It is probably for the best that most of us don’t know when we shall succumb to the call of the Grim Reaper, but that is not the case for people with various terminal diseases.
The Fault in Our Stars is a novel by John Green published in 2012, which was later adapted into a movie in 2014 starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.
The story follows Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old girl diagnosed with Stage IV Terminal Thyroid Cancer. She attends a cancer patient support group where she meets Augustus Waters, a seventeen-year-old boy who is currently in remission and who has lost a leg to osteosarcoma. They quickly strike up a bond, giving each other their favourite book to read. Hazel gives her most cherished book, An Imperial Affliction written by Peter Van Houten to him. The book tells the story of Anna, a girl with cancer, whose journey Hazel resonates with. Augustus is frustrated to find out that the story ends abruptly as if to show that Anna died suddenly. On finding out that Peter Van Houten lives in Amsterdam, Augustus tracks him down and starts a correspondence with Van Houten’s Agent, Lidewij.
Upon asking about the astonishing ending, Van Houten says that he shall answer Hazel’s questions in person. Augustus surprises Hazel with a trip to Amsterdam where they meet Van Houten only to find out he is a drunkard with a disdainful personality. The two are later taken by Lidewij to Anne Frank’s House where a romance blooms between Hazel and Augustus.
Augustus later reveals that his cancer has returned and his health keeps deteriorating to the point where he invites Hazel and his best friend, Isaac to deliver eulogies at a ‘pre-funeral’ for him. To Hazel’s grief, Augustus dies soon after.
Hazel discovers a letter written by Augustus where he writes that it is inevitable to get hurt in this world, but we can always choose who can hurt us and he hopes that Hazel is happy with her choice. The book ends with Hazel saying that she was happy with her choice.
The Fault In Our Stars explores several themes, but the central concept swings like a pendulum between the themes of life and death; hope and hopelessness.
Death and Hopelessness
The protagonist, Hazel Grace, is obsessed with the idea of death. Being diagnosed with a terminal disease means that Death is just waiting for her around the corner. Hazel shows symptoms of depression at the beginning of the book due to which she is enrolled into a support group. Her favourite novel, An Imperial Affliction also centers around a girl with cancer, Anna. She is obsessed with this book, having read it many times.
Though Hazel is compassionate, thoughtful and intellectual, pondering over many matters, she lets her disease define her life. She has stopped trying to live her life fully. Physically, she is suffering from cancer, but mentally it is her hopelessness that is killing her, consuming her until she makes a friend in the hopeful Augustus.
Life and Hope
One day Hazel meets Augustus in her support group, a boy who had gone through most of the problems she had and they both become fast friends. Together, Hazel and Augustus discover the most important lesson that we aren’t born to die. We are born to experience, to make and to love and that death is just an end to a journey. Though the book may not have a happy ending, it has a hopeful ending telling us that we shall always feel pain, but the choice to get better — feel better is always in our hands. Our time on Earth doesn’t matter, it is the experiences we have. The book sends a message to never let a drawback to your health bring you down, because you as a person, are so much more than any disease — mental or physical — that plagues you.
All of us fight different battles daily. Whether it is your body or your mind giving you a headache, you must know that you are always strong enough to get up after a fall. Take care of yourself and do things that make you happy. Do things that frighten you and know that nothing is far from your reach, whether it is speaking in front of an audience when you suffer from social anxiety or exercise to keep your body healthy. Like Hazel Grace, we must never learn to lose hope.
– Parvathy Chaithanya, Vidya Mandir, BengaluruI like this!