The Feeling Of Suspense In John Green’s Novel ‘Paper Towns’

The feeling of suspense can engulf people. It will grab the reader by the throat. John Green does not just keep the reader on edge, but the characters as well. The mystery is based on Quentin and his journey through a difficult time in life. Quentin is three weeks away from graduation when Margo, his former bestie, appears at his windows and provokes Quentin to go on a revenge quest with her. After he returns to school in the morning, he finds out that Margo’s gone, and no-one knows where Margo might be. The novel is filled with symbolism, tone and description of the setting. It creates suspense and heightens intensity in the story.

The story begins with strings playing a major role. The text uses strings that break to show how someone becomes detached. This changes as the story progresses. The text ends with strings symbolizing freedom. Margo first uses the term in reference to Robert Joyner’s death. She had concluded that after further investigation into the case, “all the strings in him broke” (Green 8). The statement implies that we are all made of strings. She implies that he lost touch with everything and could not survive. Margo’s broken relationship with Quentin and her best friends Jase, Becca and Lacey nine years after her disappearance is described by the same phrase. Detective Warren was called in to investigate Margo’s disappearance. He put strings into another perspective and compared children with balloons. Broken strings could also be a sign of freedom. Detective Warren tells Margo that he has disappeared and uses a complex metaphor about broken-string balloons sailing away from the house to land in various locations. He claims that they sometimes return, but they can also stay in the same place. People think Margo broke the string because she was trying to leave Jefferson Park. The reader is left wondering if Margo will ever return.

John Green uses a variety of tones to create moods in his story. The suspense tone is one of his most notable tones. Quintin’s feelings towards the statement “what she told about the dead man and the string–and about herself and the string” (Green, 70) change throughout the story. Margo tells Quentin that when a string breaks, it is fatal. John Green uses the string to create suspense among the characters and readers. Quintin, his friends and the story’s climax were looking for Margo. Margo’s hints led them into an abandoned mini mall. In the abandoned mini-mall there was “a rusted 8 foot pole on the roadside. The sign had long since been removed, either by a storm or decay. The storefronts themselves fared no better. They were a single-story, flat-roofed building where bare cinderblock was visible at times. The walls were covered in cracks and wrinkles, as if insects were clinging on to nests” (Green 139). This description creates anxiety and fear. The author describes a building that is eerie in a slightly disgusting or unsettling way. It makes the readers uncomfortable and anxious.

The novel is filled with vivid words that create a mental image for the reader. The reader can feel the emotions of the characters and see what they see. Like they did every single day, Margo & Quentin visited the park in the beginning. They were going about their normal day until they spotted a man. As they approached the man, they noticed that “he had blood all around him; a fountain of half-dried blood poured from his mouth”(Green 5). This description helps the reader to visualize the scene. The fountain demonstrates the importance of the blood loss. The reader was unable to imagine the time taken for the blood fountain to become half-dry. John Green shows the barrier between Margo, Quentin and the man by illustrating the blood around him. Near the middle, a mini mall was illustrated with vivid words. The minimall had “warped sheets particleboard boarded” on the windows (Green 139). Water stains were painted brown on the walls (Green 139). The description gives the backstory. The use of vivid words like “boarded-up”, “warped”, and “brown abstraction painting” can indicate that the mini-mall has closed or is no longer used. It is possible to use vivid words in a story setting. This increases the tension, and can also create anxiety among the reader.

Margo makes repeated references to the metaphorical’strings,’ which hold a human together. At first, characters thought of strings as death and someone who was separating from something. By the end, however, they saw them differently. They saw it as freedom, not death. As if a balloon’s string is cut and the balloon is freed, so too does the balloon. These strings symbolize freedom and escape from a bad life.


  • baileywilliams

    Bailey Williams is an educational blogger and school teacher who uses her blog as a way to share her insights and knowledge with her readers. She has been teaching for over 10 years and has a deep understanding of the school system and how to help students reach their goals. Her blog is packed full of helpful information and resources, so be sure to check it out if you're looking for help with your schoolwork!