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Go Ask Alice

Anonymous

Sept. 16–Dec. 25

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Jan. 1–July 14

Summary

(Sept. 16) An unnamed diarist, whom the novel's title refers to as Alice, records her first entry in a diary (these entries constitute the entirety of Go Ask Alice). She explains that she bought the diary yesterday when, in high spirits after being asked out by a boy she liked (Roger), she believed she finally had beautiful thoughts to share with herself through writing. Today, however, Roger has apparently rejected her. Alice fears a humiliating day at school tomorrow. (Sept. 17) The next day at school, Alice is miserably insecure and wonders why people always seem to hurt her feelings.

(Sept. 19–23) Alice's fifteenth birthday passes, and her boredom with life is interrupted only by weight gain and her accompanying self-loathing. But she learns that her father, a college professor, has accepted a teaching position at a different college and the family will move at the start of the new year. This perks Alice up, and she asks her diary to help her stay diligent in her mission to remake herself by losing weight. She fantasizes about Roger's asking her out and her rejection of him.

(Oct. 10) The family excitedly unites in preparation for the move. Alice is especially eager to start her life over, although she wants to take along her books, her most treasured possessions. (Oct. 17) Now that she knows she'll soon leave, school is fun again, and she doesn't care about Roger anymore. (Oct. 22) Alice goes on a date with a boy from school and obsesses on gaining weight and eating to her diary. She concedes that she doesn't like this new boy as much as Roger, whom she believes is the love of her life. She can't picture losing her virginity to anyone but Roger, and even then she can't imagine herself having sex or having a baby.

(Nov. 10) Alice is afraid to leave behind the house she's lived in her whole life. She vows to take her diary with her wherever she goes. (Nov. 30) Her grandparents visit, and Alice is especially sad to leave them. (Dec. 4) Alice's mother has taken notice of Alice's irregular eating habits and is forcing Alice to eat. Alice resents this intrusion and wonders if she could make herself throw up after eating. (Dec. 10) Alice writes that she is most herself with her diary. With her friends, she, like everyone else, tries to fit in and in the process loses her identity. She claims she does not want this to happen to her.

(Dec. 17) Alice's mother helps Alice sew a dress for a Christmas party to which she's been invited. Alice hopes to be like her mother some day and wonders if her mother struggled with the same romantic and identity issues when she was young. She wishes she could talk to her mother about this, since she doesn't trust the opinions of her friends. (Dec. 22) A boy drives Alice home from the party, and they kiss. Alice remains insecure and wishes she were more successful in every way. (Dec. 25) She has a wonderful Christmas with her extended family but is saddened by the realization that this is their final Christmas in the house.

Analysis

Go Ask Alice opens with issues that are as relevant to teenagers today as they were in the 1960s. Alice is a perceptive, sensitive, and insecure girl who worries about boys, peer acceptance, her blossoming sexuality, and her family. She displays a heightened intelligence and an awareness of her emotions and records her sophisticated observations and feelings with lucid, readable prose. Alice's saving grace, here and throughout the novel, is her ability to explore herself through her diary while the outside world often disappoints. She capitalizes the word "Diary" and refers to it as a person, confiding in it and asking it to monitor her weight-loss regimen as if it were a close friend. Indeed, this is one of the major themes of Go Ask Alice; through her diary, she comes to know herself well and feels "Diary" knows her intimately, too, when no one else seems to. Her books fulfill a similar function; they harbor Alice from the drabness and pain of the real world and usher her into an imaginative world that becomes part of her own. The confusion in her memory over what she has read and how she has lived shows that Alice loves writing because it lets her experience a world that at the same time experiences her.

But connecting through writing alone is not enough to survive, as Alice laments throughout her diary. She hides her identity around her friends and can't talk openly to her mother. Social pressures contribute to her sense of alienation. She is especially unhappy about her appearance and, while she takes out her anger on her mother over her near-anorexia, the real enemy is society's notion of perfection. Alice sums up this idealized image, which she aspires to, as being "popular and beautiful and wealthy and talented." These are obviously preoccupations that inflict themselves on every age, but the way Alice describes her friends at school, as robots on an assembly line, suggests that in her hometown the counter-cultural rebellion of the 1960s has not yet overtaken the conformity of the 1950s. Alice's feelings about her sexuality, while still relevant today, are especially reminiscent of the 50s, with her naïve idealization of Roger and anxiety over losing her virginity. Still, she is more independent than one might expect, as when she flouts Roger and dreams about rejecting him, but her fear that she might weaken exposes her lurking insecurity.

Despite her inability to open up to them, Alice still views her upper-middle- class parents as role models (she even contradicts herself when she states she does not want to be like anyone else, then later hopes she turns out like her mother when she's older). The whole family is very close-knit, and Alice is especially attached to her grandparents. She sentimentalizes the notion of family and yearns for this bubble never to burst.

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Alice

by catsarecoolio, December 19, 2013

Alice isn't the name of the character, 'Go Ask Alice' is a lyric from a song called 'White Rabbit'.

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