Mortality in the novel "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green. An exploration of the theme with reference to the cancer patients Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters

Essay, 2015

14 Pages













Literature is a mirror to people’s lives, and no doubt the theme of mortality is very significant in literature. Life is not a bed of roses; it is painful and full of surprises. John Green shows that even in death there can be joy provided the victim knows how to make use of every moment of his life. Death is not fearful if the victim can treasure every moment in the pursuit of his happiness. The novel “The Fault In Our Stars” shows how malignant fate can rob lively young adults of their dreams, aspirations and ambitions. Hazel and Augustus are star-crossed lovers that are born with an anomaly into this world. Since both are on the threshold of death, it becomes important to know how the writer deals with the theme of mortality on this novel.

Death is inevitable for the lovers, and soon they come under the callous grip of the Grim Reaper. It is here that the power of death can be seen when Augustus is transformed from the brave into the coward, from the escapist into the realist and from the lively into the dead. He dies a painful and pathetic death, but his life is not a failure like the millions of others dying and decaying in the vicious circle of life and death. Through him, the life of Hazel comes a full circle, and she is transformed into a stronger character that knows that death is nothing to be feared of and that life goes on. She is thankful to Augustus, and will cherish his memories till her end happily, and the same will go with her parents, who will be sad but proud of being her parents.

The love for Augustus helps her overcome her fear of death.


“The Fault In Our Stars” is a tragic love story that deals with the sufferings and deaths of cancer patients. Green borrows the title of the story from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, wherein Cassius says, “The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings1.” But contrary to what Cassius says, this story establishes the conundrum that we are helpless before our destiny. In Green’s novel, Hazel and Augustus are lovers, not unlike “Antony and Cleopatra”, and “Romeo and Juliet.” But what separates them from the legendary lovers is the fact that they are born with cancer in their cells. Their story, although of great love and compassion, will not be written in the pages of history. How is it possible for the afflicted duo to consummate their love in the wake of the deadly tentacles of cancer? The question “How is the subject of mortality treated in the novel, has compelled me to research into the theme of mortality of cancer patients in his novel. I feel intrigued by the contemplation of a scenario wherein the lovers lead their lives happily moment after moment although knowing well that a time bomb is ticking into their cells with an increasing pace. To understand the theme of mortality, I read “Emily Dickinson’s poem” “An Imperial Affliction 2” which also gave me a better idea of the fate and destiny of the lovers. To further dwell on this theme, I read “The Great Gatsby” by “F. Scott Fitzgerald” and “I Used To Live Here Once,” by “Jean Rhys.” I am of the opinion that this research question will elucidate the sufferings of the cancer patients who have to live hand in hand with the realization of their eventual and overwhelming deaths. The research will give the readers inkling into the real lives of the young adults suffering from cancer, and may be give them a chance to identify themselves with the patients. I intend to use the settings, characters and symbols employed by Green, to illustrate how the theme of mortality governs his work.


The Fault In Our Stars” by Green is not only a work of fiction; it is remarkable for being a realistic picture of the world of afflicted, diseased and the stricken. Green is able to portray the true picture of tragic lovers through his personal experience with the cancer patients. Working as a student chaplain he came across a nerd fighter, “Esther Earl3”, who served a great inspiration for his novel. Esther died in 2010 of cancer but not before acquainting Green with the trials and tribulations, gnawing at the heart of a cancer patient. Although the protagonist of the novel is Hazel Grace Lancaster, the reader can find the echoes of Esther’s character in her. Green follows a style of an omniscient narrator, and makes Hazel and Esther the mouthpiece of his first hand experience of the travesty of the cancer patients. By making Hazel the central narrator, Green deals very effectively with the theme of mortality of the young adults in America. The novel has universal connotations as it depicts the picture of the cancer patients all over the world. Green’ style is very intimate, and helps the reader identify with the character of Hazel very closely, and arouse pity in his heart for the cancer patients.

Green’s art of characterization is unique in that the young and imaginary characters leave an indelible impression on the hearts of the readers. Chapter one introduces us to the main characters: Hazel, Augustus, Patrick and The readers feel intrigued not only by their tenacity, their acceptance of mortality, but also by the exuberance elicited by the characters-Hazel and Augustus, however ephemeral their livers are, Hazel, the central narrator and the protagonist, is a sixteen-year-old girl, suffering from a terminal form of thyroid cancer for the last three years. Cancer has spread to her lungs, and she is confined to breathe through the four walls of an oxygen cylinder. Green makes use of a powerful visual image by showing how she has to drag the oxygen cylinder round the clock. "These tubes give me oxygen and help me breathe.4” The cylinder contains her life, and to a great extent her life depends on it. The image of her carrying the cylinder makes the reader aware of her imminent mortality, wherein she can burst like a bubble of oxygen any moment.


Hazel is a conscientious girl, far mature for her tender years. She is aware of her impending death, and this is the reason she has confined herself to her parents and her home. She knows the pain the death of a beloved causes to the parents and other concerned ones. She is determined not to scar the lives of others by her death, and keeps herself aloof and alienated from others. Green makes use of another visual image to show how the persistently gnawing sense of mortality has got the better of Hazel. She considers herself a “Grenade” which is going to explode very soon, annihilating all around in its train. “I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay6?” Since she is aware of her mortality, she does not want others to cry for her when she is dead. It can be realized from her words, “I can't be a regular teen, because I'm a grenade7 how her mortality is weighing on her vitality.


In order to while away her time and engross herself with things other than the mortality of a cancer patient, she reads an fictional novel, “An Imperial Affliction” written by Van Houten. The novel has captivated her as it deals with the mortality of a young girl, Anna, who is also a cancer patient. Although the character of Anna is only a sub plot, it further pokes into the theme of mortality, wherein the reader can draw a parallel between the characters of Hazel and Anna. Hazel is enthralled as well as deluded by the novel, since the novel ends mid sentence. Hazel is bent upon discovering the fate of Anna's parents after the girl dies. The main reason she hankers for learning the end of this incomplete novel can be connected with her own fate. She wants to discover what happens to Anna’s parents at the end; a fact that she will assimilate into her own parents. If Anna’s parents can brave with her death, her parents, the Lancasters may as well do with hers.

Hazel’s mortality has made her love her parents passionately, and it is for the sake of their happiness that she joins a support group, despite her severe bouts of depression. It is here at the support center that her stars take hold of hers, and she initiates a journey into the unknown. She is accosted by an eighteen-year-old lively, handsome and enthusiastic boy, Augustus Waters. He suffers from osteosarcoma, and as a result of it, wears prosthesis. He is a romantic boy who falls in love with Hazel at first sight. He weaves his gossamer of a heroic life, and wants to do something, which will be remembered by humanity forever. He fears oblivion, and is desperate to do something that will make him a hero. During a video game, “the price of dawn”, he sacrifices himself by jumping on a grenade in order to save the innocent children. He takes pride in declaring, “Maybe that's the minute that buys them an hour, which is the hour that buys them a year. No one's gonna buy them forever, Hazel Grace, but my life bought them a minute. And that's not nothing8." A happening basketball player, Augustus, is now a handicapped individual, and this serves a guiding force in the life of Hazel. He fills enthusiasm and magnetism into her life, through his romantic gestures and theatrical grandiosity, quite ignorant of the fact that cancer is eating into his body. He is dying but he is determined to make the life of Hazel meaningful through his love, sincerity ad exuberance. Green uses another visual image of Augustus holding a cigarette between his lips, an image that makes him aware of his vulnerability and mortality. His main contribution in the life of Hazel starts when he gives a concrete shape to her most cherished desire of meeting the author of “An Imperial Affliction.” Through the character of Peter Van Houten, Green makes Hazel’s reason get the better of her emotions. She realizes that Van Houten is not a “veritable god” or a magical person. His character plays a significant role in restoring Hazel back from the dream world to the real world. Like her, Houten is also a victim of the stars. His character Anna is not a fictitious one, but takes after his daughter Anna, who died of cancer at eight.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Mortality in the novel "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green. An exploration of the theme with reference to the cancer patients Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters
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"Excellent essay which develops the theme of the mortality efficiently. The writer is able to show a powerful analysis of the linguistic and thematic features used by the writer Green."
mortality, fault, stars”, john, green, hazel, grace, augustus, waters
Quote paper
Rahul Gautam (Author), 2015, Mortality in the novel "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green. An exploration of the theme with reference to the cancer patients Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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Title: Mortality in the novel "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green. An exploration of the theme with reference to the cancer patients Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters

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