The Fault in Our Stars

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Themes and Colors
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
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.
Family Theme Icon

The Fault in Our Stars not only explores the ways in which cancer affects those who are diagnosed, but also shows the ways in which their families and friends react to their diagnoses. The parents of the young people living with cancer react to the loss of their children in different ways. The reactions of Hazel’s parents shows the way in which a cancer diagnosis places parents in a difficult situation as they attempt to parent a teenage child. They want her to be a normal teenage, which is why they recommend she go to the cancer support group and meet other young people, but at the same time, they are protective and overbearing. As they urge her to mature into an adult, they continue to cling to her youth, the time in which she was healthy, as shown by their continued goading that she sleep with “Bluie”, her childhood teddy bear, and the celebration of her “half birthdays”. Augustus’ parents react differently, attempting to battle the cancer by staying positive. They plaster their house with platitudinous sayings that are a constant reminder for them to stay hopeful.

Both Hazel and Augustus find their parents annoying, but ultimately understand that their parents just love them and are coping with their situations to the best of their ability. Hazel, however, feels a great sense of guilt because of the way her condition affects her parents. She knows that her very existence causes her parents immense pain, stating that, “They might be glad to have me around, but I was the alpha and the omega of my parents' suffering”. She also feels immense guilt over her parent’s lack of money and the time they sacrifice to make sure she is safe and cared for. Hazel also fears that her death will tear the family apart. This fear is another factor in her obsession with the novel An Imperial Affliction. For Hazel, the novel’s characters come to represent her own experience. In An Imperial Affliction, the main character, a young girl named Anna dies because of her cancer. The novel ends suddenly with Anna’s death, which leads Hazel to seek out answers about what happens to Anna’s mother and her mother’s partner, the tulip man, after the novel’s end. She believes that gaining insight into Anna’s experience will allow her to know what will happen to her parents after she passes.

Hazel and Augustus go to Amsterdam to find out what happens to Anna’s parents after she dies, but their hopes are crushed after then the novel’s author, Peter Van Houten, drunkenly tells them that nothing exists after the novel ends. This answer becomes a great concern for Hazel, leading her to believe that after her own death, nothing, including her parents and family, will exist. This belief, however, is replaced by the end of the novel in several ways. First, Hazel experiences Augustus’ death, and watches his family come together and work through it. Secondly, she learns that Peter Van Houten had written An Imperial Affliction about his own daughter who had died of cancer, suggesting that even though the novel ends with Anna’s death, Van Houten has continued to exist, even though her death has pushed him over the edge into alcoholism and fierce resentment. Finally, Hazel learns that her mother is studying to become a cancer counselor for young people, which allows her to know that even after she dies, her mother will continue to love her through loving other children fated in the way she was, and that her parents will not falter in the way Peter Van Houten has.

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Family 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 Family.
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 is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you are sixteen, and that’s having a kid who bites it from cancer.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

After attending the support group for several weeks, Hazel no longer wants to go since she does not find it helpful, but continues to attend according to her mother's wishes. In this quote, Hazel acknowledges that whatever she is going through, her parents are going through an equal amount of emotional pain, if not worse.

Throughout the novel, Hazel shows that she frequently does things not for her own sake, but for the wishes of her parents. Her parents' whole lives revolve around Hazel's medical care, and she is grateful for their love and attention. She considers her mother her best friend, and as much as she despises the support group, she is willing to put up with more sessions as long as it makes her mother happy. This shows that Hazel, despite thinking sometimes that she is a selfish teenager, is really very sensitive to her loved ones' emotions and needs, and is usually willing to put aside her desires to fulfill those of her parents.

Chapter 2 Quotes

“That’s exactly what we found with families at Memorial when we were in the thick of it with Gus’s treatment…Everybody was so kind. Strong, too. In the darkest days, the Lord puts the best people into your life.”

Related Characters: Augustus’s parents (speaker), Augustus Waters
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel has dinner at Augustus's house after support group one day. His parents ask them how it went, and though both teenagers despise the group, they agree that the people there are "nice." In this quote, Augustus's father notes that people were very kind at Memorial, where Augustus was treated for his cancer. He also expresses his dependence on religion to see him and his family through their son's illness.

Like many people suffering hardships (such as having an ill family member), Augustus's parents turn to religion to cope with their son's cancer diagnosis. Augustus, though not religious himself, goes along with his parents' aphorisms and wishes to make them happy. This is similar to Hazel's wish to constantly please her parents, even when asked to do something she does not want to do. However, Augustus's preoccupation with oblivion and other nihilistic concepts show that he is not religious like his parents, and exhibits his wish to grow into his own person. Both Hazel and Augustus are at odds with their own beliefs, their parents' wishes, and the cancer that governs their day-to-day lives.

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.

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

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.

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 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.