What are some ways that I can represent Paper Towns for a paper bag project?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a typical paper bag project focused on a particular piece of literature, students are required to gather up about ten items that represent important characters, events, and/or issues from the story, place these items in a bag, and then present them to the class by pulling out each one and explaining how it relates to the work of literature. Items can be just about anything: drawings, magazine clippings, photos, knickknacks, bits of food, etc. The items themselves matter less than the quality and meaning of the connections that the students make between the items and the story. In other words, it's better to have a cheap, silly-looking item with an insightful connection to the story than it is to have a beautiful, interesting item with only a loose or superficial connection to the story.

The idea is usually that you get to take the bag and its contents home after it's been graded, so it's okay to include items that you have to eventually bring back home.

With that said, let's consider some strategies for finding items that could represent Paper Towns. The items will have to be easy enough for a student to find or create at homeā€”and, of course, they'll have to fit inside a standard brown paper bag.

Strategy 1: Look for an item to represent each main character and how that character sees the world.

For Margo, I'd pick any little silly, cheap-looking souvenir I could find in the house, like a key chain or a tiny snow globe. If I couldn't find something like this, I'd print out or draw a cheesy postcard of Orlando, Florida. This item would represent Margo's frustration with living in a tourist town where everything feels fake and inauthentic.

For Quentin, I'd put in a small watch or clock. A drawing of a clock would work fine, too. Quentin is always watching the clock at school, watching his life tick by, being bored and not caring enough to do anything to liven up his life.

For Quentin's parents, I'd add to the bag some item that represents comfort and support, like a picture of people hugging, or a sweet but cheesy greeting card. Q's mom and dad are therapists, they're very understanding of their son, and they constantly offer him unconditional love and support.

For Margo's parents, I'd pick an object that represents confinement or rejection. A lock or a key would be perfect. They are always trying to keep her in the house, and when she disappears, they act like they don't even care and they change the locks so that she can't even come back in if she wants to.

Strategy 2: Identify the important objects in the story that influenced the plot or that mean something more than what they literally are, and find representations for those objects.

These could include a drawing of a screen with the Omnictionary website, a map that you draw on to include a made-up tiny town, a long string or tassel (that represents Margo's conception of people as having "strings" that can come loose,) a copy of Leaves of Grass, a photo of a graduation cap, or any of Margo's "weapons" from her night of revenge (like a bottle of Vaseline or Veet).

Strategy 3: Identify the main setting of the story, and find an object to represent it.

A map of Florida or Orlando, anything with Mickey Mouse on it, or even anything with a sun drawn on it (because Florida is "the Sunshine State") would work just fine. Again, the important thing is not so much the quality of the item itself but the level of insight you show when you pull out the item and talk about it to your classmates. Use any of these suggested items to talk about how the setting affects Margo and Quentin and the story that unfolds around them.

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Paper Towns

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