Tag Archives: Metaphors

Paper Towns


“Here’s what’s not beautiful about it: from here, you can’t see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You can see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It’s a paper town. I mean, look at it, Q: look at all those culs-de-sac, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things paper-thin and paper-frail. And all the people, too. I’ve lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.”

In the initial chapters of “Paper Towns”, I actually started getting the impression that this book was nothing more than a novel about a bunch of teenagers growing up and seeking their identity. How could I, after reading “The Fault in Our Stars”, still underestimate John Green like this? *Shakes head at myself*
The story is about a bunch of teenagers growing up and seeking their identity… and so much more.

It is also a poignant portrayal of what our world has become, with our pursuits for so many things external, so many things on the surface, that what is within us has become neglected, abandoned. Like something that exists but isn’t really there. Like Paper Towns.

And in a very John Green-ish way, he not only created metaphors for us to look at the lives we have created, but asks us to choose them. What are we like? The strings, the grass, or the vessel?

“But there are a thousand ways to look at it: Maybe the strings break, or maybe the ships sink, or maybe we’re grass – our roots so interdependent that no one is dead as long as someone is still alive. We don’t suffer from a shortage of metaphors , is what I mean. But you have to be careful which metaphor you choose, because it matters. If you choose the strings, then you’re imagining a world in which you can become irreparably broken. If you choose the grass, you’re saying that we are all infinitely interconnected, that we can use these root systems not only to understand one another but to become one another. The metaphors have implications.”

Maybe because I’m an inclined pessimist, I’d go for the string metaphor. I imagine God, or some higher force, allocating everyone a set of strings when we come into existence. Some use these strings to tie ourselves down to this world. Others, realizing the impermanent nature of these strings, refuse to weigh themselves down. These people can float away at any time and moment, because they are not secured to anything. But it is also these people who may become lonely, and sometimes irreparably so. They allow themselves to float away, knowing that the world will still go on without them, and they ponder the reason for their existence without ever getting an answer.  I suppose the wisest would be those who attach their strings to Meaning, for Meaning has no physical weight, yet Meaning is a string made out of the toughest materials. Meaning holds us to this world, and gives us reason to endure the Paperishness of everything.

But that’s getting me started on another book I read recently. And that shall be for another entry, on another day.

Tomorrow, we step back into our Paper Towns, Paper Worlds, Paper Lives.