They all talk about how Ben just saved their lives. Ben insists that he wasn’t being a hero, but was just looking out for himself.
They all do their best to clean up the car’s interior, but it needs a deep carwash. The car will also need a side panel replacement, which Radar says will cost three hundred dollars, which Quentin thinks is a small price to pay for finding Margo.
Quentin starts to fall asleep in the back, and he thinks about how much he’s enjoying this road trip. He invokes the sentiment of Walt Whitman’s poem while he thinks about how the four of them will hang out together in New York even if Margo is not there.
Summary: Hours Sixteen, Seventeen, and Eighteen
When Quentin wakes up, Radar and Ben are debating what to name the car. Quentin suggests The Dreidel, because the harder you spin it, the better it performs.
They all play their game of metaphysical I Spy and sing along to the radio.
They arrive in the Catskills, close to Margo’s alleged location, with thirty minutes to spare. Lacey and Quentin rattle off everything they remember about Margo in hopes that it might help them find her.
Parts One and Three of Paper Towns are both structured around road trips, and they both essentially take place in the span of one long night. In Part One, the destination isn’t the point, since they start and end at Jefferson Park, where Margo and Quentin live. Rather, the focal point of the first road trip is the journey. In Part Three, the destination is the entire focus, since the trip’s purpose is to make it to New York to find Margo.
Although the ostensible point of the road trip is to find Margo in Agloe, the trip itself quickly becomes a way for Quentin and his best friends from high school to bond with each other. Quentin’s friends are extremely loyal to him and to each other, and even if they’re not as obsessed with the Margo Roth Spiegelman drama as he is, they would never let Quentin go on this mission without them.
Quentin provides the engine for the road trip to New York, both physically, since it is his car, and metaphorically, since he is the trip’s natural leader. However, the drive to find Margo is a highly collaborative effort. During her revenge road trip with Quentin, Margo organizes the night into eleven parts, and she has a very clear map in her head of what exactly she wants to do. Quentin is clearly there as Margo’s sidekick. He helps execute the plan, but he doesn’t help figure out what they’re going to do and why they’re going to do it. But Quentin’s friends are crucial to both the planning and the success of Quentin’s road trip to find Margo. Margo’s world revolves entirely around Margo, and most everything else is subordinate to her, whereas Quentin works best in a team, and he is able to trust and depend on others. If Margo’s road trip was a solo operation with a sidekick, Quentin’s road trip is a symbiotic ecosystem.
The road trip to find Margo in upstate New York contains a deep element of wish fulfillment. It would have been very predictable for Quentin and his friends to march obediently to Pomp and Circumstance as they walked across the graduation stage. Although they agree to forgo clothes under their robes, they would still be outwardly fulfilling all the expected duties and requirements, as they have done throughout their lives. However, searching for Margo gives Quentin the courage and recklessness to take a leap and do something outside of his comfort zone.
The road trip also serves as the climax of the novel, both in terms of its plot and in terms of the emotional development of the characters and their relationships to one other. In terms of the plot, the road trip is suspenseful because there’s a ticking clock. Quentin knows that they have less than twenty-four hours to get to New York, because Margo’s note says that she will only be there until May 29th at noon. There have been enough vague but dark clues throughout the search for Margo that Quentin has reason to believe the note she left on Omnictionary might be a suicide note.
In terms of an emotional climax, the trip begins during their high school graduation, which is the event that signifies emancipation and adulthood for all the novel’s main characters. Quentin has just been gifted his car, which symbolizes his adulthood. Yet the car is a minivan, the same kind of car that his mom drives, and the same kind of car that he used to drive himself and Margo on their Orlando adventure. The minivan signifies that even though Quentin is an independent adult, he is still connected to his past. Margo may have cut all her strings, but Quentin is still tied to his roots. The van also lets Quentin’s friends join him for the ride. As Quentin launches into the adult world, he doesn’t have to travel alone.
Ultimately, Quentin’s quest for Margo is less about finding her and more about finding himself. In fewer than twenty-four hours, Quentin feels as though his car is a house and the people inside it are his family. Quentin is a creature of habit, precision, and routine, and high school graduation signifies that daily life as Quentin knows it will come to an end. Change is always terrifying, and Quentin has almost been distracting himself from this fact through his obsession with finding Margo. But as he drifts to sleep in the back of the minivan, this transition from self-discovery to acceptance is evident when he comforts himself with the thought of being able to find happiness in himself and this journey, even if they do not find Margo.