The Fault in Our Stars

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Themes and Colors
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
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Being Different Theme Icon
Religion and Philosophy Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Fault in Our Stars, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Being Different Theme Icon

Although the teenagers of The Fault in Our Stars are in many ways normal teenagers who are obsessed with music, videogames, popular culture, and dating, they are constantly reminded that they are different than their healthy peers. Their physical differences—prosthetics, oxygen tanks, puffy cheeks—are glaring signifiers of their difference, but in a more subtle way, their illnesses often make other people feel uncomfortable and alienated, creating separations between those with the illness and those without it. This separation shows through while Hazel is shopping with her friend, Kaitlyn. While shopping, Kaitlyn nonchalantly says she would “die” if she had to walk in a pair of heels she has found on the shelf. She stops and looks as if she wants to apologize, as if it is wrong to mention death in front of the dying. Hazel is not offended by her comment, but the fact of her cancer makes Kaitlyn unable to talk in the way she would with a healthy peer. Later a young girl asks Hazel why she has to carry an oxygen tank. The little girl's mother is mortified by her daughter’s question, but Hazel simply explains her situation to the girl, limiting the distance between them.

This otherness is not just projected on those who are ill from those who are healthy. Often, people with cancer begin to define themselves based on their experience with cancer. This self-definition through one’s cancer is one that the sick characters fear, as shown through Augustus’ question to Hazel whether she is, “One of those people who become their disease.” While Hazel does not define herself by her cancer, she also works to break down cancer stereotypes, constantly pushing back against the clichés that make people dying of cancer different than normal people. She speaks to the way in which healthy people often hold ideas about those living with cancer that make them seem heroic or overtly tragic. The novel depicts those living with cancer in ways that limit such cancer. The depictions in the novel make the argument that the young people with cancer are not any more noble, valiant, or spiritual than other kids—they are just normal kids living with an illness. Augustus becomes a clear example of the reality of young people who are living with and dying from cancer. After his cancer reemerges, Augustus, the high-spirited, funny, confident, and attractive boy is reduced to a frail, terrified, and humiliated individual. The honesty with which Hazel depicts the end of his life does not allow his illness to place him in any special category of person, and therefore limits the difference between him and any other normal person who is dying.

Through their shared experience of being different, however, Augustus and Hazel form an unbreakable bond. They understand what it is like to be pitied, gawked at, showered with cancer perks (“make a wish” type gifts given to dying children), and just simply misunderstood. They quickly move past the thing that makes them different from others and begin to form bonds based on their identities beyond their illness, the appreciation of the other’s intelligence, beauty, and personality. In this way, Hazel’s narrative depicts the way in which difference can lead to companionship, but ultimately it is the person that exists beyond the illness—who is no different than anyone else—that allows them to develop a deep bond with one another. This perspective allows Hazel to limit the thing that causes their difference, and allows them to move closer to the normalcy that is denied by common misunderstanding that creates separation.

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Being Different ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Being Different appears in each chapter of The Fault in Our Stars. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Being Different Quotes in The Fault in Our Stars

Below you will find the important quotes in The Fault in Our Stars related to the theme of Being Different.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time thinking about death.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Mrs. Lancaster
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel's mother becomes worried about her daughter, who seems increasingly despondent as of late. Mrs. Lancaster urges Hazel, who has terminal cancer, to see a doctor about treatment, since depression can be a side effect of a cancer diagnosis. In this quote, Hazel refutes her mother's logic, saying that depression is actually a side effect of dying rather than of cancer.

This opening to the novel shows the reader how Hazel typically spends her time: resting, reading, and thinking about her own impending mortality. It does seem that she has depressive symptoms, which is understandable given her terminal cancer. This passage has a certain resigned, even sarcastic tone to it, suggesting that though Hazel's rumination on the topic of death is not exactly healthy for her mental state, her diagnosis is something she has accepted. It also shows that her parents are frequently concerned about her, and devote much of their time to caring for their daughter. We can also surmise that Hazel likely does not interact with many teenagers her age, since she rarely leaves the house for fun.


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There was a time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be a time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

In the support group one day, a boy tells the group that his greatest fear is oblivion: that no one will remember him after he is gone. In this quote, Hazel, who finds the anxiety around death and mortality to be exhausting, expresses her nihilistic views by pointing out that oblivion is not only likely, but certain.

While many people, like Augustus's parents, cope with hardships using religion and encouraging words, Hazel chooses the exact opposite: she chooses to believe that death and oblivion are inevitable. By embracing nihilism, and choosing not to believe in anything at all, Hazel imagines the worst possible outcome so she cannot be scared or disappointed by what is to come. Though this concept of total oblivion after death comforts her in its absolutism, it also leads to circular preoccupations where all she can do is read the same book and think about the same things as she, in her mind, hurtles mindlessly towards death. In this quote, she takes a bitter tone in asserting that most people ignore their own oblivion--something that perhaps, she wishes she, too, could do.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Augustus half smiled. “Because you’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence…I mean, particularly given that, as you so deliciously pointed out, all of this will end in oblivion and everything.”

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Augustus Waters (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Augustus, the boy who spoke of oblivion in the support group, approaches Hazel after the session and begins to flirt with her. In this quote, he tells Hazel that he is staring at her because he finds her beautiful.

Hazel, who does not regard herself as physically attractive due to low self-esteem and steroid-induced swelling from cancer treatments, would never assume that Augustus is staring at her because he finds her attractive. She assumes it's because he finds her to be an oddity, and prepares herself to be offended by his answers. As someone who does not spend a lot of time around teenage boys, she is shocked but allured by Augustus's sense of confidence and eloquence. His confidence and honesty shows Hazel that he has more experience in flirting than she does, but also that he is not afraid to tell her that he likes her on sight. Hazel, who spends most of her time with doting parents, is not used to being addressed and refuted like the way Augustus does in their first conversation. Though she is somewhat offended, she is more so intrigued, leading her to head to his house after the session.

Chapter 2 Quotes

Cancer perks are the little things cancer kids get that regular kids don't: basketballs signed by sports heroes, free passes on late homework, unearned drivers licenses, etc.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Augustus is a horrible driver, and Hazel is shocked that he even has a license. Augustus says that he failed his test four times, but on the fifth, the instructor told him his driving was unpleasant, but not technically unsafe. Hazel, getting into the swing of Augustus's flirty banter, tells him his license is probably a cancer perk. In this quote, Hazel explains that "cancer perks" are ways in which kids with the disease get certain things in life due to their illness.

At this point in the novel, Hazel is much sicker than Augustus is, but "cancer perks" are something that they both share as teenagers with the disease. Augustus's driving is unsafe due to his difficulty driving with his left leg since he has a prosthetic right leg. Hazel, who takes an oxygen tank with her everywhere she goes, can commiserate with getting special treatment. Though the perks are nice, both Hazel and Augustus would agree that they would rather be healthy than get things they don't really deserve for free. Though Hazel still retains some friends from middle school, she has a hard time relating with them due to her situation, and finds comfort in being able to talk to Augustus about what it is like to be a teen with cancer.

Chapter 3 Quotes

I liked my mom, but her perpetual nearness sometimes made me feel weirdly nervous. And I liked Kaitlyn, too. I really did. But three years removed from proper full-time schoolic exposure to my peers, I felt a certain unbridgeable distance between us.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Mrs. Lancaster, Kaitlyn
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel goes to the mall with her friend Kaitlyn, who attends the high school Hazel would have gone to if she did not have to leave school for cancer treatment. However, she cuts their time together short, claiming she is tired. In this quote, Hazel admits that while she loves her mother and her friends, their constant hovering sensitivity about her health makes her feel an "unbridgeable distance" between herself and others.

Unlike Augustus, whose only outward sign of cancer is a limp due to his prosthetic leg, Hazel's health is unmistakably poor: her hair is short due to recent chemo treatments, and she carts an oxygen tank with her everywhere she goes. Everyone she interacts with is constantly reminded of her fragile mortality, and treats her with much more delicacy than she wishes. Though Hazel is weak in body she is strong in nature, and she finds it hard to interact constantly with people who act like she will break at any moment. This is why she spends much of her time alone, reading the one book that she feels truly understands what she is going through.

Any attempts to feign normal social interactions were just depressing because it was so glaringly obvious that everyone I spoke to for the rest of my life would feel awkward and self-conscious around me, except maybe kids like Jackie who just didn’t know any better.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

A little girl at the mall approaches Hazel and asks her what is in her nose. Though the girl's mother reproaches the girl for bothering Hazel, Hazel doesn't mind and lets the girl try on the cannulas. In this quote, Hazel feels depressed at how brazenly the little girl, Jackie, asks her about her medical gear, in a way that no teenager or adult would dare approach her illness.

Due to Hazel's medical gear, it makes it nearly impossible for friends, and even her own family members, to forget she is ill and treat her normally. This lack of basic social interaction pushes Hazel further and further away from her peers, and even her parents, and further into her world of books and circular thoughts about her own mortality. She and Augustus immediately hit it off because they both know what it is like to desperately want human interaction, but to feel constantly unsatisfied with the way they are treated due to their illness.

Chapter 5 Quotes

“Oh,” he said. “Caroline is no longer suffering from personhood.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I’d known plenty of dead people, of course. But I’d never dated one. I couldn't even imagine it, really.
“Not your fault, Hazel Grace. We’re all just side effects, right?”
“Barnacles on the container ship of consciousness,” I said, quoting AIA.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Augustus Waters (speaker), Caroline Mathers
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel asks Augustus about his ex-girlfriend, Caroline. In this quote, Augustus tells her that she is "no longer suffering from personhood," meaning that she died of cancer. Hazel is shocked at the notion of having had someone you dated die, and to cope with the awkwardness, they quote a book that they both now love, An Imperial Affliction.

Hazel's greatest fear as a terminal cancer patient is that her death will cause pain to the people she loves, namely her parents. Augustus brushes off any unintended pain Hazel might have caused by quoting AIA, which Hazel responds to with another quote. When Hazel begins to have feelings for Augustus, and it becomes clear that he is falling for her, her immediate thought is not to give in to what she wants, but rather to ensure that Augustus, who at the time appears to be healthier than she is, is not caused pain by losing another girlfriend to cancer. These are issues that most sixteen-and seventeen-year-olds don't have to deal with, but that Augustus and Hazel understand of each other in a way that no one else in their lives does.

Chapter 6 Quotes

“I’m like. Like. I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, Okay…I just want to stay away from people and read books and think and be with you guys because there is nothing I can do about hurting you; you’re too invested, so just please let me do that, okay?”

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Mrs. Lancaster
Related Symbols: Grenade
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

After realizing that she looks very similar to Augustus's deceased girlfriend Caroline, and seeing all of the condolence messages left on Caroline's Facebook wall, Hazel has a hard time interacting with her parents at dinner. Her mother accuses her of acting very "teenagery," and in this quote, Hazel tells her mom that she stays away from people because she is a "grenade" who could "blow up" (die) and unintentionally hurt those closest to her.

After seeing that Caroline looks very similar to her, Hazel resolves to not engage in a relationship with Augustus, and Hazel becomes angry when her mother suggests she's been "going on dates." Hazel consciously stays away from people her own age, and particularly shies away from romantic relationships, so that she does not hurt people who may become attached to a girl with terminal cancer. She doesn't mind remaining close to her parents, because she knows their pain is inevitable. Hazel's metaphor of being a "grenade" is something that will guide many of her personal decisions towards Augustus throughout the novel.

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.

Chapter 10 Quotes

I could feel everyone watching us, wondering what was wrong with us, and whether it would kill us, and how heroic my mom must be, and everything else. That was the worst part about having cancer, sometimes: The physical evidence of disease separates you from other people.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Augustus Waters
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel and Augustus are allowed to board the plane to Amsterdam before other passengers because they need "a little extra help." In this quote, Hazel expresses that she feels exposed and vulnerable being watched by the other passengers due to the clear evidence of her illness.

Hazel often feels uncomfortable with her interactions with people who do not have cancer or who are outside of her family because they treat her as if she is a fragile invalid. She hates the feeling that the other passengers are feeling sorry for her and her mother, or that she is particularly brave just because there is physical evidence that she has a disease. More than anything, Hazel wants to live with her illness in peace, and the gawking, stares, and awkwardness from others turn her inward and cause her to isolate herself from most people her own age. It is this sense of isolation that both brings her closer to and pushes her away from Augustus: he understands what she is going through, but she doesn't want to pull him into her circle of sickness.

You could glance at Augustus and never know he was sick, but I carried my disease with me on the outside, which is part of why I’d become such a homebody in the first place.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Augustus Waters
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel is embarrassed by the looks that she, her mother, and Augustus are cast as they are helped onto the airplane due to her oxygen tank. In this quote, Hazel thinks about the fact that someone could look at Augustus and surmise that he is any normal seventeen-year-old boy, but she is clearly ill. It is for this reason that she has retreated into herself and often stays at home.

Much of Hazel's dislike for living with cancer stems from the fact that people treat her differently due to her clear illness. If she was like Augustus, and had a cancer that no one could see, she would perhaps be more outgoing and be able to balance being a teenager and being a cancer patient much better. However, she cannot stand the pity in people's eyes and how fragile they seem to think she is. Though weak in body she has a strong spirit, which no one seems to notice--besides Augustus. It is only due to their immediate bond and shared understanding of living with cancer that she first begins to break out of her shell to get to know, and come to love him.

Chapter 25 Quotes

I missed the future…I would probably never again see the ocean from thirty thousand feet above, so far up that you can’t make out the waves or any boats, so that the ocean is a great and endless monolith. I could imagine it. I could remember it. But I could never see it again, and it occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:

As Hazel waits for Lidewij to respond about whether or not Augustus sent Van Houten drafts of a sequel before he died, Hazel thinks about all the things she will never do in life, thinking that she already "misses the future." However, she figures that this is only human, since humans always are fated to dream bigger than what they have experienced.

As Hazel begins to think of the permanence of Augustus's death, and all the things that he will not be able to do (like finish a sequel), she begins to think of all the things that she herself will never do, or never do again. However, she realizes that she is grateful for the experiences she has been able to have in her life, like seeing the ocean from an airplane, and realizes that these ambitions and wishes might have the same veracity even if she was healthy and able to do as she pleased. She feels more connected to human nature, a natural part of the cycle of life and death, and less like a "side effect" of mutation.