American
author John Michael Green’s Paper Towns, published on October 2008 and
its film adaptation screened on July 2015, is a contemporary young-adult
fiction which primarily comprises of the genres romance, adventure and
mystery/thrill. The story is narrated from a first-person limited point of
view, and the plot of the novel is divided into three sections, excluding a
prologue; The Strings, The Grass and The Vessel. It primarily takes
place in Orlando, Florida, specifically in a subdivision named Jefferson Park. Paper
Towns covers the story of protagonist Quentin Jacobsen and his struggle to
piece together clues of a mystery that would lead him to the enigmatic Margo
Roth Speigelman—the sole reason for an adventure in his otherwise bland life. Margo,
Quentin’s childhood love interest and neighbor, seeks out Quentin for an unexpected
late-night adventure, where she deems it fit to take revenge on her friends and
her ex-boyfriend. However, the exposition of the plot ends when, after an
entire night of notorious activities and bonding, Margo decides to become a
‘no-show’ at school the next day, and the ones following that as well. Author
John Green introduces more than a few symbols throughout the book to build the
plot from this point onward, his chief motive in doing so being the development
of his character, Margo Roth Speigelman, and how the perceptions of the
protagonist and other minor characters regarding her differ from the “real”
Margo.

Throughout the novel, as the author builds up anticipation, leading
up to the climax of the plot, there is a noticeable absence of Margo in the
story, a time period during which the readers form their own molds of the
character in their minds. Green, through the use of symbolism, builds up
Margo’s character during her absence, and therefore showcases her insecurities
and complaints in life. A few significant, recurring symbols found in the novel
include paper, pseudovisions, as well as strings. The symbolism of paper
found in the novel develops Margo’s character as it portrays her ambitious
attitude and conveys her disappointment with what, in her opinion, is a boring,
vapid life. Similarly, the symbol of strings used in the novel signifies
hope and faith. Green uses this symbol to portray Margo’s desolation with her
current life, and further expedites the reader’s understanding of her ambitious
character. In addition to that, the author uses the symbol of pseudovisions
(plotted subdivisions that have been abandoned, or remain unfinished) in the
novel as well. Apart from using it as a synonym for paper towns, Green
essentially uses it to depict the protagonist, Quentin Jacobsen’s evolving image
of Margo over the course of the novel, and how it plays a role in preparing the
readers for the resolution of the story.

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Through the effective wielding of these aforementioned symbols,
Green paves the path for a best-selling novel; his au courant character, Margo
Roth Speigelman, winning the hearts of readers through her unique ideas about
life that eventually led to an unforeseen climax. Within this essay, a thorough
exploration of the symbols used by the author—namely paper, strings and
pseudovisions—will be carried out, and an attempt at analyzing the following
question will be executed: How do the symbols used in John Green’s Paper
Towns affect the
characterization of the novel’s most controversial figure, Margo Roth
Speigelman?

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