Despite her deepening attachment to drugs and her alienation from the world, Alice remains aware of her actions and of the harmful effects of drugs. She and her friends comment on the hypocrisy of U.S. drug laws—it's harder for a minor to acquire alcohol than it is to buy illegal marijuana—yet she feels guilty for selling drugs, especially to youngsters. The unspoken reason behind her guilt over selling to kids is her own sense of lost innocence. While turning Richie in to the authorities is a move typical of someone within the establishment, for Alice it is a way to repent for her sins.

Alice also matures in this section, learning more about her sexuality with Richie. However, she has not yet had sex while sober, so much of this new experience is drug-tinged. Richie's betrayal shatters her belief in the purity of love. She later fends off passes from older men with the world-weariness of someone twice her age; no longer is she the girl who was head-over-heels in love with Roger and Richie.

Beneath Alice's psychedelic adventures is her continuing desire to find someone with whom she can have the same open, loving relationship she once had with her family. She says she is only experimenting with drugs but is "hooked" on Richie, but it's clear that she experiments with people (Beth, Greta, Chris), too, in an attempt to find a surrogate family. She even concedes this to herself, when she reflects that Mr. Mellani's belief that she is an orphan is somewhat correct. Her shifting emotions concerning her family—they were the major cause for her departure, yet she longs for them in San Francisco—are underscored by her visit to Mr. Mellani's. As a surrogate father figure, he is far more involved with his children than her own father was, who seemed to prize his professional advancement over his family.