be alive, it's difficult to imagine him feeling the same way again. He's beginning to see the same way as Margo does. However, he knows he's not exactly like Margo, nor will he ever fully become her. In his new understanding, he can now see life from more than one point of view. "Yes, I can see her almost perfectly in this cracked darkness. (Green 305)"

13: WORK CITED: | Green, John. Paper Towns. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print. Couple In Field. Photograph. Stephanie Williams Photography Blog. 16 Oct 2009. Web. 10 Apr 2011. Paper Towns cover. Photograph. BAM Book Reviews. 10 June 2010. Web. 10 Apr 2011. Paper Towns cover. Photograph. Persnickety Snark. 22 February 2009. Web. 10 Apr 2011.

14: WORK CITED (cont.): | Paper Towns cover. Photograph. Publishers Weekly. 16 Oct 2008. Web. 10 Apr 2011. Paper Towns cover. Photograph. WCPL Young Adult Blog. 23 April 2009. Web. 10 Apr 2011. Paper Towns cutout. Photograph. Deviantart. 8 Nov 2010. Web. 10 Apr 2011. Paper Towns fake movie poster. Photograph. Deviantart. 3 Dec 2010. Web. 10 Apr 2011. Paper Towns message. Photograph. Eff Yeah Nerdfighters. Web. 10 Apr 2011.

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