The Impact of Change: A Reflection on "Paper Towns"

Change, be it positive or negative, is an intrinsic part of life. This essay delves into the complexities of change in the context of John Green's novel, "Paper Towns." It argues that the influence of friends and family on the characters leads to external conflicts, changes in behavior, and profound impacts on relationships.

External Conflict: Margo's Disappearance

The narrative of "Paper Towns" is woven with the external conflict of Margo's disappearance, a conflict primarily rooted in familial dynamics. Margo's parents, notably her mother, create an environment that influences her decision to run away.

A poignant example of this is Margo's mother's callous remark upon Margo's disappearance, stating, "She was a sickness in this family!" (Green 103).

Margo's strained relationship with her family becomes a driving force behind her actions. Unlike Quentin, whose parents would be genuinely concerned if he were to run away, Margo's parents exhibit indifference. This parental neglect shapes Margo's perception of her own worth and fuels her desire to escape.

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In a moment of vulnerability, Margo admits to Quentin that her family played a role in her decision to run away. This revelation unveils the complex interplay between external influences and self-driven motivations.

Moreover, Margo's self-awareness grows as she acknowledges her own role in her escape. She confesses to Quentin that she wore a "mask," presenting a version of herself that wasn't authentic. Her self-realization emphasizes the novel's theme that avoiding problems by running away only perpetuates them.

Characters Acting Differently: Quentin's Transformation

The ripple effect of Margo's disappearance extends to Quentin's character, prompting a transformation that is both profound and complex.

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Before Margo's departure, she endeavors to mold Quentin into a persona that contradicts his authentic self. Margo encourages Quentin to engage in activities that deviate from his usual character, pushing him to become a "badass."

Quentin's compliance with Margo's influence during their night of schemes illustrates the extent of this transformation. He is pushed to pull a prank on Chuck, an act that is incongruent with his natural inclinations. Margo's departure marks a turning point for Quentin, as his actions post-Margo differ significantly from his pre-Margo self.

After Margo's departure, Quentin undergoes further changes, some positive and others detrimental. The pursuit of clues becomes an obsession, leading him to develop unhealthy habits such as skipping school under the guise of illness. His actions, like skipping his own graduation, exemplify how bad habits, when left unchecked, can jeopardize relationships and create lasting repercussions.

Impact on Relationships: Q and His Friends

The evolving dynamics resulting from Margo's disappearance deeply impact Quentin's relationships, notably with his friend Ben. Quentin's unrealistic expectations of his friends to share his single-minded focus on finding Margo strain their friendship. He reflects, "Maybe our friendship had always been about convenience... And now he didn't have to be nice to me, or care about the things I cared about" (Green 191).

Throughout the narrative, Quentin grapples with his desire for Ben to change to align with his own priorities. The tension escalates during a confrontation where Quentin's urgency clashes with Ben's need for rest. This incident highlights the difficulty of accepting friends for who they are, rather than who we want them to be. The impact of Margo's influence exposes the fragility of relationships built on unrealistic expectations.

Impact on Relationships: Q and His Family

The strain caused by Quentin's involvement in the search for Margo extends beyond friendships to his relationship with his parents. Quentin's relentless pursuit of Margo's clues leads to a web of lies to his parents, creating a rift based on deception. Quentin's misrepresentation of attending prom when, in reality, he is following Margo's trail, becomes a poignant example of the lengths to which he goes to conceal the truth (Green 164).

This pattern of dishonesty, if sustained, has the potential to erode trust between Quentin and his parents. The inevitable revelation of Quentin's actions poses a threat to the foundation of familial relationships, emphasizing how external influences can strain the most intimate bonds.


Change, an immutable force, threads through every aspect of life and literature. In "Paper Towns," the influence of friends and family catalyzes negative changes in characters' lives. The external conflict of Margo's disappearance, alterations in Quentin's behavior, and the profound impacts on relationships underscore the complexities of change. While change is an inevitable facet of life, the novel suggests that not all transformations are conducive to positive outcomes.

Updated: Jan 02, 2024
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The Impact of Change: A Reflection on "Paper Towns". (2022, Mar 31). Retrieved from

The Impact of Change: A Reflection on "Paper Towns" essay
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