On my way to the beach last week, I listened to the audiobook of Looking for Alaska in my car. BIG mistake. Do you know how hard it is to drive while you’re busy crying over the lives (and deaths) of fictional characters? God, so, SO hard…
Anyway, because I identify with Alaska so much (too much, if you ask my boyfriend…and anyone else who knows what happened to her), and because I feel like I’m running in circles lately, the question she asked: “How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” really nagged at me this time. Pudge said forgiveness; the Colonel said he chose the labyrinth over any method of escape. Alaska went straight and fast.
The secret to getting through a maze, I was taught, is to keep one hand on the wall. Never lift your hand from the wall. You may walk through the entire maze, but eventually, you’ll find your way out. That’s my answer: an anchor.
For some people it’s a person, for others it’s faith, but if you have an anchor that you can keep yourself tethered to as you follow life’s line, it will eventually lead you through and out.
How will I–I personally, as Dr. Hyde asked–ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? The way I get through everything: stories. The reasons I read are to both escape and understand the labyrinth I live in. I write mainly to process my own experiences and feelings through it. Even the adventures I go on are me trying to live out the story I want for my life.
The image of pain as a labyrinth was really iconic for Alaska, who likely had some form of depression (and I only say likely instead of definitely because I’m not a psychiatric professional and can’t really diagnose), specifically in the idea that the pain surrounds us, that it towers over us so we cannot see past it. She got lost in it. Sometimes, it is toxicly overwhelming. But no matter how high the walls get, you can always hold on to something. Maybe that something will get you through.
A final note: The copy I have includes “Questions for Discussion,” and while many of the questions are interesting, only one touches me almost as much as the question of escaping the labyrinth. “Was it necessary for Alaska to die?”
I am, above all, and optimist. And I believe that pain and suffering are never necessary, but they are true and they do happen. Could the story have been told without her death? No, it would have been a different story.
I’m one of those writers who believes the story is OUT THERE and it’s the author’s job to write it exactly as it comes, more or less. So no, her death was not necessary, but I do believe it was true, in as many ways as a fictional story can be.