American Youth Cultures: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars is an American romantic teen drama movie adaption of the same named novel written by The New York Times bestselling author John Green in 2012. The movie was released in 2014 and quickly became a bestseller and a blockbuster as well. It was directed by Josh Bone and produced by Temple Hill and Fox 2000. John Green has been awarded numerous awards, including the Michael L. Printz Award in 2006 and was a winner of the Edgard Award in 2009. Green is considered to be one of the most famous novelists of young adult fiction (John Green, n.d.).
During the opening weekend, the movie was peaking at number one at Box Office and the actors received several awards and nominations for the outstanding movie.
The movie is set in Pittsburgh, United States, and Amsterdam, Netherlands. The whole story is seen through the eyes of the main protagonist Hazel Grace Lancaster. This particular point of view, Hazel serving as narrator and also as focalizer, according to Genette, provides the reader with the protagonist’s conception and also consciousness (Nünning 2016: 120).
Hazel Grace Lancaster is a sixteen-year-old girl suffering from a very high stage of thyroid cancers with metastasis who have already spread over her lungs. Hazel is forced by her parents to attend a weekly cancer support group because her parents think that she is depressed and needs to make friends and interact with other people. In this support group, she meets Augustus “Gus” Waters who also suffers from cancer, more specifically, from osteosarcoma which affects the bones. Both immediately fall in love with each other.
Hazel introduces her favorite novel “An Imperial Affliction” to Gus and tells him that she once had a dream having a conversation with the author, Peter van Houten, who lives in Amsterdam. Augustus contacts Van Houten and he invites them over to Amsterdam in order to visit him. A foundation that grants wishes to children who suffer from cancer has agreed to satisfy Augustus wish to go to Amsterdam. Hazel, her mother, and Augustus travel to Amsterdam where they experienced that things are not always like they seem to be. They meet Van Houten and find out that he has a serious alcohol problem. Nevertheless, Hazel and Augustus have a wonderful time in Amsterdam and become even closer to each other and see more and more that they have a lot in common. The main part of the movie is suffering from cancer and how to deal with it. All of them undergo physical and emotional pain. Hazel has to carry an oxygen tank with her all the time and wears nasal cannulas. Augustus takes strong pain medication and suffers to know that he will never accomplish any of the heroic things he wanted to do in his life.
The Meaning of The Fault in Our Stars
The title of the movie and the novel derived from William Shakespeare’s famous play „Julius Caesar” in which a very famous quote is mentioned by Cassius. He utters to Brutus that “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Shakespeare. Julius Caesar. 1. 2. 140-41) Cassius means that people, instead of taking responsibility for their actions, blame their mistakes and their fault on the stars. He implies that one should act when it is time to act. A person should go for a change when the circumstances offer them the chance to change and fate cannot be scorned.
But John Green proves otherwise. In the movie both protagonists suffer from cancer and cancer is not something one can blame the patients themselves and that it is not easy to leave everything to fate. In Hazel and Augustus’ lives, fate seems to have shortened their love and hope. The Fault in Our Stars tries to convey that there are, indeed, some things one cannot change and are beyond our control, this might be in Hazel and Augustus’ case an uncurable disease but they can still live and make the best out of it to live their “unfair” lives, despite the inevitable fact that death is ahead of them.
Emotions are functional in our lives but having too much or too little of any emotions can turn into a problem. According to Power, five basic emotions have been included in almost all lists of emotions. Anger, happiness, disgust, sadness, and fear. Fear is defined as either “physical or social threat to self or valued role or goal” (2010: 26). Furthermore, fears can be subdivided into real fears and earlier fears. One can speak of real fears if they derive from a threatening situation, like fear of death caused by a lack of certainty of survival. These real fears, however, have to be distinguished from earlier fears who are triggered by the disease again. The characteristic of young adolescents is to free themselves from family ties and searching for a new identity. Teenagers aspire to independence and self-determination. Most of the adolescents try to mentally stabilize themselves through a stronger connection to their peers (Topf n.d.).
After being diagnosed with a chronic disease, a patient can be in a crisis marked by physical, social and psychological instability. Not only does a chronic disease affect a patient´s life. It also affects their activities in life. The disease can also urge a person to make sporadic or permanent changes in their activities. Moreover, people with chronic disease have to integrate their illness in their lives and have to adapt it to their disorder. Following the diagnosis of chronic disease is very common. Patients can be overwhelmed by the potential changes in their lives and also by the prospect of death (Taylor 2012: 262).
In The Fault in Our Stars the main characters in the movie are forced to deal with death in a way that young and healthy teenagers do not have to. Fear, especially, fear of oblivion plays an extremely important role and is very present to Hazel and in particular to Augustus. Right at the beginning of the movie, Augustus shares his fears with the support group. Scene, at the support group, where Patrick, the leader of the group, talks to Augustus about his fears (TIME):
Patrick: “Maybe you´d like to share your fears with the group?”
Augustus: “My fears? … Oblivion.”
Augustus: “Yeah […].”
Patrick: “Would anyone else in the group would like to speak to that? […] ”
Hazel: “Yeah, I just wanted to say that, you know, there´s gonna come a time when all of us are dead […]. Oblivion´s inevitable and if that scares you, then I suggest you ignore it.”
As one can see in this scene, oblivion is an issue both share but they have a different approach to it. Hazel is aware of her illness and what cancer means for her and also for her life. Instead of rebelling, as other teenagers would do, she seems to be rather mature. In addition, she talks very honestly about her illness and is aware of the consequences of suffering from an incurable, life-threatening cancer: sooner or later she will fade away. She tries to make the best of it and also wants to motivate Augustus to do so equally. Hazel is willing to show everyone that she is still alive and that the end of life has not come yet. Moreover, she wants to ensure that her relationship with people who are close to her will also continue after her death. This is also the reason why she wants to get in touch with Peter Van Houten in order to find out what has happened to the protagonists’ mother in An Imperial Affliction after Anna’s death. She takes the story as a substitute for what will eventually happen to her parents once she passed away. Augustus is also able to speak about the illness, but he does it in another way as Hazel, but he also does not sugarcoat the situation. Both, Augustus and Hazel live out their days with the fear of oblivion, pain, and death and try to figure out how to overcome their fear.
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