"I go to seek a Great Perhaps"

The Perplexities of Characters and Why they Ruin Our Lives
in Addition to Making them Worth Living

Part II: The Legend of the Reckless Heroine

I love strong, vibrant female characters. I find it easy to look up to them. They have traits that anyone would want.

But I've noticed, recently, that some writers take it a step further. A step toward the unstable, or the impulsive.

Let me explain. I'm sure you've all read the Hunger Games. Yes? Well Katniss is an example of an independent, intelligent and admirable female character. She, in a way, empowers women. Or at least that's how I see it. And I love her.

I also love John Green. A lot. But. I sometimes have an issue with the way people view his characters. In Looking for Alaska, the main girl, Alaska Young, is certainly a stand-out character. But not in the same way Katniss is. She's headstrong, but reckless. Wild and enigmatical. And big. And Miles, the narrator, falls for her.

Looking for Alaska is a beautiful story, and I wouldn't change it, but I just have a hard time believing in Alaska.

I have never met anyone like her. Have you? And I really can't relate. I'm not saying I have it all together. No, quite the contrary. It's just that I find it really hard to relate to so dynamic and self-descructive of a character. She's larger than life. And she makes it look desirable almost. Tragic and insufferable. But desirable. She's a paradox. I love that such a character could be created, but I have yet to find her in life.

And maybe that's part of the beauty of it. A book is an escape. Right? But like I mentioned yesterday, we seek to find similarities between ourselves and the characters we read or see. And maybe I'm the only one, but I don't understand Alaska. She's a mystery. Which could be, perhaps, what the author intended.

But Alaska isn't the only one who fits this description. Multiple books and movies display this type of female lead.

Clementine Kruczynski is desperate, careless and impulsive. Scarlett O'Hara is self-serving, vain and incredibly loyal. Summer Finn is quirky, distant and flaky. Daisy Buchanan is selfish, shallow and effervescent.  Holly Golightly is lost, charming and naive. *

*Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Scarlett from Gone with the Wind
Summer from 500 Days of Summer
Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby
Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany's

I love all most of these characters dearly. For the most part, they're real. So real. And that's what I love about them. But they also have another quality. An air of mystery. Something not so easily described or portrayed.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that these characters are messed up. Most of them even admit it. But the "perfect" (notice the quotations) guy falls in love with them anyway. They make normal seem overrated.

And I use the term "normal" loosely. What I mean is that most of them make wearing a straight jacket look alluring. It's like the only true way to make a guy fall for you is too be as ambiguous or reckless or irritating as possible. It will give your relationship passion. That will surely win him over.  I just have the feeling that people think, the only way to be an interesting person is to be like Alaska Young.

And I think that's the completely wrong message.

People. Just normal people. Are messed up in some way. This is what being human is all about. And these female characters exemplify this well. But almost too well.

I can't speak for the whole world, but I'm going to anyway. I think we love these characters because they are so different from the norm. They are infecting. And beautiful in their own way. They don't set lofty standards for people. They allow room for failure. I can definitely appreciate that. But they make this failure look flawless. Which I always thought was impossible.

People want to be them anyway.

Sometimes it's hard. It's hard knowing that these are the type of people we seem to love (minus Daisy, because honestly she sucks).

Because I can't be Alaska Young for you. And I don't want to.


  1. I know exactly what you mean about Alaska. I was having this mental confusion when I was reading the book where I couldn't decide if I wanted to be like her or whether I didn't want to be like her. She's self-destructive and reckless, after all. But she's complex, you know? I think a lot of us seek that complexity that she has. We're all afraid of being figured out too quickly.

    Woah, deep thoughts at midnight. I don't know, I've always kind of held a bitterness towards John Green's female characters, because they're always really complex and dynamic, and I don't know anyone like that.

    Random fact: I loved Holly Golightly as a character. :)

    1. Same here. I'm jealous of how deep but adventurous they are. And how they seem to take life by storm..but then I think about it, and I really don't know if I could be happy that way. Because, were they happy? Not really. I think John just wishes girls were like that. Because honestly, I don't know a single person who even comes close to being as complex, intelligent, dynamic and messed up as Alaska.

      Oh me too <3 Holly Golightly is basically my favorite. But I had to add her because she fits. Another character I want to be…but am also confused about.

      I'm confused about everything. This post took me an entire hour and a half to write because I kept proving the opposite of what I was trying to say by accident. Because I'm so back and forth about it. I know for sure that I can't be Alaska, and that makes me mad. But I don't know if it's because I'm jealous of her, or angry because everyone else seems to either want her or want to be her.

  2. I'm gonna have to re-read this during the day when I'm more awake, because I want to properly absorb all you're trying to say here. Alaska is one very unique character (and John Green is my hero!) but you're right--she's a character. If such a person exists in real life I've never met her. It doesn't seem likely, now that you mention it. Katniss is much more...identifiable. But she's also less complicated. You know her motivations right away. There are no secrets with Katniss, no head-scratching "why would she do that?" moments. But she's terrific in her own way.

    Maybe the biggest difference I can think of (this late at night) is that Alaska is self-descructive, and in John Green's story world there seems to be no point to her behavior. There's a catalyst, but no 'greater good'. Her recklessness benefits no one, least of all herself. Katniss is the complete opposite; everything she does benefits someone--Prim, Peeta, Panem. That's what makes her a heroine.

    They're both terrific characters though. Hooray for fascinating female protags! :)

    1. It probably won't help to read in the day-time honestly. It will probably just prove to be more confusing hahaha

      I agree with you. Alaska does seem to have one thing on her mind. And though she cares about her friends, they definitely come second. Another reason why I don't think Alaska should be put on this pedestal that I somehow believe to be there. ( I don't know if other people see her like this or not, but it just seems that way. I just get that feeling from Nerdfighteria. Maybe I'm wrong. Wouldn't be the first time).

  3. Apart from Katniss, I don't know any of these characters except Clementine (movie version). I've no idea if it was based on a book or not. And yes, I've basically just shown how uncultured I am by admitting this lol!

    1. I don't know if it's based on a book or not either lol. I've only seen the movie too :)

      You're not uncultured! You're just cultured in a different way :) Remember that time you had that huge list of movies that I only saw two of? Yea. Same thing hahaha

    2. Haha! Yes but the majority of that list was dedicated to movies with Nic Cage in them lol!

  4. Well people and characters are flawed, that is what helps us relate to them. I think people who want to become people like this though, who are a bit beyond flawed and entering purely "messed up" find their own lives too boring, or too normal, and want a change. They can get that change, without becoming something they aren't.

    1. I agree that people are often bored with their lives. That's why these character appeal to them. Which is the completely wrong way of going about changing yourself.

  5. Wow, I think I see Alaska differently than you and anyone who's commented. First, since all those characters are fiction we rarely find those people in real life and at least in Alaska's case I never once thought she was acting that way to get someone to fall for her. Considering her "worst day ever" story I thought her behavior was expected and normal (I have known people to act that way) though not healthy. True there was no 'greater good' to her recklessness, but how could there be? She wasn't acting that way to be positive, she was trying to escape that soul crushing guilt.

    1. Well I really don't think she was trying to get anyone to fall for her. In fact, I think she was doing everything but that. Alaska was somewhat single-minded, and as you mentioned, overwhelmed with guilt.

      The problem I have is that these characters (not just Alaska) are praised or looked up to by readers/viewers. And though their stories are tragic and heartbreaking, I don't think it's something we should want to become. I wouldn't be saying any of this, if I didn't think that was true. Do you know how many people have usernames about Alaska or Margo Roth Spiegelman? I've seen quite a few. I highly doubt that every single one of those people have gone through anything resembling what Alaska did. And I think that's an insult to her character. And troubling.

      She wasn't trying to get anyone to fall for her. But someone did. And that's fine. She was a beautiful person, but she had her issues.

      I don't have a problem with John Green's character. I have a problem with the way people read her. They look at her like she's someone they want to be. Even I've been guilty of it. And I think that's the wrong message.

    2. I agree with you one hundred percent. I may have misread what you meant in your post. If people are taking the character names for user names I think that's a misunderstanding on their part about what the characters are or mean. At least in Margo's case she wasn't supposed to be a character, she was what other people saw. Even the readers don't know the real character. With Alaska at least we had a slightly better understanding (though I have my own opinions about Alaska's final decision). Like John Green said, once the book is out of the author's hands it's up to the reader to do what they will with it, even misrepresent it. Though I do think it's okay to take select qualities from characters that we would like to see in ourselves, but selfishness would not be one of them. Just because a character is written about doesn't make them noble.

    3. Dude. You didn't misread it. It's just not a very well-written post. I apologize for that! BEDA has taken its toll.

    4. BEDA or not, I've liked the thought you put into these last ones about characters. And I've enjoyed watching the insanity slowly creep in. By tomorrow I fully expect you to make no sense at all :p

  6. Maybe I read Alaska wrong but when I was reading Looking for Alaska I always got the feeling that you didn't want to be anything like her. That she was beautiful and adventurous but she was hurting. I thought everyone agreed with me that you didn't want to be like Alaska or to an extent Margo. They were both in trouble.

    I've never looked up to Alaska, or wanted to be her. Some characters I do want to be and I agree with Anna that everyone always wanted that air of mystery that she so perfectly possesses, but I can't believe anyone has ever wanted to have the problems that Alaska had to live with. Maybe I'm just wrong haha!

    1. No I definitely agree with you. I don't think people want her problems. But I think people wish they had her spirit. Sometimes. Or they're jealous of it. And it's confusing. Or at least it is for me. I don't have one fully formed opinion about all this. But I do think people misunderstand the intent of the novel.

      And it's more than just Alaska. The other characters I mentioned are perhaps better examples because they didn't have as dark of a past.

      You're not wrong! This post was just confusing and I wrote it at like midnight lol