What is the main topic of the novel Looking for Alaska?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main idea in the novel is the search for meaning and purpose. While the characters are looking for different things, their journeys all end up revolving around identity. Alaska, the titular character, is looking for penance for the guilt she feels surrounding her mother’s death, and she eventually dies...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The main idea in the novel is the search for meaning and purpose. While the characters are looking for different things, their journeys all end up revolving around identity. Alaska, the titular character, is looking for penance for the guilt she feels surrounding her mother’s death, and she eventually dies herself, mirroring her mother's arc.

Pudge, additionally, searches for meaning behind Alaska’s death and continues to dwell on his culpability in it. He is searching for answers while also trying to understand his purpose. Along the way, though, his questions are answered in a different way when he finds community and companionship that usurps the importance of his supposed great purpose in life. The characters want to understand themselves and search for meaning in this life, but they all find this meaning when and where they least expect it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This novel by John Green is primarily about the balance between taking responsibility for our actions and accepting the limitations of our influences on other people. The title character, Alaska, suffers terribly with guilt over her role in her mother’s death. Even though she was just a child when her mother fell ill, she has interpreted her father’s questions about her behavior at the time as an indication that she was somehow responsible. In a slightly different way, after Alaska dies, Pudge and the Colonel begin to blame themselves for her death because they did not prevent her from driving under the influence. Although they suspect she died by suicide, this remains only a suspicion, and her death in the car might well have been an accident. Pudge realizes that if he blames himself for her actions, he might become depressed, as she had been, and this sort of preoccupation could have negative consequences.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One main topic of Looking for Alaska is the creation and cultivation of personal relationships. Pudge, the protagonist, is a loner and not looking to make personal relationships; he is is more interested in finding his own personal purpose, which he calls "the Great Perhaps." However, because of the friendships he develops, Pudge realizes that he can't live in a bubble; he needs friends and family to support him and to make his goals and desires mean something.

I was after a Great Perhaps, and they knew as well as I did that I wasn't going to find it with the likes of Will and Marie.

It takes time for Pudge to come out of his shell and become a functioning member of society. He is so wrapped up in his inner thoughts that he fails to connect in a substantive way to his friends; after the tragedy, his horizons are expanded and his thinking becomes more complex.

Someday no one will remember that she ever existed, I wrote in my notebook, and then, or that I did. Because memories fall apart too.
(Green, Looking for Alaska, Google Books)

It is these realizations that allow Pudge to grow as a person. He understands, too late, that it is his relationships with others that really matters, not his idealistic goals that may or may not come to fruition. While he might never become someone of significance, as long as he has good friends, and as long as he matters to them, he will never truly be forgotten.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team