Paper Towns

6 Dec

A paper town is a town that exists only on paper, created by cartographers as a copyright trap.  In theory, a person knows that copyright of his/her map has been breached when the paper town created for one map appears on subsequent maps produced by other companies/people.

However, as John Green explains in the beginning of his TED Talk below, theory is not always the same as reality.  In Green’s example, enough people visited the place marked by the paper town that a real town was built.

This idea, argues Green, is an “irresistible metaphor,” not least of all because it signals that “how we map the world, changes the world.”

It is this concept that inspired Green’s novel Paper Towns.

Paper Towns is, in essence, a story about discovery; discovering new friends, discovering clues, discovering love, discovering independence and discovering identity.  To return to the map metaphor, it is about discovering how the ways we  map/see the world can determine our stories.  A more detailed summary can be found here.

The other lovely thing about Green’s novel is that it helps the reader to discover the power of language in plotting our paths. Green’s novels are always rich in intextual allusion, imagery and metaphor.  Paper Towns is no different.  Alongside the aforementioned overriding metaphor associated with cartography, Green introduces us to the completing metaphors of strings and grass as a means of understanding the self and others.  The explanatory quote is taken from near the end of the book (Green, 2008, p. 349):

“If you choose the strings, then you’re imagining a world in which you can become irreparably broken.  If you choose the grass, you’re saying that we are all infinitely interconnected, that we can use these root systems not only to understand one another but to become one another.” 

Through this distinction, Green makes clear that “metaphors have implications” for how we perceive ourselves and our relationships.   The message is thus that careful selection of “which metaphor you choose… matters.”


One Response to “Paper Towns”


  1. Discovery related texts | Once uPUN a time... - July 9, 2014

    […] Paper Towns by John Green (novel) […]


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