The Fault in Our Stars

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Religion and Philosophy Theme Analysis

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In facing the terrible realities of living with and dying from cancer, those affected—the teenagers, their families, and friends—are left looking for answers, meaning, and comfort for the situations they find themselves in. Many characters in the novel turn to religion to provide answers for their fates. This idea is established from the start of the novel as Hazel attends the support group, which is held in the basement of a church. The church is shaped like a cross and the room is positioned where Jesus’ heart would have been during his crucifixion. Hazel, Isaac, and Augustus joke that the group takes place in the “Literal Heart of Jesus”, but in a figurative sense, the position of the group alludes to the beliefs of some people—that the sick hold a special place in Jesus’ heart.

Religion provides easy answers for the affliction and provides a sense of hope that the fate of the characters is resting in the hands of some higher power. For many of the characters, however, including Hazel and Augustus, religion or God is not sufficient in explaining their situation. Hazel, August, and other characters turn toward different philosophical explanations to find meaning in their lives and deaths. These philosophical notions span from existentialism, as in Augustus’ search for meaning in his life, to nihilism, as in the philosophical leanings of Peter Van Houten. It is along these philosophical lines that Hazel’s character experiences the greatest transformation.

At the beginning of the novel, Hazel responds to Augustus’ fear of oblivion by stating that everything will die, that there was a time before consciousness and there will be a time after it. She fears that her own death will only hurt others and that after she dies nothing of her will be left behind. Because of this fear, she turns to An Imperial Affliction in hopes of finding answers to her fears. She is seeking to understand what happens after the end of the novel, as she feels it will reveal something about what will happen to her after her life ends, answering the looming existential questions the burden her. Through her relationship with Augustus, however, her philosophical standpoint changes. She realizes that after death people live on through their relationships with their loved ones and the impacts they make on the lives of other people. In this way, the nihilistic philosophy she upholds at the beginning of the book transforms, and she develops a new philosophy about life and death that provides her some hope and comfort about her fate.

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Religion and Philosophy ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Religion and Philosophy 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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Religion and Philosophy 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 Religion and Philosophy.
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

“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 4 Quotes

Cancer kids are essentially side effects of the relentless mutation that made the diversity of life on earth possible.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker)
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel reads An Imperial Affliction for the umpteenth time, and reflects on how closely it aligns with her personal philosophy. In this quote, the character Anna notes that children who have cancer--a disease where a person's cells multiply uncontrollably, impairing the functions of organs--are simply a "side effect" of the cell mutation that accounts for the diversity of life on earth.

Hazel has no tolerance for platitudes about cancer, which place the sick on a pedestal and laud them for being brave and heroic for fighting the disease. Hazel sees nothing heroic about her struggle, which consists of going through treatments that she and her parents hope will prolong her life--something anyone, brave or not, would go through. She appreciates the frankness of An Imperial Affliction, and feels comfort in the notion that her illness is just a biological product of the nature of life on planet earth. Unlike people who turn to religion to reason why someone got an illness and how they will be cured of it, Hazel prefers to turn to cold, hard logic and reason to tell herself that her terminal illness is not fate, but rather a statistical expectation of science. Her cancer has nothing to do with who she is, but rather the basic biology of her body.

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 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’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 11 Quotes

It looked like an old painting, but real—everything achingly idyllic in the morning light—and I thought about how wonderfully strange it would be to live in a place where almost everything had been built by the dead.

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker)
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel, Augustus, and Mrs. Lancaster marvel at the old-world beauty of Amsterdam when they arrive. In this quote, Hazel notes that everything feels as if it has come out of a painting, and thinks about how wonderful and strange it would be to live in a city "where almost everything had been built by the dead."

Hazel and Augustus often wax poetic about the nature of dying and the nature of oblivion--Augustus fears being forgotten after death, and Hazel has come to accept it, saying that oblivion is an inevitable part of living and dying. Hazel is entranced by the idea that people who died long ago are still alive in the architecture and beauty that they created in Amsterdam. Here, Hazel realizes that memories of the dead can come in a lot of different ways, even if specific names and events are not remembered. It is this concept that will lead her to profess her own love to Augustus, since she now realizes that in its own way, their shared existence will be remembered.

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 13 Quotes

“You get to battle cancer,” I said. “That’s your battle. And you’ll keep fighting,” I told him.

“Some war,” he said dismissively. “What am I at war with? My cancer. And what is my cancer? My cancer is me. The tumors are made of me. They’re made of me as surely as my brain and my heart are made of me. It is a civil war, Hazel Grace, with a predetermined winner.”

Related Characters: Hazel Grace Lancaster (speaker), Augustus Waters (speaker)
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

Hazel and Augustus go back to Augustus's hotel room in Amsterdam after meeting Mrs. Lancaster at a cafe. There, Augustus reveals to Hazel that his cancer has returned, and has in fact metastasized throughout his body. In this quote, Hazel attempts to comfort Augustus by telling him he can fight it, but Augustus feels that he's already lost the battle.

Though Hazel is vehemently against the usual cancer platitudes, they are all she can think to repeat when Augustus tells her his cancer has returned. Throughout the whole time they have known each other, Hazel has always believed that she was the sicker one, and that she needed to keep Augustus at an arm's length to ensure that he wouldn't get hurt if she died. Now, it seems that Augustus is the one who is suddenly sicker, and who cannot be consoled with any "encouragements." Hazel now has a taste of what her parents are going through, when they realize that their daughter is fighting a battle they cannot help her fight.

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."