Study Guide

Looking for Alaska Driving

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Most of the story takes place on campus, though there are a few excursions from the Creek. And how do these excursions transpire? Some take place in Alaska's car, some in Takumi's car, some in the Colonel's car. Noticing a trend there? Yup—cars.

Cars aren't nearly as significant as what they facilitate in this book though, which is driving. And the point of driving is what it represents: freedom and purpose. As far as freedom goes, driving is a means for Miles and his friends to escape the Creek and the watchful eye of the Eagle, it is a way to get away from rules and take control of their own experiences.

And as for purpose, driving is done with a goal, a desired end to reach. For instance, Alaska and Miles and friends drive to McDonald's to study; and the Colonel, Alaska, and Miles drive to the Colonel's home to celebrate togetherness and Thanksgiving. Driving means going somewhere, it implies a destination.

So when we think about Alaska's death, we have to think about how she died: in a car, driving. She was alone in the car and behind the wheel—in charge of the vehicle on every level. And while we know she was driving to her mother's grave, knowing how loaded with meaning driving is, we can't help but ask: What was she symbolically driving toward or away from?

Another important driving moment to consider is when the Colonel and Miles drive through the scene of Alaska's death. It's only after doing so that the Colonel and Miles can resume some kind of normal life… studying for exams and trying to get their grades up. But before this return to normalcy, something pretty profound happens for these two characters:

And POOF we are through the moment of her death. We are driving through the place that she could not drive through, passing onto asphalt she never saw, and we are not dead. (118after.17)

Miles and the Colonel have to drive through the scene of Alaska's death to emotionally arrive on the other side of the experience. Are there other moments you can think of where driving realizes a transformation besides these?

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