The Fault in Our Stars

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Peter Van Houten Character Analysis

The author of An Imperial Affliction, a novel Hazel becomes obsessed with. Hazel and Augustus believe that Van Houten can give them insight into what will happen to their families after they succumb to their cancers. Upon meeting Van Houten, Hazel and August learn that he is a nihilistic and aggressive alcoholic who treats them with cruelty when they visit. In the end, it is revealed that Van Houten has lost a child from cancer, and has fallen into alcoholism since her passing. His interactions with Hazel seem to imply that he may find a way out of his alcoholism and to write again.

Peter Van Houten Quotes in The Fault in Our Stars

The The Fault in Our Stars quotes below are all either spoken by Peter Van Houten or refer to Peter Van Houten. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Fault in Our Stars published in 2014.
Chapter 7 Quotes

Everyone in this tale has a rock-solid hamartia: hers, that she is so sick; yours, that you are so well. Were she better or you sicker, then the stars would not be so terribly crossed, but it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in our selves.”

Related Characters: Peter Van Houten (speaker), Hazel Grace Lancaster, Augustus Waters
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

Augustus gives Hazel a letter that Van Houten sent, and she reads it when she gets home. In this letter, Van Houten replies to what appears to be a letter that Augustus wrote him, asking for advice on what to do with Hazel, whom he wants to date but who wants to keep him away to protect Augustus from her death. In this quote, Van Houten points out that perhaps Hazel is right to protect Augustus's feelings, since they both have hamartia (fatal flaws) due to their conflicting health prognoses. He then gives the title to the novel with a Shakespeare quote from Julius Caesar, in which Cassius notes that fault is not in fate, but in people. 

Van Houten's flowery prose is a foreshadowing of the pretentiousness with which he will greet Hazel and Augustus in Amsterdam. Hazel is touched that Augustus wrote to her favorite author asking for love advice about her, and changes her mind about wanting to go to Amsterdam after reading it. This passage is particularly heartbreaking in the context of the novel because as it will soon turn out, Augustus is actually sicker than Hazel; they are still star-crossed lovers, but not for the reasons they first appeared to be. Augustus, unlike Hazel, Van Houten, and Cassius, does believe that there is some "fault in their stars," and that he and Hazel deserve to spend time together despite what their prognoses might say. But for the time being, he respects Hazel's wish to remain apart. 

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Chapter 12 Quotes

Van Houten pursed his lips. “I regret that I cannot indulge your childish whims, but I refuse to pity you in the manner to which you are well accustomed.”
“I don’t want your pity,” I said.
“Like all sick children,” he answered dispassionately, “you say you don’t want pity but your very existence depends on it…sick children inevitably become arrested: You are fated to live out your days as the child you were before you were diagnosed, the child who believes there is life after a novel ends.”

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Peter Van Houten (speaker)
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

When Hazel and Augustus finally greet Van Houten at his home, they are shocked and disappointed to see what a cruel man he is. He refuses to tell them what happens at the end of An Imperial Affliction, saying that it is ridiculous to think that an author knows what happens to characters after the end of a novel. In return, Hazel refuses to believe that he doesn't know. In this quote, Van Houten nastily replies that Hazel's refusal is due to her stunted growth, which is caused by pity from her parents and others because of her status as a "cancer kid."

While Van Houten says a number of horribly offensive things to both Augustus and Hazel, this quote might be the worst. By refusing to indulge in what he dubs Hazel's "childish whims"--her desire to know what happens at the end of the book--and saying that she is the product of the very pity that keeps cancer kids alive, Van Houten is essentially saying that without pity Hazel would be dead, and by refusing to "indulge" in that pity, he is saying she doesn't deserve to live. He says that she will be an immature child until the day she dies--which he implies will be soon--and yet refuses to grant what he essentially brands to be her dying wish. This shows that Van Houten is not just a cruel man to Augustus and Hazel but also a pessimistic person who all but states he doesn't think it is worth spending the resources to keep children with cancer alive.

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Peter Van Houten Character Timeline in The Fault in Our Stars

The timeline below shows where the character Peter Van Houten appears in The Fault in Our Stars. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...suggests Augustus ignore it like everyone else. She shares that she had learned this from Peter Van Houten , the author of An Imperial Affliction, who is the only person she’s ever heard... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...wonders what happens to the characters that are left behind. She has tried to write Peter Van Houten about what happens after the novel ends, but Van Houten is a known recluse and... (full context)
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...anger. During Isaac’s freak out, Augustus asks Hazel about An Imperial Affliction. Hazel reveals that Van Houten is living in Amsterdam, and she suspects he is writing a sequel to An Imperial... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...this it portrays death accurately by ending mid sentence. Augustus then coyly asks Hazel if Van Houten is really a recluse. She replies yes, that he has never replied to her letters.... (full context)
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...He ponders whether there is a meaning to life or a meaning to being human. Van Houten’s letter then goes on to tell that he will not be writing a sequel to... (full context)
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Hazel spends the next two hours writing an email to Van Houten . She writes that she is a cancer survivor and that his book has a... (full context)
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Two weeks later, Van Houten has still not replied to Hazel’s email. On Wednesday during class, Hazel gets a text... (full context)
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The next morning Hazel wakes up and finds an email from Van Houten . In the email he tells Hazel he is unable to share what happens in... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...they can’t go to Amsterdam until she is better, but the good news is that Van Houten has written another letter to them. (full context)
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...does not read it until she gets home. Sitting on her bed, she opens it. Van Houten writes about Hazel and Augustus’ situation, noting that everyone in Augustus’ story has a hamartia... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...and the small one is for seventeen-year-old guys with one leg. They begin talking about Van Houten’s comment about the sluttiness of time. She feels like they enter an uncreated third space... (full context)
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The next morning Hazel wakes up and begins writing a letter to Van Houten about how she will not be able to go to Amsterdam and if he would... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...is surprised that her mother is not coming to dinner. Her mother tells her that Van Houten has set up a dinner at a place called Oranjee in a fancy part of... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Hazel wakes up early the next morning too excited to meet Van Houten to go back to sleep. After breakfast she gets dressed to look like Anna from... (full context)
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Augustus arrives and they head to Van Houten’s house. When they knock, they hear Van Houten yelling for Lidewij. He tells her that... (full context)
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In the living room, Hazel sees two trash bags behind the couch. Van Houten reveals that it is eighteen years worth of fan mail. Van Houten asks Lidewij for... (full context)
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Hazel asks Van Houten if he remembers the questions she’d asked in her email, which he doesn't. Suddenly, Van... (full context)
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Hazel pushes herself to her feet and refuses to believe Van Houten’s explanation. Van Houten tells her that he cannot indulge her childish whims, and he will... (full context)
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...beds thinking of the most harmful ways to imagine her illness. Hazel steps up to Van Houten , calling him “douchpants”, and demands to know what happens to Anna’s mother. He tells... (full context)
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...lets her cry into his shirt. Hazel feels guilty that she spent his wish on Van Houten , but Augustus reminds her that she spent it on being with him in Amsterdam.... (full context)
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As they drive, Lidewij apologizes, telling them that Van Houten is very sick. She says that she thought his meeting with Augustus and Hazel would... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...Lancaster, and Augustus go to a café where Hazel and Augustus reenact their incident with Van Houten . Hazel notes that one has a choice in how a sad story is told,... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...stewardess comes by they order champagne and have a toast. Eventually, Augustus tells Hazel everything Van Houten said was true. He immediately begins to feel pain in his chest, so Hazel helps... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...fallen in love with. Augustus begins crying and asks where his chance to be somebody’s Peter Van Houten , meaning he to create something that someone will remember him for. Hazel kneels down... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...consciousness. She waits for people to respond, but nobody does. As she waits, she remembers Van Houten’s letter, in which he states, “writing does not resurrect. It buries.” (full context)
Chapter 22
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...behind her say, “what a load of horse crap, eh, Kid?” She turns to find Peter Van Houten sitting behind her. When the minister says it’s time to pray, Hazel hears Van Houten... (full context)
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After the burial is over, Van Houten approaches Hazel and asks if he can hitch a ride out of the cemetery. Inside... (full context)
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Van Houten tells Hazel that he and Augustus corresponded after their trip. He says that Augustus demanded... (full context)
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...the mirror, she realizes there are two kinds of adults: those who are miserable like Van Houten who look for something to hurt, and those like her parents who walk around “zombically”... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...to Augustus’ house, she turns it on and hip-hop starts blaring from the speaker. Suddenly, Peter Van Houten begins rapping from the back seat. Hazel screams at him to get out of the... (full context)
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Hazel begins driving. She asks Van Houten if he was married. He tells her, that he was married, but the marriage ended... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...about the missing pages, Kaitlyn suggests maybe they weren’t written for her, but sent to Van Houten . Hazel tells Kaitlyn she is a genius, and hangs up. (full context)
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...from Augustus had arrived. Lidewij writes back, telling Hazel that she will be going to Van Houten’s house in the morning to look for the letter. She wonders why Augustus had written... (full context)
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...ruins have been neglected, and have sense become actual ruins. She notes that Augustus and Van Houten would have liked them. Hazel hears the screams of children playing, and notes they are... (full context)
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...emails Hazel. She tells Hazel that they found a letter from Augustus, and she convinced Van Houten to read it by saying that he owed it to his daughter to read a... (full context)
...course of several days in varying degrees of consciousness. The letter is from Augustus to Van Houten . In the letter he asks Van Houten to help him write a eulogy for... (full context)