Study Guide

Mr. Starnes, Sara and Minor Characters in Looking for Alaska

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Minor Characters

Dolores Martin

Dolores, the Colonel's mom, never really had an easy life (raising a kid with a deadbeat will do that to a life), but that doesn't stop her from being one of the more optimistic characters in the novel. In fact, if anything, it seems to enhance her general level of gratitude:

She was grateful that her phone was back on, that her boy was home, […] that her job was steady and her coworkers were nice, that she had a place to sleep and a boy who loved her. (46before.6)

Even though she's poor, works as a "culinary engineeyer" (45before.33) at the Waffle House, and lives in a trailer park, her life circumstances don't stop her from appreciating what she has. The contrast between home for the Colonel and home for Miles only serves as a glaring reminder of what home isn't for Alaska.

The Eagle/Mr. Starnes

The first time Miles meets the Eagle, he's treated to a Look of Doom that does not yet portend doom. But that's only the first time.

The Eagle plays a necessary role at the Creek, namely as the martinet who enforces the rules. He doesn't rule alone, though—a student-run Jury helps him govern the Creek.

There is more to the Eagle than a hawkish eye, though. Yes he gets disgusted by the audacity of the students (or perhaps their inability to get away with their mischief), but that doesn't stop him from feeling real affection for them. Check this scene out:

Alaska crouched down, picked up the cigarette she had thrown away, and started smoking again. The Eagle wheeled around, his sixth sense detecting Insubordination To Authority Figures. Alaska dropped the cigarette and stepped on it. The Eagle shook his head, and even though he must have been crazy mad, I swear to God he smiled.

"He loves me," Alaska told me as we walked back to the dorm circle. "He loves all y'all, too. He just loves the school more. That's the thing. He thinks busting us is good for the school and good for us. It's the eternal struggle, Pudge. The Good versus the Naughty." (99before.14-15)

Alaska's analysis is spot on. Because we only get Miles's fearful perspective of the Eagle, we don't really realize that there might be more to the Eagle as a person than he lets on to students. In addition to the fondness he lets slip out in the above passage, we also see a glimmer of humor here and there:

"Don't ever do anything like that again," he said. "But, Lord, 'subverting the patriarchal paradigm'—it's like she wrote the speech." He smiled and closed the door. (102after.44) 

When his sense of humor and appreciation for quality pranks is paired with his true grief at the news of Alaska's death, the Eagle ceases to be the one-dimensional disciplinarian we initially see him as, and becomes a disciplinarian with a heart of gold.

The Jury

The Jury is a faculty-elected body of students that includes three students from each grade, for a total of twelve students. They dispense punishment for non-expellable offenses. The Eagle sits in on the Jury meetings, but he doesn't often overrule their decisions. Miles is brought before the Jury twice in the book. The first time he is terrified, but by the second his fear has dissipated.

Maxx/Dr. William Morse

Maxx is the incredibly handsome stripper that the Colonel hires who poses as a professor of psychology from the University of Central Florida with a specialty in adolescent sexuality. But his real name is Stan, and he works for Bachelorette Parties R Us. Ooh la la.

Maxx is the key piece in the Alaska Young Memorial Prank. It's a good thing that he loves the prank, because it requires him to get almost naked in front of the whole student body and faculty at the Creek. And even though Maxx is a fairly one-dimensional character (his appearance is pretty brief), he's still got a pretty good sense of humor:

I turned to Dr. Morse and said, "We should look at each other with great interest and talk like you're friends with my parents."

He smiled and nodded his head. "He is a great man, your father. And your mother—so beautiful." I rolled my eyes. (102after.21-22)

Fortunately he's professorial enough to get up to the podium, and muscular enough to make his pectoral muscles dance up and down to the music Takumi blasts during the prank. Even the Eagle has a hard time not laughing.

And though Maxx quickly exits (both the stage and the book), he will live in infamy as part of the greatest prank the Creek had ever seen.

Marya and Paul

Marya is Alaska's ex-roommate and Paul is Marya's boyfriend. They're both Weekday Warriors who got expelled at the end of their sophomore year for drug use, alcohol use, and sexual activity. Alaska was one who snitched on them.

Miles's Parents

Miles parents exist mostly off-page, but they and their parenting still echo throughout the novel and Miles's thoughts.

Miles's mom is clingier than his dad, probably because his dad also attended Culver Creek when he was in high school. Miles says,

Mom was not particularly keen on letting me go to boarding school and had made no secret of it. (136before.15)

Her reservations don't stop her from supporting Miles as he goes to seek his Great Perhaps, though, which is pretty awesome of her. It might be easier for Miles's dad to be understanding since he remembers his own time at the Creek as a teenager:

As an alumnus of Culver Creek, he had done the things I had only heard about: the secret parties, streaking through hay fields […], drugs, drinking, and cigarettes. (128before.12)

Not everything is puppy dogs and rainbows between Miles and his parents, though. When Miles decides to ditch them for Alaska during Thanksgiving and they go on a second honeymoon, hurt and guilt exist on both sides. This doesn't prevent them from explaining that

They were just so proud of me, that they loved me so much. That put a lump in my throat, and I didn't care about Thanksgiving anymore. I had a family. (christmas.5)

Miles is so lucky. Especially when his dad trusts him enough to play a pretty important part in the Alaska Young Memorial Prank—he pretends to be Dr. William Morse when the Eagle calls. Dad claims it's because he wants to know if Miles can top his high school prank, but readers get the feeling that it's because he's proud of his son for coming into his own at the Creek.

The Old Man/Dr. Hyde

Although physically feeble and old, Dr. Hyde is Miles's favorite professor because he lectures and doesn't let his students "stumble on their words and try to phrase things in the vaguest possible way so they wouldn't sound dumb" (126before.18).

Dr. Hyde's nickname—the Old Man—is meant to remind readers that he's going to play this character in this novel. The character of the wise old man reaches far back into literary tradition. What? This just means that there a lot of wise old men in a lot of different texts, and they all sort of do the same thing. (In The Odyssey, Mentor serves as the wise old man; in Norse mythology, Odin serves as the wise old man.) Mostly, these guys have a lot of knowledge that they use to guide characters to some sort of enlightenment or development.

What good is a guide if everyone always listens to him though? Sure things would be simpler, but they'd also be a lot less interesting, so time and again throughout literature sometimes characters ignore the advice and stories from the old man. In this book, the Old Man is the way Green introduces the theological threads that guide Miles toward the conclusions that he comes to about life, death, and existence. The whole class is set up around "the most important pursuit in history: the search for meaning" (126before.17).

Though Alaska belittles the Old Man and his class, Miles remains one of his staunchest supporters—and for good reason. The Old Man teaches the only class that Miles feels is really worth talking about in his narration. The first semester final essay question is:

What is the most important question human beings must answer? Choose your question wisely, and then examine how Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity attempt to answer it. (76before.11)

Definitely not an essay question that can be faked. As Miles responds to the Old Man's challenges and teachings, he becomes both more and less sure of what he believes about the world. And then Alaska's death throws everyone for a loop.

The Old Man's wisdom only becomes more apparent as the book goes on, particularly when he recognizes that Alaska's death has made the questions of his class much more immediate and personal for his students. It makes sense then that his lectures in religious tradition spark Miles's musings about his beliefs about what happens to people after they die, especially Alaska.

The Old Man's second semester essay assignment takes Alaska's question about the labyrinth of suffering and asks students to personalize it. In this way, and although he doesn't specifically address Miles or the Colonel, he's fulfilling the role of the wise old man and giving the characters in need of guidance the help they require. It's a good thing he's there, because without him, Miles might never have found a way out of his own labyrinth of suffering.


The first time Miles meets Sara, she and the Colonel have a huge argument during which she accuses him of ratting out Paul and Marya. Not only is the Colonel and Sara's relationship clearly not particularly amicable to outsiders, but the Colonel doesn't even know why they stay together. He says:

"We never got along. […] I guess I stay with her because she stays with me. And that's not an easy thing to do. I'm a bad boyfriend. She's a bad girlfriend. We deserve each other." (122before. 36)

And then Sara dumps him. But even though the relationship was for all intents and purposes terrible, both Sara and the Colonel grieve for what was lost. It's a little precursor to how loss, despite the awfulness of the thing that was lost, inevitably ushers in grief.

The Weekday Warriors

Comprised of several students, but including in particular Kevin Richman and Longwell Chase, the Weekday Warriors are students at the Creek who stay during the week and return to their air-conditioned homes on the weekends. Kevin spearheads Miles's hazing and is one of the recipients of the blue hair dye. Longwell Chase is the junior class president, and one of the integral pieces in the Alaska Young Memorial Prank.

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