Miles becomes smitten with Alaska and hounds Chip with a series of questions abut who she is. Later Miles meets up with some of Chip’s friends for lunch and he meets Takumi for the first time.
In the middle of the night three “shadowy figures” enter Mile’s dorm room, two grab him and duct tape him and hurl him into the water. After the ordeal Miles goes to Alaska’s room seeking sympathy and an explanation for his near-drowning experience. Instead he is met with casual indifference from Alaska and she tells him that she has real problems. When Miles seeks an explanation from Chip, Chip explains that being thrown in the lake happens to everyone, you just swim out and walk home. However, when Chip learns that Miles was duct taped he proposes revenge. When Miles attends his World Religions class for the first time he points out to Chip the guys that dumped him in the water.
In the World Religions class the teacher Dr. Hyde explains that the students will be studying Islam, Christianity and Buddhism and will be exploring questions such as:
- What is the nature of being a person?
- What is the best way to go about being a person?
- How did we come to be, and what will become of us when we are no longer?
- Summary: What are the rules of this game, and how might we best play it?
During the World Religions class Miles becomes distracted by the woods beyond the window, this causes him to lose focus on what Dr. Hyde is saying. Consequently, Miles is kicked out of Dr. Hyde’s class along with Alaska who sticks up for his moment of distraction. After Miles is kicked out he and Alaska go looking for four-leaf clovers, when they find one, Alaska calls it a genetic freak, plucks one of the leaves and proclaims, “luck is for suckers.” Once class is complete, Takumi, Alaska, Chip and Miles go into the woods to the smoking hole.
Earlier in the book Miles states, “I’d never been born again with the baptism and weeping and all that, but it couldn’t feel much better than being born again as a guy with no known past” (8). However, Miles does somewhat experience a baptism, his mummified dump in the water by the “shadowy figures” symbolizes the Christian death, burial and resurrection of baptism. Miles’ dunk in the water symbolizes his rebirth into a new life or journey of the Great Perhaps.
In the Robert Frost poem, mentioned earlier, you recall that he was distracted by the lull of the woods and momentarily considered embracing its beck and call. Well Miles has a similar experience in his World Religions class wherein he becomes distracted by the beauty and seductive nature of the woods:
“I was looking at the wooded, slow-sloping hill beyond the lake…The trees seemed to clothe the hill, and just as I would never think to notice a particular cotton thread in the magnificently tight orange tank top Alaska wore that day, I couldn’t see the trees for the forest” (39).
From the classroom the woods to Miles look beautiful, connected, inviting, and mesmerizing enough for him to lose focus. The beautiful, connected and mesmerizing nature of the woods is also paralleled with Alaska. However, later on when Alaska, Miles, Takumi and Chip go deeper into the woods, the woods are completely different from what was viewed from Dr. Hyde’s classroom:
“The ground was thick with fallen branches, decaying pine needles, and brambly green bushes…the smaller oak and maple trees, which from Dr. Hyde’s classroom had been invisible beneath the more majestic pines, showed hints of an as-yet-thermally-unforeseeable fall: Their still-green leaves were beginning to droop” (41).
Miles was looking where he wasn’t supposed to be looking, as demonstrated when Alaska taps Miles on the shoulder and he ends up looking the wrong way and as demonstrated when Miles becomes distracted by the seduction of Alaska’s cleavage. The woods description and Miles’ distraction by Alaska’s tap and cleavage all demonstrate that Miles is being lulled into the beauty and mesmerizing nature of Alaska or maybe even death but he is missing the ugly truth (fallen branches, droopy leaves) because he is, “looking where I wasn’t supposed to” (40). Like Robert Frost he is being distracted and lulled by beauty, mystery and desire but missing the ugliness of death and decay that is foreshadowing what is to come.
Previous post in the series:
Looking For Alaska Study Guide Part 1.
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