Mental Breakdown and Suffering of Alaska in John Green's Novel Looking for Alaska

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In the novel “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, the brave, unpredictable and mystery high-school girl Alaska had to suffer a haunting memory that seemed to storm in her mind every waking minute. This incident is the major and most noteworthy factor that led to all of Alaska’s grief and shaped her personality throughout the book.

At the age of eight, she had to hopelessly witness aneurysm slowly devouring her mother after their memorable trip at the zoo. Paralyzed by utter fear, Alaska did not call the ambulance in time to save her, thinking that “she had fallen asleep and whatever that hurt didn’t hurt anymore.” When her father got home, he scolded Alaska for not having dialed 911, resulting in her thinking that she was the culprit of her deceased mother.

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Ever since then, Alaska never stopped blaming herself for her mother’s death and held that pain at the back of her head, causing extreme mental and physical self-destruction. Her pain intensified like a snowball down a hill when she forgot her mom’s death anniversary and the event was the ultimate trigger.

Concerning physical self-harm, Alaska smoked excessively, stating pessimistically that “I smoke to die”; in addition, she also drank heavy alcohol frequently. Hardly in any moment of the book can we see Alaska being completely sober – this can be observed as her coping mechanism to the great misery she was suffering. Throughout the storyline, John Green pictured a reckless Alaska, who seemed to never care about life’s common sense.

Even the name she chose for herself depicted Alaska’s perspective of life, meaning “that which the sea breaks against,” implying that she was always facing up to all of her constant misfortunes, and that her life was truly not jolly: “I don’t understand why I screw everything up…I have guts, just not when it counts…what you must understand about me is that I am a deeply unhappy person…God, how many times can I fucked up.”

Mentally, Alaska had always wanted to escape for the labyrinth, on the contrary to Miles, who went to a boarding school to seek a Great Perhaps. The labyrinth can be seen as either life or death and it is also another factor that swallowed up every inch of Alaska’s happiness, and she aspired to escape. Alaska herself said, “Getting out isn’t easy.” Eventually, going through the maze got extremely tiring and never knowing when and if her suffering and pain would end, Alaska gave in and opted for the “straight and fast” way out, skipping the labyrinth altogether and the pain and suffering that accompanies it, supposedly killing herself on the way to her mother’s grave.

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