The Fault in Our Stars

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Coming of Age Theme Analysis

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Coming of Age Theme Icon

The Fault in Our Stars contains all of the traditional elements of a coming of age narrative. Centering on the experience of two teenage characters, Hazel and Augustus, the novel follows their passage from childhood into adulthood. As typical of coming of age narratives, Hazel and Augustus begin to discover the adult world in all if its complexity, they begin to experience their bodies and sexualities in new ways, and they rebel against and come to terms with society, family, rules, and religion. Their passage into adulthood, however, is complicated by the fact that they are living with and dying from cancer. Having cancer changes the way in which the characters of The Fault in Our Stars approach their passage into adulthood. They are constantly facing the fact of their own impermanence, which leads the characters to walk a line between moving into adulthood and holding onto their youth. Their youths were a time in which they were healthy, so they are afraid to let them go, and their passage into adulthood is threatened by their cancer, so the characters are determined to pass into adulthood before it is too late.

For both Hazel and Augustus, their cancer is paired with their passage toward adulthood, and the story unfolds as they grapple with coming of age in the face of their diagnoses. Hazel’s diagnosis is determined three months after her first period, and Augustus receives his diagnosis and loses his leg just as he begins to think existentially about basketball, realizing his childhood love of the sport is fading. Their cancers make each of the difficult passages into adulthood even more complicated than usual, as they are fraught with meaning and nuances that healthy teenagers are never forced to confront. For example, they do not experience relationships, romantic or otherwise, in the same ways typical teenagers do because their futures are not promised, they don’t get to experiment with alcohol and substances the way typical teenagers do, as their cancers have forced them to become acquainted with powerful painkillers from an early age, but most importantly, their relationship with their sick bodies makes this passage particularly challenging.

The passage into adulthood necessitates new relationships with one’s body and sexuality, but the characters of The Fault in Our Stars are coming of age with bodies that are abnormal. Augustus is missing a leg, Hazel must carry an oxygen tanks and has poor lungs, and Isaac loses his eyes. Hazel and Augustus, however, find common ground based on their experiences with cancer, and develop a deep love for one another. Because they are both living with cancer, they are able to see past the deficits of the other’s body, and their ability to see past the external (the oxygen tanks, puffy cheeks, and prosthetics) allows them to realize their sexuality, come to terms with their bodies, and lose their virginity to one another. Although their coming of age is not typical, Hazel and Augustus do experience a passage into physical, emotional, and mental maturity, surpassing that of their peers. In this way, their cancer becomes a force that drives them to mature and develop deep understandings of life, death, love, and relationships that their healthy peers will not attain for many years to come.

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Coming of Age ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Coming of Age 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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Coming of Age 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 Coming of Age.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“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.


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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.

“You are not a grenade Hazel, not to us. Thinking about you dying makes us sad, Hazel, but you are not a grenade. You are amazing. You can’t know, sweetie, because you’ve never had a baby become a brilliant young reader with a side interest in horrible television shows, but the joy you bring us is so much greater than the sadness we feel about your illness.”

Related Characters: Mr. Lancaster (speaker), Hazel Grace Lancaster
Related Symbols: Grenade
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

After Hazel's parents insinuate that she is dating Augustus, Hazel vehemently refutes this, stating that she is a "grenade" who could blow up (die) and hurt the people closest to her at any moment. In this quote, Hazel's father tells her that she is far from a grenade--she is the best part of his and Hazel's mother's life, and they wouldn't trade her for the world.

Much of Hazel's worry about hurting Augustus stems from the pain she can see she is putting her parents through. Similar to Hazel's reasoning for her vegetarianism--she wants to minimize the number of deaths she is responsible for--Hazel wants to minimize the number of people she hurts when she loses her battle to cancer. In this quote, her father tells her that she causes them much more joy than her cancer causes her (or them) pain. This is Hazel's first step towards understanding that depriving oneself of love in the hopes of mitigating pain is not worth the struggle, and that she deserves to live her life to the fullest, without worry about what will happen after she is gone.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Mom and Dad left us alone, which felt awkward. I worked hard to meet his eyes, even though they were the kind of pretty that’s hard to look at. “I missed you,” Augustus said.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Augustus Waters (speaker)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel is hospitalized due to a buildup of fluid in her lungs. While she is being treated, she is told that Augustus is waiting to see her, but she only wants to see her parents while she is so disheveled from her illness. In this quote, as she is being discharged, her parents leave her and Augustus alone to talk.

Though Hazel is determined to keep Augustus at an arm's distance, her attraction to his eyes and the awkwardness she feels alone with him points to the fact that she likes him as more than just a friend. Augustus, though respectful of the distance that Hazel seeks to place between them, cannot help being totally honest with his feelings towards her, and tells her that he missed her while she was in the hospital. Still, determined that she will not hurt him anymore than she already will if she dies, Hazel insists that they remain just friends.

Chapter 8 Quotes

It’s not like I had some utterly poignant, well-lit memory of a healthy father pushing a healthy child and the child saying higher higher higher or some other metaphorically resonant moment. The swing set was just sitting there, abandoned, the two little swings hanging still and sad from a greyed plank of wood, the outline of the seats like a kid’s drawing of a smile.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

After writing the letter to Van Houten, Hazel feels depressed about her circumstances. She goes into the backyard, where she sees the childhood swing set her father built for her. In this quote, Hazel notes how the sad old swing set serves to remind her of her younger, healthier days, which further depresses her.

Hazel's family has likely kept the swing set due to the fact that Hazel is no longer very active and they did not need to remove the set to make way for other outdoor activities as she grew into a teenager. No one goes on it anymore, and it reminds her of older, happier days when she was healthy and could play with her parents (although she doesn't have the kind of cliched nostalgic memory that she feels like she should). Though Hazel tries to maintain a stiff upper lip about her terminal illness, there is something about this tangible memory of her healthier days that makes her mortality suddenly feel unbearable.

Chapter 10 Quotes

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.

“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.
“Augustus,” I said.
“I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasures of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have and I am in love with you.”

Related Characters: Augustus Waters (speaker), Hazel Grace Lancaster
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

After Mrs. Lancaster falls asleep on the flight to Amsterdam, Hazel and Augustus remain awake. Hazel reads and recites some poetry aloud to Augustus. Abruptly, he then tells her that he is in love with her, and that he doesn't care about oblivion or future pain, but only cares about being with her.

In this quote, Augustus speaks as beautifully to Hazel as if he himself were reciting a poem. Though he is eloquent and confident, and frequently speaks in clever, flowery language, it is clear that he has thought about these words for a very long time. Though Hazel is preoccupied about how her potential death will affect Augustus, in this quote he tells her that he doesn't care about any potential pain, since, according to their shared beliefs, everyone is doomed anyway. Since many of Hazel's friends have fallen away since she left school, she is shocked at Augustus's pursuit of her time and affection. At this point Hazel doesn't know that Augustus has received a diagnosis of cancer even more grim than hers. Like Augustus once told Hazel when they first met, he wants to spend all his time absorbing beautiful things, and what he wants for his last few months alive is to spend them with Hazel.

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.

Chapter 20 Quotes

I took a few breaths and went back to the page. “I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million… There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Augustus Waters
Page Number: 260
Explanation and Analysis:

On Augustus's "Last Good Day" shortly before he dies, he has Isaac and Hazel deliver him eulogies. In Hazel's speech here, she makes a play on "Zeno's paradox" that Van Houten rambled at them about, using it to tell Augustus that the short time they had together might as well have been an infinity.

As terminal cancer patients, Hazel and Augustus are constantly and acutely aware of how little time left they have on earth, compared to other people their own age. Though Hazel resisted Augustus' advances at first to ensure he avoided her as a "grenade," once they both decide their love is worth getting hurt over if one of them dies, they are able to enjoy their time together and glean comfort from the other person, particularly as Augustus's cancer rapidly progresses. Instead of being preoccupied by the quantitative time they have together, as many people are regarding their time on earth, they instead focus on savoring whatever time they do have, accepting that everything is relative.

Chapter 24 Quotes

“Would you like to share a memory of Augustus with the group?”
“I wish I would just die, Patrick. Do you ever wish you would just die?”
“Yes,” Patrick said, without his usual pause. “Yes, of course. So why don't you?”
I thought about it. My old stock answer was that I wanted to stay alive for my parents, because they would be all gutted and childless in the wake of me, and that was still true kind of, but that wasn't it, exactly. “I don’t know.”

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Patrick (speaker), Augustus Waters
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

When Hazel attends the support group after Augustus' death, she is asked to share a memory of Augustus, and tells the group leader that she wishes she would die. In response, he asks Hazel why she doesn't. In this quote, Hazel realizes that her previous reasons for staying alive--keeping her parents happy--have changed dramatically.

Before Hazel met Augustus, she mostly kept to herself, read, and hung out with her parents. She didn't really believe there was a purpose to her life, since she was destined to die young. Essentially, she was waiting to die, living only to make her parents happy and to avoid making too many others unhappy in the process. When she met Augustus, however, she saw the beauty of interpersonal relationships and began to appreciate the simple act of living itself. As seen by how stumped she is in response to Patrick's question, she is surprised by how much her outlook on life--and death--has changed.

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.

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.
I do, Augustus.
I do.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Augustus Waters (speaker)
Page Number: 313
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel receives the letter Augustus wrote to Van Houten, in which he tells Van Houten that pain in life is unavoidable and that one of the best ways to be remembered is to leave scars in the form of love lost. In this quote, he writes that he likes his choices, and hopes that Hazel likes hers. In response, Hazel replies in her mind, "I do, Augustus. I do."

Though Hazel spent so much of the novel resisting her attraction to Augustus because she was afraid of hurting him, in this letter, Augustus writes brazenly that he was not afraid, or regretful, of hurting Hazel with his own death. Though he was previously scared of oblivion, his love of Hazel made him realize that the love and pain she would continue to carry with her was his own small but important mark on the world. Through this realization, Hazel also comes to see that she should not feel guilty for being a "grenade," for as her parents tell her over and over again, they value and love her presence much more than they are in pain over her cancer. By reading this letter, Hazel is able to have closure over her relationship with Augustus, which, though "star-crossed," was an important part of the universe, and not just a "shout into the void."