Looking for Alaska
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What are your impressions of the
cover of “Looking for Alaska” having now read the book? How does the cover ‘foreshadow’ events/thematic ideas that are introduced in the text?
What techniques (visual and
verbal) are used on the cover? Explain why these techniques might have been used?
How does the cover of “Looking for
Alaska” indicate that this is a text written for teenagers?
What does the tagline “First friend,
first girl, last words” mean in the context of what the novel is about?
Looks like a sepia photograph, alludes to old memories; gone but not forgotten. Edges faded out could symbolise how people come in and out of our lives. Also shows how we can forget memories or they can become hazy as time goes on. Car symbolic of a journey (with road in background). Car is red = symbolic of danger/conflict. Teenager inside car with legs out but holding on could represent the self control that we have at times but lose. Teenagers’ innate desire to be rebellious and to make spontaneous decisions. Also could depict how teenagers see themselves as indestructible. Font of title appears to be handwritten, alluding again to the idea that this story is teenage-focused. The word ‘LOOKING’ is in capital letters and bolded. This could adhere to the idea of a desperate search, a ‘wanted’ solution. ‘Alaska’ is written in italic font in a creative and unique style. Represents individuality and creativity. Has a heart attached at the end which again emphasises the idea that teenagers are involved (very similar to scribblings on school books/folders) and also shows that love is going to implicate certain situations in the text.
Tagline: “First friend, first girl, last words” Repetition Triple construction Juxtaposition/contrast Introduces the idea of first time experiences “First friend, first girl”, implying that this is a coming-of-age text. “Last words” implies that something will happen that has a lasting impact. Could be symbolic of goodbyes.
What is the character’s real name and what is he called
later at boarding school? Where does his family live and where does he go to boarding school? Explain in your own words, but with supporting quotations for each point, FIVE ways the first chapter sets up the characterisation of our main character, e.g. 1. his mother seems to ignore her son’s true nature. Quote: “My mother insisted on throwing me a going away party.”
2. 3. 4.
When Pudge meets Alaska she is telling ‘the best story’. What does the content of this story show us about Alaska? What does she do to Pudge that puts him further in awe of her? Why does he buy the cigarettes? What is the symbolic significance of the swan on the lake? Describe the students’ view of the Eagle. How could this be seen to be symbolic also?
For each question please supply at least one quote to back up your observation.
Story revolves around ‘boob honking’. Alaska is filling The Colonel in on a boy who tried it on with her over summer vacation. Content of story shows: Her experience Her allure and attractiveness Her ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude Her ability to story tell Her humour “The first thing I thought was, OK, how do I extricate this claw from my boob before it leaves permanent marks? And the second thing I thought was God, I can’t wait to tell Takumi and the Colonel.”
Pulls down his pants – “She walked over to me with her hand extended, then made a quick move downwards at the last moment and pulled down my shorts”. Shows her extreme confidence and flirtation.
Pudge buys the cigarettes to show that he can be a part of Alaska and the Colonel’s crowd. A certain amount of peer pressure was probably involved, with Pudge worried about ‘fitting in’ and making friends. “The Colonel talked me into paying five dollars for a pack of Marlboro Lights I had no intention of ever smoking.”
The swan = symbolic of Alaska; beautiful yet very dangerous.
This is alluded to later on in the novel when Miles has a very violent encounter with the swan.
“That swan is the spawn of Satan. Never get closer to it than we are now…it has some issues with people. It was abused or something. It’ll rip you to pieces.”
Symbolises Alaska because it represents the idea of something appearing to be beautiful, calm and in control. However, can also be destructive and angry at any given moment.
The name “The Eagle” that the Culver Creeks students have coined is symbolic of their headmaster because it represents him ‘stalking his prey’ and being able to see everything. The Eagle also implies flight and being able to see everything from a birds-eye-view.
Did you like/dislike this text? Why? What impression do you get from the cover of the novel? What does it suggest the book is about? What is the significance of the title? “A book can provide a link to other lives, a window to another time”. Explain how this statement relates to Looking for Alaska. What do you think are the main thematic ideas in the text? What character did you like best? Why? What character did you like least? Why? What do you know about the way Looking for Alaska has been written (the style)? Why is setting important in Looking for Alaska? What does this book tell us about self-discovery and growing up? What shocked you in Looking for Alaska? Be specific; try to think of one part of the story. All stories are based on conflict; if everyone is happy and no one fights, there isn’t much to write about. What conflicts provide the basis for this story? Do other conflicts develop as the story goes along? Are these conflicts settled by the end of Looking for Alaska? How? The ending of Looking for Alaska is satisfying. Discuss. Write down THREE questions that you would like to ask John Green (author of Looking for Alaska). Write a diary entry as Miles 10 years on. Choose one word that you think describes this text and explain why you have chosen that word. Rate Looking for Alaska on a scale of one to five.
Title: Looking for Alaska Author: John Green Type: Fiction novel Critically acclaimed – find proof! Plot summary (one paragraph) Personal response #1 Personal response # 2
Response must be AT LEAST three paragraphs long and MUST include specific detail from text to back up your personal response.
A character I really identified with in this novel
was…because…an example of this is… This book made me think about…because…an example of this is… I was shocked when…because…an example of this is… The style of writing Green uses is…because…an example of this is… I enjoyed the narrative point of view in this text because…an example of this is… I could relate to the issues in this text because…an example of this is when…
This novel is written in first person narrative style and
attempts to capture a teenage boy’s personal account of a girl called Alaska. She was a girl who made a huge impression on him at a new boarding school he attended. Plot Fill. Fill in the plot sequence on the handout
The book begins with _______ _________ parents throwing him a __________ party, as he is leaving his Florida home to go to _________ _______ Boarding School in Alabama. Although his parents are disappointed when only two people attend, Miles has learned to expect nothing more: he most certainly is not the epitome of _____________ at his current school. When pressed, he uses ____________ Rabelais's last words — "I go to seek a _______ __________" — to explain why he is leaving home. Miles doesn't want to wait until he dies to find his own "_________ __________". Miles moves to Culver Creek and becomes acquainted with his roommate, Chip "___ _________" Martin. Shortly after being introduced, Miles has earned a nickname of his own: "_______", ironic due to his extremely _________ frame. His friendship with the Colonel introduces him to ________ _______, a girl on whom Pudge develops a crush. On his first night, Pudge is _______________ and thrown into a lake by the "Weekday __________", privileged Birmingham-area students. The only apparent reason is that he and the Colonel are roommates. The Colonel and Alaska are both furious, and an all-out prank war ensues. Being friends with these pranksters also introduces Pudge to a facet of his "Great Perhaps" that he might have only slightly anticipated, if at all: a newfound sense of danger, over recklessness at breaking rules through such illicit activities as smoking and drinking on campus. Pudge's affections for Alaska grow as the novel progresses, but as she is dating a boy from a different _________, he sees his situation as hopeless. However, Alaska consistently makes subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) comments on how she finds Pudge ___________. Even so, she introduces Pudge to a girl in his math class, the shy Romanian ______ ___________, who becomes his girlfriend after Pudge, Lara, Alaska, the Colonel, and their Japanese friend __________ play a "pre-prank" against the Weekday Warriors. In the midst of a drinking game, Alaska reveals that when she was young, her mother died of a ______ __________, and Alaska just watched instead of calling ___. Though her father eventually forgave her, she has always carried _______ over her mother's death. Some time later, Alaska, Pudge, and the Colonel play _______ ___ _____, with Alaska and the Colonel becoming extremely ________. Alaska dares Pudge to hook up with her, which he does gladly. Alaska soon falls asleep, only to be awakened later by the ________. After talking for a few minutes, she comes back into the room screaming and crying hysterically about being _______. Pudge and the Colonel help her to escape and drive off campus, despite her ______________. The morning after, they learn that Alaska crashed into a ________ ____ and was _________. Pudge and the Colonel become determined to find out whether it was an ____________ or ___________ as they struggle with their _________ and guilt over her death.
As a teenager, what are the three most important things in
your life right now?
What is ‘The Great Perhaps’ and why does Pudge see it as
the most important thing?
What is the labyrinth? How does it apply to our daily
Why is the setting of Culver Creek significant?
What does the term ‘coming of age’ mean?
Miles writes: “Teenagers are invincible” (p262). Do you
agree or disagree? Why? “The Great Perhaps was upon us and we were invincible. The plan had faults, but we did not”.
Miles comments about Chip (pg 63):
“I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.” What does he mean by this? How would this story be different if it was written by The Colonel or Alaska (comets)?
When did the story take place? How can you tell? Give a summary of the four main characters (Miles, Alaska,
Chip (The Colonel) and Takumi) including appearance and personality traits. Describe one important event in your own words and use two quotes from the book to support it. Explain the structure (layout) of the book. Discuss the changes that Miles (Pudge) went through because of his time at the school. For the four main characters (above), choose ONE quote that sums up or reveals something about each personality.
When you start reading the novel, you see that the structure is like a diary format but it is unusual in that its chapters are entitled ‘before’. E.g. “One Hundred and Twenty Days Before”. What is the effect of this structural device? What is so significant about the last day? What effect is gained by making that day the ‘last day’ and
the following chapters entitled ‘after’?
The effect of Green using this structural device is that the ‘before’ section
builds to the climax of the text (Alaska’s death) and then the ‘after’ section works through to the resolution for characters. The countdown/up of days sets the reader for a grand climax or event. This follows a typical plot graph structure, however, involves the reader more in the emotions of the characters as the story progresses due to the text being written in a journal-like structure. The significance of the last day is that it builds the climax further through showing us the part that each of the major characters played in Alaska’s death. It is also the day that Miles and Alaska kiss and he admits his love for her while she sleeps. The Colonel foreshadows events to come by saying “This is going to end poorly”. It makes us aware of all the events that happened prior to Alaska’s death and gives us a greater understanding of the loss and guilt that both the Colonel and Miles felt in the ‘after’ section. Following ‘the last day’ with the ‘after’ section shows just how much of an impact Alaska’s death had on the narrator. The ‘after’ section is when the students learn of Alaska’s death and their journey through the grief and guilt that they feel. It makes it more real for the reader with the text bluntly split into ‘before’ and ‘after’ sections.
The author uses contrast to convey different things.
The introduction to Miles at home is different to his social life at school. But also,. The fact that we see Miles and The Colonel in their home environments (Thanksgiving with Dolores in the caravan; Christmas for Miles back home) throws Alaska into a contrasting light. She has no such family to go to. Task: Find the Thanksgiving dinner and write down a
quote that shoes the happiness The Colonel or Pudge feel about it.
Spend 10 minutes writing down your thoughts on each
of the following discussion questions. Then post your responses in one of the four boxes around the room. Gather into four groups (I will allocate groups) each group will be allocated one postbox. Continue the discussion using the notes provided from the rest of the class. Using an A3 sheet of paper display the thoughts from your class and your own responses as a group.
Discuss the book’s unusual structure. Why do you suppose Green chose this strategy for telling this story? What does it add to the novel? How else could the material have been structured? Would the effect have been different? Miles tells the story in his own first person voice. How might the book differ if it had been told in Alaska’s voice or the Colonel’s? Or the voice of an omniscient narrator? Mile’s teacher Dr. Hyde tells him to “be present.” What does this mean? What do you think “The Great Perhaps” means? Alaska loves these two lines from the poet W.C. Auden: “You shall love your crooked neighbor / with your crooked heart.” What do these lines mean to you and why do you thin Alaska likes them so much? Was it necessary for Alaska to die?
Although Alaska has no family as such, she does form interesting
and resilient friendships. She is a huge influence on Pudge’s life. The book is modern in that it captures the fact that a girl can advise and give intelligent opinions about life, as well as manage to lead the main character into tricky situations. E.g. Alaska watches a porn movie with Pudge and tells him that it ‘objectifies women’. The females in the movie are no more than objects to these men. She awakens his conscience as well as challenging his conservative side. His conservative side is challenged when she takes him along to bust into people’s rooms and find their alcohol etc. Find a quote that shows Pudge’s alarm or reluctance to take part
in Alaska’s ideas.
In your own opinion, why did the
narrator love Alaska so much? Give examples to back up your views.
Why did Chip and Pudge not try to stop Alaska from driving on
the last day?
Where in Looking for Alaska does the ‘labyrinth’ emerge? Why do you think the ‘labyrinth’ could be symbolic? Why do you think Pudge likes to memorise last words? Give two
examples to back up this opinion.
“Booze and mischief left me worried that I’d stumbled into what
my mother referred to as ‘the wrong crowd’; but for the wrong crowd, they seemed awfully smart.” What does this quote tell you about Pudge? What does it tell you about his friends?
Before Culver Creek:
By the end of the text:
Becomes more confident
because of the people he surrounds himself with Changes as a person – more rebellious, carefree
Socially inept Inexperienced
Naive Antisocial Doesn’t care about what
people think of him
The protagonist (what does thisChoose mean?) TWO of the adjectives and find a quote from the text Honest that backs up each trait. Narrator Humorous Perceptive Realistic Intelligent Likeable Courageous Idealist Inspired by famous last words Seeking his own “Great Perhaps”
Positive attributes Independent
Strong willed Loyal Smart/intelligent
Creative Carefree Hot/sexy/good looking
Negative attributes Blames herself for mum’s death Self-destructive Moody Reckless Tease “Labyrinth of suffering” Confusing (mixed signals)
Alaska could be seen as the ‘antagonist’ in Looking for Alaska. Why?
Intriguing Quirky Energetic Crazy Creative Inspirational Intelligent Carefree (seemingly) Entertaining Sexy Free spirited Reckless Mischievous Beautiful Mysterious Self-destructive Avid reader
She grapples with self-control throughout the text. Find TWO examples that show how Alaska’s mood changes suddenly. Alaska embodies the idea of teenagers rebelling. Why is this? She is constantly ‘living on the edge’. Do you think she finds this exciting or is it just an example of her selfdestructive behaviour? Find an example from the text to back up your ideas.
Read the chapter “The Last Day” (from page 157) again and answer the following: What happens that portrays Alaska… As elusive? As confusing?
As tragic? As rebellious?
Give an example for each of the above.
Elusive = “This is so fun, but I’m so sleepy. To be
continued?” – her feelings for Pudge Confusing = “She was sobbing, like that postthanksgiving morning but worse” - why she is so upset just before she leaves. Tragic =“I JUST HAVE TO GO. HELP ME GET OUT OF HERE!” – drink driving Rebellious = “Alaska and the Colonel drank wine from paper cups” – breaking all the Culver Creek rules
Best friends with Pudge Shows him the way – Culver Creek Introduces him to Alaska – setting events into place Intelligent
Seen as the leader – “the Colonel” Pranking mastermind – meticulous planner/attention to detail Introduces Pudge to rebellion (smoking/drinking) Poor family (solo mum/scholarship student/lives in a caravan) Determined to achieve Loyal Not popular, especially weekday warriors
Seeks revenge, especially when friends are involved
The Colonel is Pudge’s first real Extremely intelligent (on scholarship)
Rebellious Fiercely loyal Organised planner Quick-thinking Leader Memorises things
friend at Culver Creek. He is the military-style planner of pranks and loves to be in control. Do you think he is dwarfed by Alaska’s shadow at times? Does this make him resentful of her? Find an example from the text to back up your ideas.
4 adjectives that describe them
Lover of (3 things that they love)
Who feels… (3 feelings or opinions)
Who needs… (3 needs)
Who gives… (3 gifts)
Who fears… (3 fears)
Who would like… (3 wishes)
Resident of… (town and city)
Choose ONE main character from “Looking for Alaska” (Miles, The Colonel or Alaska). Create a powerpoint on your chosen character and post on wikispace. Powerpoint should cover the following:
Why is the character important in Looking for Alaska? What is the character’s appearance? What strengths and weaknesses does the character have? What does the character think and/or say about themselves? How does the character act and react? Is the character associated with particular settings or personal possessions? What is the character’s background? What beliefs and values does the character have? How would you describe the character’s personality? What do other characters think and/or say about the character in question? 4 quotations that reflect personality/behaviour
It should be presented well with symbols or pictures also illustrating character. The final page of powerpoint will have the Biopoem you have written for your chosen character. You will need to become a member of the wikispace in order to post your finished powerpoint.
Draw a statement from
the bag Decide whether you agree or disagree with the statement Think of THREE points to justify your stance Back up your points with specific reference to the text
NEXT: Find the people that have the
SAME statement as you…without talking to anyone. Sit down together and only state whether you agree or disagree with the topic. Split into subgroups depending on stance. Combine notes. If you are by yourself, add to what you’ve already got. Be prepared to present your ideas to class and justify your stance.
Alaska was responsible for her own self-destruction. Miles and The Colonel were right to feel guilty following Alaska’s death. Miles found his “Great Perhaps” at Culver Creek. We never get out of the labyrinth of suffering. The characters in Looking for Alaska are a true reflection of today’s youth.
Pudge says “Someday no one will remember that she ever existed…everything
that comes together must fall apart”. Is this a true insight into death?
The title “Looking for Alaska” sums up all the ideas in the text.
Miles is a follower, not a leader.
The search for the great
perhaps Self-discovery Last words Friendship Growing up The labyrinth of life The impact one life can have on another Loss and guilt
First love Rebelling against
authority Acceptance of differences Finding disappointment in people and circumstances in our lives
What does the labyrinth symbolise in LFA? Do you think Alaska represents the Great Perhaps to
Pudge? Do you think Takumi was in love with Alaska? What does subverting the patriarchal paradigm mean?
We can choose to die or suffer in the labyrinth. Suffering can be transcended through finding
meaning in life. All our lives are intertwined and our actions affect each other in the labyrinth. Death and the possibility of an after life. We must actively participate in life.
The journey of self discovery is hard. Your life is what you make of it, it is about the choices
you make. It is important to be aware that every decision you make
in life can effect your future and future of others. Friendship is a big part of growing up.
We all have to make mistakes to learn from them and
we can learn from others mistakes. The journey of self acceptance is crucial.
When writing an essay on Looking for Alaska, regardless of what question you choose to write about, you MUST talk about stylistic elements. This is what shows that you are ‘analysing’ rather than simply ‘discussing’. Below is a list of stylistic devices that Green employs in Looking for Alaska. In pairs, you will be given ONE of these elements to focus on. You must: Write a paragraph that outlines how this stylistic element is important
to the novel. Give an example from the text of when it is used. Explain why Green would have used this technique. What does it add to his writing? What does it add to the plot, themes or characters?
Diary format structure = ‘timeline’ of events Countdown days/chapters structure Miles narrating – first person POV Listing Short sentences Figurative language Imagery ‘coming-of-age’ genre/tone Sections – ‘Before’ and ‘After’ structure Essay narrative to end Allusion Symbolism (Eagle, swan, labyrinth) Contrast
Many of the ‘chapters’ (or days) in LFA are written like a
diary entry from Miles’ POV. This is to further personalise the story for the reader and enable them to ‘get inside his head’. The past tense diary format provides a stream of consciousness in the sense that we are able to experience situations as Miles does. This adds to the first person narrative and strengthens our personal connection with the narrator. “I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to
maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. Bur for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.” P63
The structural device of counting down days rather than simply
progressing through chapters works to build tension and work up to the climax of the text (Alaska dying). This foreshadows the main event in the text, suggesting that there will be a major event that will change the narrator’s life forever. It also emphasises just how important this event is to the narrator and links with diary-like entries. The ‘Before’ section introduces characters, setting, thematic ideas and develops plot. It leads to the climax of Alaska drink driving. The ‘After’ section is solely devoted to how Alaska’s death affects those around her. Issues of guilt, loss and suffering are further developed, as is the symbolic meaning of the labyrinth. “One Hundred and Thirty-six Days Before”
The use of first person narrative POV enables the reader to
experience things as Miles does. It gives us a deeper understanding of how he is affected by people, events and his own reactions and feelings as the novel progresses. This is no more clearly seen than in the event of Alaska dying as we are limited to Miles’ own feelings and emotions surrounding her death. The idea of guilt and loss becomes apparent as we see him struggle to deal with her death and the role he played in it. “The times that were the most fun seemed always to be
followed by sadness now, because it was it was when life started to feel like it did when she was with us that we realised how utterly, totally gone she was.” P 226
Listing is an important technique that Green employs to portray
character and to add to the stream of consciousness narrative. It is predominantly used my Miles, but also used by Alaska when she convinces him to stay at Culver Creek for Thanksgiving (p94). Listing is used to illustrate the coming of age genre that LFA fits into and to provide us with insight into the characters’ thoughts. It shows their intelligence and also their ability to methodically justify their opinions. The sarcasm/humour/wit/irony used by characters in their dialogue and thought processes also become clear through the use of listing.
“I might have asked a question about Jesus Christ Superstar,
except (1) I didn’t know what it was and (2) I didn’t care to learn, and (3) I never really excelled at small talk.” P10
A powerful technique used to create impact and make a
point. Green uses short sentences in LFA to build tension and drama. Also used to emphasise narrator’s feelings/emotions. Best seen when Miles finds out Alaska has died. “Her mouth. Her dead, cold mouth. To not be continued.
I knew she was drunk. Upset.” P168 In this instance, short sentences show that Mile’s thought
process has broken down. He is unable to cope with the news and is struggling to absorb it. They emphasise his shock and bewilderment at what has happened.
Used throughout text to ‘paint a picture’ for the reader.
Makes the story more real and personal and enables us to experience what Miles is experiencing through vivid description. “In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and
sunshine and vanilla, and on that thin-mooned night I could see little more of her silhouette except for when she smoked, when the burning cherry of the cigarette washed her face in pale red light.” P 27
In LFA Miles is initiated into adulthood through newfound knowledge
and experience. Before Culver Creek he disillusioned with his ordinary and mundane life. It is when he ventures into the unknown (or ‘The Great Perhaps… “a more than minor life”) that he gains understanding through his friendship with Alaska and The Colonel. He experiences a loss of innocence as he is forced to re-evaluate his philosophy on life and find his own place in the world. Alaska’s death aids in Miles’ coming-of-age journey.
Key indicators of a coming-of-age text are: ignorance to knowledge innocence to experience false view of world to correct view idealism to realism immature responses to mature responses
Miles “writes his way out of the labyrinth”. Symbolic meaning. Expressive writing that details his experiences at Culver Creek and all that he
has learnt. Details his coming-of-age Religious connotations Philosophical views on death and the afterlife Acceptance/closure/forgiveness Self-acceptance Sums up all major thematic ideas in text: Labyrinth of suffering (“I thought the way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it did not exist..”), the Great Perhaps (“I still believe in the Great Perhaps, and I can believe in in spite of having lost her.”), everything that comes together must fall apart (“And I will forget her, yes. That which came together will fall apart imperceptibly slowly…but she will forgive my forgetting.”) Final allusion to last words, “It’s very beautiful over there.”
“How will I ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” Symbolises the character of Alaska and her selfdestructive nature, “she did not need to fold into herself and self-destruct.” P262 The labyrinth is representative of life – see handout. How does (a) Alaska (b) Pudge and (c) the Colonel
view the labyrinth? How is this important in light of the information you have on the labyrinth as a symbol?
PLOT The story or narrative There may be a main plot and one or more sub-plots
SETTING In time = when In place = where In society = who
STRUCTURE The order in which the story is told Point of view (who tells the story)
Looking for Alaska
STYLE The choice of words The way they are arranged The use of imagery, symbolism, dialogue, etc
CHARACTERS Main characters Minor characters
THEMES The ideas the novel explores Any ‘messages’ suggested