What is an effective and overall theme of Looking for Alaska?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One particular theme that is intriguing in the work is the embrace of doubt.  Beginning with Miles' search for the Rabelais's concept of the "Great Perhaps," there is an embrace of the lack of certainty that exists in the world.  Miles' intellectual approach to being only enhances this.  His ability to recall last words of people illuminates how he is able to live with the condition of uncertainty that death brings.  He recognizes that he does not want to follow his footsteps, but embraces the condition of going to his alma mater.  

The idea of Miles's "Looking for Alaska" is a foray into the condition of the unknown.  When she was alive, there was a lack of certainty in their relationship.  Miles was excited by Alaska's passion for life, but scared because of her potential for darkness.  In death, Miles' search for answers are fruitless. He will never understand why she did what she did, just as he must be content that he will never fully know her.  Miles' embrace of the "labyrinth" is reflective of the idea that living in the unknown is a part of being in the world.  The novel develops this throughout the theme, making a statement that a sense of insecurity, doubt, and uncertainty are conditions in the modern setting both in adolescence and afterwards.  The only absolute is the search for the "Great Perhaps" that is ongoing and endless.