"I did an investigation," [Margo] said quite seriously. (Prologue.26)
Margo is a little detective even at nine years old. She's like Daphne and Velma rolled into one, but investigating suicides in Florida instead of people dressed up as ghosts at haunted theme parks.
As I took those two steps back, Margo took two equally small and quiet steps forward. (Prologue.14)
When they're kids, Margo is the one with the adventurous, inquisitive nature, while Quentin wants to back off and run home, exploring only the inside of his own eyelids.
"My heart is really pounding," I said.
"That's how you know you're having fun," Margo said. (1.4.78-79)
Margo Roth Spiegelman seems to like the adrenaline rush of exploring forbidden places more than the actual exploration itself.
"We're just going to go to SeaWorld, that's all. It's the only theme park I haven't broken into yet." (1.7.71)
Ever since Blackfish, no one wants to pay to get into SeaWorld anyway.
"In your last moments […] you'll say to yourself: 'Well, I wasted my whole goddamned life, but at least I broke into SeaWorld with Margo Roth Spiegelman my senior year of high school. At least I carpe'd that one diem.'" (1.8.8)
Margo Roth Spiegelman likes to think that she's the most important person ever. For her, it's not about the exploration, it's about being with Margo Roth Spiegelman.
I couldn't help but hope that Margo Roth Spiegelman would return to my window and drag my tired ass through one more night I'd never forget. (2.1.65)
Quentin doesn't just want to see Margo again, he wants her to take him places again. He wants to explore, but doesn't know how to risk it himself.
I seemed to be the first person to walk on these unnamed dirt streets in years. (2.10.39)
By following the trail that he thinks Margo has laid for him, Quentin explores places that no one would ever make a tourist destination, like abandoned subdivisions, a.k.a. pseudovisions, in Florida.
In becoming comfortable, I found it easier to explore. (2.12.18)
Quentin has a lot of anxiety, but the more he explores, the less anxious he feels, and the less anxious he feels, the more he explores. It's cyclical.
The book was called Roadside America: Your Travel Guide. […] Someone had folded down the corners of several seemingly random pages. (2.12.40)
We guess Margo doesn't get Wi-Fi at the abandoned strip mall, so she can't plan out her route online; she has to use a decades-old travel guide. (It turns out this is a red herring, so we don't get to ride along the World's Largest Ball of Twine.)
"WOOHOO ROAD TRIP!" (3.1.4)
The road trip has been the ultimate manifestation of North American exploration ever since Lewis and Clark. An all-caps exclamation of excitement is the only appropriate reaction to an impending road trip.
[Margo] wore white shorts and a pink T-shirt that featured a green dragon breathing a fire of orange glitter. It is difficult to explain how awesome I found this T-shirt at the time. (Prologue.5)
Quentin loves everything about Margo, even her nine-year-old fashion sense. He is to Margo Roth Spiegelman what bronies are to My Little Pony. (Mar-bro Roth Spiegelman? Margo Roth Spiegel-bro? We're in over our heads with this one…)
My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman. (Prologue.1)
[Margo] was absolutely unprecedented in every way. (1.3.1)
Margo Roth Spiegelman is practically a mythical character—Quentin even refers to her as a queen at one point, although goddess might be more appropriate. There's always a gulf between a goddess and mortals, and neither one really understands the other.
"She's just doing Margo stuff. Making stories. Rocking worlds." (2.1.64)
Would people be disappointed in Margo if she started acting "normal"? Margo has put a lot of pressure on herself to live up to all her antics in order to continue receiving admiration from her peers.
She called out, "Thank you for my two hundred dollars!" (2.5.20)
Quentin starts receiving admiration from other students when, after Margo leaves, he puts a stop to some bullying all by himself.
It must be said that Lacey Pemberton was very beautiful. She was not the kind of girl who could make your forget about Margo Roth Spiegelman, but she was the kind of girl who could make you forget about a lot of things. (2.13.64)
Maybe if Lacey Pemberton had three names (Lacey Roth Pemberton? Lacey Margo-Roth Pemberspiegelmanton?), she could make Quentin forget about Margo Roth Spiegelman.
"Look at our boy Ben! He's some kind of autistic savant when it comes to keg stands. Apparently he's like setting a world record right now or something." (2.13.34)
While Quentin wouldn't be caught dead doing a keg stand, Ben is pretty excited to set the keg stand record. Different social circles admire different feats.
"I honestly never thought of her as anything but my crazy beautiful friend who does all the crazy beautiful things." (2.16.3)
Even Lacey Pemberton sees Margo as less of a friend and more as some sort of goddess or idol or Top Model contestant or something.
"As long as we don't die, this is gonna be one hell of a story." (3.20.28)
By searching for Margo Roth Spiegelman, Quentin and his friends have created a Margo Roth Spiegelman-esque story of their own to share and gain the admiration of others with.
"And then you surprise me. […] That night you turned out to be real." (3.22.93)
It's a big moment when Quentin realizes that Margo Roth Spiegelman isn't a goddess or a queen, she's a real person. Does he still admire her?
These stories, when they were shared, inevitably ended with, I mean, can you believe it? We often could not, but they always proved true. (1.1.22)
Margo Roth Spiegelman is a wild mystery to people at her high school, telling them that she once ran away with the circus, or learned to play guitar in Mississippi. What we want to know is how they proved these wild stories were true.
I liked being bored. (1.1.89)
Quentin is fine with the status quo—studying for school, taking exams, focusing on college. He says it's "being bored," but if he likes doing these things, is he really "bored"?
"I'm a big believer in random capitalization. The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words in the middle." (1.3.7)
Margo Roth Spiegelman's random Capitalization is One of the Many Affections she Has, and it says a lot about her identity: She wants to be different, but she's not going to actually rearrange the sentence in order to change.
"I'm not pretty. Not close up, anyway. Generally, the closer people get to me the less hot they find me." (1.4.22)
Margo is the type of person who projects her identity outward, but she doesn't really know who she really is. So when people get close, things are a little messier than the carefully cultivated identity she puts forward.
I wanted Margo's disappearance to change me; but it hadn't, not really. (2.10.36)
Quentin wants Margo Roth Spiegelman's disappearance to change him, but he says it hasn't… but is he really the best judge of his own identity? Has it changed Quentin?
"She's not dead. She's a drama queen. Wants attention." (2.10.31)
A person's identity is made up of both how they present themselves and how others perceive them. If you ask Ben, he perceives Margo as a drama queen. And he isn't the only who thinks this—her parents would agree. Does that make her a drama queen?
"Stop thinking Ben should be you, and he needs to stop thinking you should be him, and y'all just chill the hell out." (2.14.46)
Radar makes a good point about friendship: Good friends have complementary personalities, and they accept each other's differences instead of trying to change them. And really, it would be boring if everyone acted exactly the same.
Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl. (2.15.22)
Quentin realizes that by idolizing Margo, he was taking away her humanity, in a way. He wasn't treating her as a person; he was treating her as an object or an ideal.
"I looked down and thought about how I was made of paper. I was the flimsy-foldable person, not everyone else. And here's the thing about it. People love the idea of a paper girl. They always have. And the worst thing is that I loved it, too. I cultivated it, you know?" (3.22.96)
This is an epiphany for Margo. She realizes that it's not life and everyone in it that's boring, but she who is boring, and she has to find what she really appreciates and loves in order to be a complete person and live life to the fullest.
Ben had been my best friend since fifth grade, when we both finally owned up to the fact that neither of us were likely to attract anyone else as a best friend. (1.1.9)
That's one way to find a friend, but what do Quentin and Ben have in common? Maybe not much, which is why they end up fighting later on in the novel.
"We're not friends. We're neighbors." (1.2.40)
Margo Roth Spiegelman calls Quentin her friend, but he's quick to clarify that they're just neighbors—they haven't actually hung out in nine years. But Margo seems to have a different definition of friend than Quentin does, and she only calls him her friend so he'll drive her around town.
"When you say nasty things about people, you should never say the true ones, because you can't really fully and honestly take those back, you know?" (1.5.7)
Invaluable friendship advice from Margo Roth Spiegelman: When you want to be mean to your friends, make sure you're only spreading mean lies about them, not mean truths.
"Yeah, well, I was always friends with a lot of people." (1.7.67)
This is one of those things like how if everyone were special, no one would be. If everyone is Margo Roth Spiegelman's friend, then does she really have any friends?
I knew exactly what Ben meant: he meant listening to the Mountain Goats with your friends in a car that runs on a Wednesday morning in May on the way to Margo and whatever Margotastic prize came with finding her. (2.8.19)
It seems that doing something spontaneous with your friends creates wonderful memories, instead of planning every last detail (à la Margo Roth Spiegelman).
"I am happy to participate in your investigation. But I have a girlfriend. She wants to have a nice prom. I want to have a nice prom. It's not my fault that Margo Roth Spiegelman didn't want us to have a nice prom." (2.11.48)
Radar respects Quentin's desire to find Margo Roth Spiegelman, but he's not willing to sacrifice his own life for it. Friends are allowed to have their own lives, too, after all—something Margo, who thinks the world revolves around her, doesn't seem to realize.
I did not expect to see Jase Worthington and two other baseball players holding a tuxedo-clad Ben upside down above a keg of beer. (2.13.21)
Ben makes new friends, and Quentin is angry with him for it. But why? Is Quentin jealous? Or does he just not want Ben to be friends with people he doesn't like? Do Ben's friends affect Quentin in any way at all?
I wonder if [Margo] created this journey for us on purpose or by accident—regardless, it's the most fun I've had since the last time I spent hours behind the wheel of a minivan. (3.1.22)
The reason this trip is so fun for Quentin is that he's getting to spend time with his friends living, instead of sitting in his room trying to be like Margo.
I don't know how I look, but I know how I feel: Young. Goofy. Infinite. (3.4.52)
What is this, The Perks of Being Wallflower? What is it with teens feeling infinite while in a car together?
Quentin is a good student, and Green lets us see his academic nature before he finds Margo Roth Spiegelman's copy of Walt Whitman's poems (Margo Roth Whitspiegelman), so we understand that his studying of it doesn't come unnaturally to him.
I sat alone with "Song of Myself" for a long time, and for about the tenth time I tried to read the entire poem starting at the beginning, but the problem was that it's like eighty pages long and weird and repetitive, and although I could understand each word of it, I couldn't understand anything about it as a whole. (2.10.1)
What, has Quentin never been to Shmoop? We could have explained this poem to him in minutes.
"I do think there are some interesting connections between the poet in 'Song of Myself' and Margo Roth Spiegelman—all that wild charisma and wanderlust." (2.11.28)
At the end of the book, Margo says she didn't choose this poem specifically, but maybe something in it spoke to her subconsciously.
"She seems to have responded very darkly to what is finally a very optimistic poem. The poem is about our connectedness—each of us sharing the same root system like leaves of grass." (2.11.18)
Dr. Holden explains that Leaves of Grass is probably the exact opposite of how Margo Roth Spiegelman interprets it. Ms. MRS seems to want to be anything but a part of society, so of course she takes Walt Whitman's meaning and twists it around to fit her own personal ideology.
"I hate to see it reduced to such a literal reading." (2.11.18)
Quentin's teacher, Dr. Holden, encourages him to dig deeper into "Song of Myself," but do you think Margo would have done so, or does she just do a superficial and literal reading herself?
It was the lack of alternative stimuli that led me back to "Song of Myself." […] And for some reason, finally, I could read it. (2.12.30)
It can be hard to concentrate on reading and writing, what with cable TV, text messaging, Instagram… oh BRB we just got a Snapchat from John Green…
So grass is a metaphor for life, and for death, and for equality, and for connectedness, and for children, and for God, and for hope. (2.12.35)
That's some impressive grass. By looking into the poem's deeper meaning, Quentin finds deeper meaning in life itself, beyond just searching for Margo Roth Spiegelman.
I had reached a weird part of the poem—after all this time listening and hearing people, and then traveling alongside them, Whitman stops hearing and he stops visiting, and he starts to become other people. Like, actually inhabit them. (2.19.12)
This metaphysical possession is something Quentin tries to do with Margo. He tries to put himself not just in her shoes, but inside her brain, tracing her every step and motivation.
"I started writing a story in this notebook. It was kind of a detective story." (3.22.71)
When Margo was a girl, she wrote a mystery story because she thought life would be more interesting that way. At eighteen years old, she decides to make her life a mystery story instead of just writing about it.
Those items sit atop two books: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. (3.22.64)
It looks like Margo Roth Spiegelman has taken advantage of her solitude to expand her literary horizons. This is quite a development for her. In Part 1, she seems disappointed that Quentin quotes poetry, as though she thinks there's no use for literary knowledge.
"College: getting in or not getting in. Trouble: getting in or not getting in. School: getting A's or getting D's. Career: having or not having. House: big or small, owning or renting. Money: having or not having. It's all so boring." (1.3.15)
Margo Roth Spiegelman doesn't just think life is boring, she thinks she's better than all that, and she looks down on anyone who lives a life like everyone else.
"Everything is uglier up close," she said. (1.6.31)
Maybe Margo Roth Spiegelman thinks this because she thinks she is uglier up close, so it's hard for her to see that other people, places, and things might actually have value upon closer inspection.
Margo scoffed. "Really? You seriously think so?"
"I mean, well, maybe not," I said, although it was. (1.6.29-30)
She doesn't understand how Quentin could find Orlando, their hometown, beautiful. She only likes when people are just as cynical and dissatisfied as she is.
"I've lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters." (1.6.34)
Margo is disappointed and disgusted by the way other people act, but what does she care about that makes her so different? Is she any different?
"Doing stuff never feels as good as you hope it will feel." (1.8.62)
Is it possible that Margo is doing the wrong things? Whose fault is it that the things she does don't live up to her own expectations? How does she fix that?
As Mom pulled up to school, I saw Margo's usual spot empty in the senior parking lot. (2.1.13)
Quentin hopes that his night with Margo will change his life, so it's a deflating moment when she's not even at school the next day.
Not wanting to be found by some kids in Jefferson Park isn't the same thing as not wanting to die. (2.8.28)
Quentin worries that Margo isn't just dissatisfied with her life, or, as Ben suggests, craving attention, but that she's suicidal and depressed.
This is the value of our souvenirs, I think: you can't give this shit away. (2.9.31)
The mini-mall where Margo Roth Spiegelman squats (Margo Roth Spiegelsquats) is a sad place, filled with souvenirs. Sometimes people are really happy to get a souvenir, but as the trip becomes more of a distant memory, the souvenir gathers dust and eventually gets tossed out.
I found myself able to imagine Margo here, leaning against the wall with the musty rolled-up carpet for a seat, eating a nutrition bar. She is all alone, with only this to eat. (2.12.23)
Quentin imagines this amazing life that Margo has created for herself, so he's disappointed (and a bit alarmed) to learn that she's merely been squatting in a rat hole.
It all seemed so trivial, so embarrassing. It all seemed like paper kids having their paper fun. (2.13.22)
Looks like Margo's condescending nature has finally rubbed off on Quentin.
"If I ever end up being the kind of person who has one kid and seven bedrooms, do me a favor and shoot me." (1.5.18)
Margo doesn't seem to be the type to settle down. She wants her home to be a place on the go.
From above, Orlando was pretty well lit. […] "It's beautiful," I said. (1.6.27)
This is another place where Margo and Quentin differ: Quentin thinks Orlando is pretty, but Margo practically barfs over the side of the building. Even though she's been raised here, it isn't her home.
I felt entirely alone among these big and empty buildings. (1.6.1)
Quentin and Margo are very different here. Quentin likes his house, his room, and his family, while Margo makes her home in solitude.
"I don't want her under our roof." Mrs. Spiegelman raised a tissue to her eyes, although I heard no crying in her voice. (2.3.25)
Now we see part of the reason Margo Roth Spiegelman doesn't feel at home at, well, home. Her parents don't seem to be the warmest, most welcoming people in Florida.
"I guess she told Jase like two days before she left that New York was the only place in America where a person could actually live a halfway livable life." (2.5.18)
This tells us something about Margo Roth Spiegelman: She's a big city girl stuck in a small town.
It seemed to me that this was not a place you go to live. It was a place you go to die. (2.8.27)
Margo thinks the same thing about the town she and Quentin grow up in. Just like one man's trash can be another man's treasure, one man's dump can be Margo Roth Spiegelman's condominium.
But why here? How is this better than home? And if it's so great, why leave? (2.12.25)
Quentin doesn't understand why Margo would set up a camp in an abandoned mini-mall and basically live there for days. What makes Margo want to call that place home temporarily?
[Margo] has relocated her offices from an abandoned mini-mall in Florida to an abandoned barn in New York, and I have found her. (3.22.18)
Maybe these places are more like pit stops for Margo on the way to her eventual home, or maybe her home is just, well, her—her car, her books, herself.
I can't believe [Margo]'s been living like this, this irreconcilable mix of tidy suburbaniality and creepy decay. But then again, I can't believe how much time I wasted believing she was living any other way. (3.22.64)
By this point, Quentin should have realized that Margo is completely comfortable living in a dump.
"I kept waiting for that loneliness and nervousness to make me want to go back. But it never did. It's the one thing I can't do, Q." (3.22.113)
It seems that Margo prefers the isolation to going back to where she came from. But is it the isolation she likes, or just being away from her parents? If she likes isolation so much, New York City might not be the best place for her.
"We'll fix this," I said. (2.2.15)
Margo Roth Spiegelman gives Quentin a little more drive than he had before their memorable night out. He decides to stop the school bullies in Margo's absence, and he doesn't stop until he succeeds.
"We are supposed to go to Margo's room and unscrew the lock from the door and unscrew the door itself from its jamb." (2.5.61)
Quentin and his pals are more determined (and resourceful) to find Margo than Scooby-Doo and the gang are to solve their mysteries.
The clue was mine. The doors were mine! (2.7.24)
Instead of giving up after finding nothing in Margo's door, Quentin keeps thinking about the clue, and even tries something completely ridiculous (because, really, how would Margo hide anything in his door?)… and it works.
I don't know who she is anymore, or who she was, but I need to find her. (2.8.37)
Quentin doesn't know anything it seems. Why does he want to find her? Would he be this determined to find someone else he knew so little about?
"There's a way. There has to be." (2.9.8)
Where there's a will, there's a way… and where there's a Margo Roth Spiegelman, there's a Quentin Jacobson obsessing around the clock trying to find her.
"If you move as though your hand will go through the block, and if you believe that your hand will go through the block, then it will." (2.9.12)
Ben says he got this bit of wisdom from a martial arts instructor, but it sounds like it came from a Karate Kid movie. Despite it sounding completely ridiculous, Ben gives it a shot anyway.
"You can argue […] that Ahab is a fool for being obsessed. But you could also argue that there is something tragically heroic about fighting this battle he is doomed to lose." (2.11.9)
Replace "Ahab" with "Quentin" in this sentence, and Margo Roth Spiegelman can be the whale (Moby Roth Spiegelman). What do you think? A fool, or a tragic hero?
I put aside Margo's blanket and shouted, loud enough for all the rats to hear, "I Am Going To Find Something Here!" (2.12.37)
Quentin is so determined to find something (and going a little crazy from isolation) that he tells the rats he's going to make a discovery. Either that, or he's trying to pull a Cinderella and get them to help.
I leave, and the leaving is so exhilarating I know I can never go back. But then what? Do I just keep leaving places, and leaving them, and leaving them, tramping a perpetual journey? (2.19.25)
There's an inertia that develops whether you're staying in a place or leaving it. Quentin doesn't want to leave his hometown, but once he sees how exciting it can be, he can't stop. But he's not as persistent as Margo Roth Spiegelman is—she seems to want to live this lifestyle forever.
"The good news is that we will be stopping. The bad news is that it won't be for another four hours and thirty minutes." (3.1.20)
The road trip is the ultimate endurance test for everyone in the car. The have to push through to each scheduled stop, because they don't have time to stop whenever they want.