Margo Roth Spiegelman is the enigma at the center of the novel Paper Towns that is now a major motion picture. Everyone seems to see her in a different way. Time to figure out who she really is according to author John Green. Character analysis is easier if we apply Hacker methodology.
When researching John Green’s Paper Towns and its main character, two things stuck out.
- The male lead, Quentin Jacobsen (portrayed by Nat Wolff in the movie), is rather bland and he is fairly forgettable as he is merely a blank canvas readers can project themselves
- The female lead, Margo Roth Spiegelman (played by Cara Delevingne), appears to be seen differently by every character of the book
But surely author John Green had a character in mind. An actual person and not just a concept like Quentin. After all, on his official Tumblr, he meets criticism of casting thin, white Cara Delevingne as follows:
I have never written a central female character who was described as thin other than Lindsey Lee Wells. Also, Margo and Q are two of the only white-identified people I’ve written…
Time to have a look at who John Green thinks Margo is, concerning looks.
The Elusive Looks of Margo
It appears that John Green makes a conscious point of leaving Margo be as elusive as possible. There are many myths surrounding her, including her having been part of a circus, and her looks are basically as non-descriptive as it gets. I was fairly convinced that she was described as curvy but I wasn’t too sure anymore after our author Franzi confronted me with the fact that there are several versions of her in the book and then she reminded me of the fact that the deconstruction of idolized people is the central message of the book.
So I decided to research her. But because I couldn’t read the entire book in any kind of reasonable timeframe, I had to find another way. While I was doing this, I realized that it could help a lot of people analyzing characters at least in a cursory way, for homework, school or book clubs. I decided to use modern technology.
Software You Need
To get this done, you need the following things:
- Windows Users: Install Notepad++ because it offers a range of functionality that we need, mainly line numbers that are most often used in programming. The program is free.
- Mac Users: Install Atom Text Editor because it offers a range of functionality that we need, mainly line numbers that are most often used in programming. The program is free.
- An eBook of Paper Towns in any format on your computer.
In order to make the eBook legible by either Atom Text Editor or Notepad++, you need to convert it to the TXT format. To do this, run the file through this converter and make sure to select the proper formats in the two fields at the bottom. Follow the instructions on the screen and download your TXT.
Now you’re all set. So let’s get to the interesting part.
Open your TXT in Atom Text Editor or Notepad++ and here’s where we need to apply some more IT knowledge, seeing as we’re already misusing programmer tools. We need to realize exactly what we’re looking for and how texts function.
- We need to need to know physical descriptors of Margo
- Descriptors are usually attached to possessive pronouns such as his or her. However, there’s more than one female character in the book, we will have to go with the one unique identifier we have of Margo’s: Her name.
If you use a Mac, go to Find and then click on Find in Buffer. Or simply hit CMD+F.
If you use Windows, go to Search and then click on Find. Or simply hit CTRL+F.
And then, all you do is type Margo and hit Enter. Her name lights up in the entire file. So all we have to do is hit Find Next and read around the highlighted names.
What Margo Really Looks Like
The results are quite surprising as a lot of physical description only comes up fairly late in the book when the myth of Margo Roth Spiegelman has shattered and the girl behind the myth has been revealed. This is where the line numbers come in handy. My converted book has 6022 lines. So here we go.
I swiveled around when I heard the window open, and Margo’s blue eyes were staring back at me. Her eyes were all I could see at first, but as my vision adjusted, I realized she was wearing black face paint and a black hoodie. “Are you having cybersex?” she asked.
She opened up the purse and pulled out a full bottle of nail polish so darkly red it was almost black. “While you calm down, I’m going to paint my nails,” she said, smiling up at me through her bangs.
It was a good color of nail polish, and Margo had nice fingers, thinner and bonier than the rest of her, which was all curves and soft edges.
She laughed, waved her hand at me, and said, “You just love my big ass.”… In the end, you could not say that Margo Roth Spiegelman was fat, or that she was skinny
Line 1149 is the first time we need to interpret a bit because Margo herself says she’s bigger than other girls.
Margo continued. “‘I’d loan you these shorts but I don’t think they’d fit right on you.’
Margo didn’t play any sports, but she liked to run — I sometimes saw her running by herself listening to music in Jefferson Park.
Line 1358 reveals that Margo is actually quite short.
The window was a little high for Margo, so I put my hands together and she stepped a socked foot onto my hand and I boosted her up.
Line 2962 calls her curvy
Margo gave me like five pairs of jeans last week because she said I could wear them better, which isn’t even true because she’s so much more, like, curvy.
Lacey and I are telling Ben and Radar everything we can think of in hopes of helping them find Margo. Reminding them of her. Reminding ourselves of her. Her silver Honda Civic. Her chestnut hair, stick straight. Her fascination with abandoned buildings.
So there you go, this is what Margo Roth Spiegelman, the woman of many faces, looks like. For real. Does she look like you envisioned her?