Study Guide

Looking for Alaska Choices

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Chapter 18
Miles Halter

"What am I going to do?"

"You'll spend Thanksgiving with me, silly. Here." (58before.46-47)

Miles doesn't usually have to make his own choices—usually he's just a follower. And the way he makes and doesn't make choices plays a big part in what happens to Alaska and how he deals with it.

Chapter 19
Miles Halter

"We have to slow down or I'll puke," I remarked after we finished the first bottle.

"I'm sorry, Pudge. I wasn't aware that someone was holding open your throat and pouring wine down it," the Colonel responded. (2before.22-23)

Good thing the Colonel is there to keep him honest. Think about who Miles wants to give responsibility for his choices to and who ends up taking it in the end…

Chapter 21
Miles Halter

I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep… But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane. (49before.32)

Miles clearly wants to mean more than he does to Alaska, and that is probably beyond his control. But he could make a bunch of different choices here, not just the two he mentions, and he chooses to leave. What's that say about him as a character?

Chapter 24
Miles Halter

I raised my arm as she collapsed into my skinny chest and cried. I felt bad for her, but she'd done it to herself. She didn't have to rat. (44before.22)

Miles is pretty aware of personal responsibility when it comes to other people—like Alaska—and pretty unaware of how he makes his own choices. Maybe this is because of his passive personality. How are passivity and choice related in Miles's character?

Chapter 29
Miles Halter

So she became impulsive, scared by her inaction into perpetual action. When the Eagle confronted her with expulsion, maybe she blurted out Marya's name because it was the first that came to mind, because in that moment she didn't want to get expelled and couldn't think past that moment. She was scared, sure. But more importantly, maybe she'd been scared of being paralyzed by fear again. (2before.78)

It's hard to think about what causes us to choose what we choose, and usually the situation is super complicated and messy. In his explanation of what he thinks makes Alaska tick, Miles considers her choices of action and inaction and what they mean. Yet he remains blind to his own reasons for choosing action and inaction.

Chapter 31
Miles Halter

We did not say: Don't drive. You're drunk.

We did not say: We aren't letting you in that car when you are upset.

We did not say: We insist on going with you.

We did not say: This can wait until tomorrow. Anything—everything—can wait. (thelastday.93-96)

Everything that Miles has chosen—or not chosen because of his passivity—leads up to this moment. He could have been much more active in preventing Alaska from going, and the Colonel—arguably—should have been more assertive about Alaska's choices based on past interactions with her. But they both chose passive acceptance of her decision. Why?

I pulled away again. "What about Lara? Jake?" Again, she sshed me. "Less tongue, more lips," she said, and I tried my best. (thelastday.73)

Oh Miles—he tries to grow a backbone about making the right choice, but he still lets Alaska choose for him. Granted, he doesn't try very hard to stop kissing her.

Chapter 41
Chip "The Colonel" Martin

"If she loved you so much, why did she leave you that night? And if you loved her so much, why'd you help her go? I was drunk. What's your excuse?" (20after.15)

The Colonel calls Miles out on his passivity. Why didn't he assert himself like he did when he was making out with her earlier? How do Miles's emotions get entangled in the choices he makes? Think about his nature and Alaska's nature.

Chapter 56
Miles Halter

So we gave up. I'd finally had enough of chasing after a ghost who did not want to be discovered. We'd failed, maybe, but some mysteries aren't meant to be solved. (118after.1)

Miles and the Colonel find out as much as they can, but then they quit because they "failed." This doesn't sound like a choice at first, but it is a choice they make. Consider why they choose to leave Alaska's mystery unsolved.

I thought: Straight and fast. Maybe she just decided at the last second. (118after.16)

Think about how Alaska makes choices throughout the book. Was it suicide or an accident? Does it even matter how she chose if the end result is the same?

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