- No return engagements. No encore. And this time, absolutely no requests.
No, I can’t believe it. Hannah Baker killed herself. (3.3-4)
Hannah obviously records the tapes before she dies, but it feels like she’s a vengeful ghost speaking to her listeners from the beyond.
- I’m listening to someone give up. Someone I knew. Someone I liked. I’m listening but I’m still too late. (8.281-82)Death colors everything in this story, but it’s most prominent in the later sections, as Hannah becomes more and more sure of her decision to take her own life.
- I needed a change, just like they said, so I changed my appearance. The only thing I still had control over. (9.137)The novel points to a change in appearance as a big sign that someone is at risk for suicide. “But,” one might be thinking, “people change their appearance all the time! Look at celebrities” Perhaps it has to do with the meaning of this change: is it just for fun, or is it a cry for attention?
- I wrote a note to Mrs. Bradley that read: “Suicide. It’s something I’ve been thinking about. Not too seriously, but I have been thinking about it.” (9.201)Hannah doesn’t blame Mrs. Bradley, her Peer Communications teacher, but I think she let Hannah down. She had a responsibility to try to find out who wrote the note.
- “It’s like whoever wrote this note just wants attention. If they were serious, they would have told us who they were.”(9.222)The insensitivity to suicide in Hannah’s Peer Communications class makes it even harder for her to talk about. It also confirms her growing belief that everybody in her life will eventually let her down.
- I summarize a bullet point from the handout at school. “Giving away possessions.” (13.19)Hannah gives Tony her bike the night before she takes her own life. He blames himself for not recognizing that this, along with her tears, was a sign of her suicidal state. Might this act have been a cry for help? Maybe Hannah thought that if she gave Tony her bike, he’d figure out what she was going to do and try to stop her.
- No one knew who caused it. Not us. Not the police.
But Jenny knew. And Hannah. And maybe Jenny’s parents, because someone fixed her bumper real fast. (12.161-162)Jenny and Hannah are involved in an accident that likely caused the death of another high school student. Hannah’s guilt over this premature death is a factor in her decision to speed up her own.
- I wish I would die.
I’ve thought those words many times. But it’s a hard thing to say out loud. It’s even scarier to feel you might mean it. (14.10-11)Clay admits that even he has had suicidal or near-suicidal feelings. This comes as a surprise and makes us want to hear more of his story. Luckily, Clay doesn’t seem at risk for suicide. If anything, Hannah’s death makes him appreciate life even more.
- You took pills. That, we all know. Some say you passed out and drowned in a bathtub full of water. (14.18)Hannah’s use of the second person, which Clay also uses, as well – to address Hannah. Here he’s telling her all the rumors about the way she died. This is a grim but somehow tender point in the story.
Guilt and Blame
- I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.
What? No! (3.5-6)Hannah’s story begins with this harsh accusation. It really does a number on Clay, who is sure he did nothing about which he should feel guilty.
- I know what you’re thinking. As I was telling the story, I was thinking the same thing. A kiss? A rumor based on a kiss made you do this to yourself? (3.223)Hannah pretty much reads the readers’ minds here. At the beginning of the story, it’s hard not to read a little defensively. People have a hard time listening to people who can only blame others for their problems. But as the readers’ hear Hannah out, they come to understand why Justin’s betrayal is such a big deal to her.
- Every single event documented here may never have happened had you, Alex, not written my name on that list. It’s that simple. (4.45)Even Clay admits that Hannah isn’t being reasonable here. Yes, Alex’s list had a serious effect on her. But her insistence that the list is responsible for everything that happened afterward conveys the desperation and confusion she’s feeling as she records her story.
- Alex’s list was a joke. A bad one, true. But he had no idea it would affect her like this. This isn’t fair. (4.48)Alex admits to Clay that there’s no truth behind the rumor that he and Hannah were involved sexually or romantically. People aren’t proud of Alex and his list, but they don’t see it as unforgiveable. Maybe the point is that there’s a general lack of communication going on here, and it’s showing in the characters’ relationships.
- Tyler, wherever you are, I am so sorry. You deserve this, but I’m sorry. (6.209)There isn’t really enough evidence to convince someone that Tyler is the Peeping Tom.
- “What makes us so different from him?”
“Nothing. It’s ridiculous [. . . ]. I don’t belong on those tapes. Hannah just wanted an excuse to kill herself.” (7.180-84)That’s some interesting logic, Marcus. Clay wants to know why Tyler is being singled out, getting rocks thrown at his window, when everybody on the tapes is guilty. Marcus, on the other hand, is making a scapegoat out of Tyler; placing the blame on him when really Marcus himself is just as guilty.
- I guess that’s the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.(9.68)Hannah suggests that she wants the people on the tapes to feel guilty so they’ll think twice before hurting someone again.
- This isn’t fair. If Zach had any idea what Hannah was going though, I’m sure he wouldn’t have stolen her notes. (9.167)Here we see why Clay’s point of view is so important to the story. He provides more objectivity than Hannah, critically analyzing her words instead of accepting them blindly.
- Clay, honey, your name does not belong on this list. (11.75)Clay definitely breathes a big fat sigh of relief when he hears these words. The problem is, he’s starting to think he is guilty. He let the rumors about Hannah stand in the way of his feelings for her. He realizes how much she cared for him and how much of a difference his love could have made in her life.
- Think about it. He raped a girl and would leave town in a second if he knew… well… if he knew that we knew.(11.91)
Hannah’s decision not to reveal Bryce’s name is really confusing. Other than Mr. Porter, everybody else on the list will probably figure out, like Clay does, that she’s talking about Bryce. So why not just say his name? And what about her threat to release the tapes if they aren’t passed on? Since Bryce isn’t named in the part about the rape, what’s to keep him playing the game?
- “We’re all to blame,” [Tony] says. “At least a little.” (13.10)Just a little word of wisdom from Tony, the guy in charge of making sure that Hannah’s last wishes are carried out.
- No matter what I’ve said so far, no matter who I’ve spoken of, it all comes back to – it all ends with – me. (14.4)Hannah blames herself here. She doesn’t try to minimize the guilt of the other characters, but she seems to be suggesting that everything is intricately intertwined.
Respect and Reputation
- I know what you are all thinking. Hannah Baker is a slut.(3.151)I’ve heard so many stories I don’t know which one is the most popular. But I do know which is the least popular.
- The truth. (3.212-13)At first, Hannah’s tapes seem like a way for her to clear her reputation, but in many of the later stories she makes some unpleasant confessions. This helps the reader see that Hannah isn’t interested in people thinking she was some kind of angel. She wants to set the record straight by telling the truth as she sees it.
- “And she was new to the school, so the rumors overshadowed everything else I knew about her.” (3.218)Clay suggests that rumors stuck to Hannah because she was the new kid. But Clay has known Skye since at least middle school, and he apparently believes rumors about her, too.