Hazel and her mother are only able to bring one suitcase to Amsterdam, so they pack their clothes together in one. Hazel’s parents had received the suitcase as a wedding present, and Hazel notes that it was supposed to be used to carry their things to exotic locales, but it mostly went to Daytona where Mr. Lancaster’s company had a satellite office.
By noting that the suitcase was supposed to go with her parents to exotic destinations, Hazel’s guilt over the impact she has had on her parent’s life shows through. Also, the fact that it is only used for business trips shows that Hazel is also aware of the financial burden she is on her parents.
Mrs. Lancaster wakes Hazel up five thirty, even though the plane does not leave until noon. She spends all morning making sure that Hazel has everything she will need to make the trip. They eat dinner with Mr. Lancaster, even though Hazel is opposed to eating before dawn on the grounds that she is not a Russian peasant preparing for a long day in the fields. She argues that breakfast foods are unfairly labeled so, stating that they should be food to be eaten anytime of the day. Mrs. Lancaster tells her she has to pick her battles.
Mrs. Lancaster’s planning before the trip not only shows her concern for Hazel, but also shows the amount of thought that goes into planning a trip with a sick child. Hazel’s questioning of the breakfast food shows the way in which she thinks existentially about everything. This is not only because she is a teenager, but also because she is a teenager whose impending mortality makes her question the conventions in her life.
Before they drive to the airport, Mr. Lancaster begins crying and tells Hazel that he loves her and is proud of her. Hazel wonders what he is proud of. As they leave, Hazel sees that he is still crying and realizes that he must be thinking he might never see her again, which is a though he must have every morning.
Because Hazel has not experienced deep love, like the love one has for a child or significant other, she cannot understand why he is proud of her. In the end, however, she begins to sympathize with her father as she realizes that her health and unpromised future must be extremely difficult for him.
When Hazel and her mother arrive at Augustus’ house, they get out of the car and go to the front door. Before they can knock, they hear someone crying inside. Hazel realizes it is Augustus, and Mrs. Lancaster immediately turns her back toward the car. Hazel texts Augustus, who texts back that he just can’t figure out what to wear.
It is later revealed that Augustus is crying because he has received bad news about his health, but he does not want Hazel to know about it before her trip, so he lies to her about it. In a sense, he is diving on a grenade to saver her special trip.
At the airport they go through security. Hazel chooses to go through the metal detector, as opposed to getting searched by hand, and takes her nubbins out and pushes her air tank to the side. She notes that walking through the metal detector was the first time in months she’d gone without her oxygen, and it feels good. She feels a freedom she hasn’t felt in a long time. After walking through, however, she feels pain in her lungs and must sit down.
Walking through the metal detector allows Hazel to feel a sense of freedom that foreshadows the freedom she will later experience in Amsterdam. At the same time, she is quickly reminded of her limitations, which mirrors her larger situation—she strives for normalcy, but she will never again be healthy.
At the gate, Augustus notes that Mrs. Lancaster is a particularly punctual person. She tells Augustus that she isn’t very busy, so that helps. Hazel chimes in saying that she is busy, and quickly realizes that most of her mother’s time is spent taking care of her, and the rest of her time was spent helping her father who was clueless when it came to many things.
In this moment, Hazel realizes how much her work her mother puts into maintaining the family.
Augustus leaves to grab a burger. Before he leaves, Hazel notes that she is glad that he does not want scrambled eggs, which are the stereotypical breakfast food. While he is gone an airline attendant shows up with a fresh tank of oxygen for Hazel. She feels embarrassed as the attendant attaches the new tank, feeling like people are watching her. She texts Augustus, but he does not reply. She begins to worry that some “Amsterdam-ruining fate” like arrest, injury or mental breakdown has struck Augustus.
Hazel admires Augustus’ decision to eat a burger as it shows their mutual refusal to think inside the box. The attendants arrival with the new tank makes Hazel the center of attention, highlighting the way that she is different than the other people in the waiting area. When Augustus is running late, Hazel assumes the worst—having cancer makes every moment potentially perilous.
Just then the attendant announces that they will be boarding passengers who need “a little bit of extra help.” Augustus returns just in time, rushing toward her with a McDonalds bag in his hand, saying that the line was super long. As they enter the plane, Hazel can feel everyone looking at them. She feels like they are wondering what is wrong with her, and if it will kill her. She notes that the evidence of her disease—the tank, the nubbins, Augustus’ limp—separate them from healthy people.
Again, Hazel's cancer makes her feel gawked at and set apart from others, as a product of those others trying to make her life easier. Hazel’s tank, nubbins, and Augustus’ limp, serve as external markers of their difference from others watching. She projects her concerns around death onto the people watching.
Augustus takes the window seat, while hazel sits in the middle with Mrs. Lancaster in the isle. Augustus says that eggs are in some way sacred because they have a special time for their consumption. Hazel thinks it is ludicrous, telling Augustus that he is calling a fragile and rare thing beautiful just because it is fragile and rare. He admits that she is correct, and then admits that the line wasn't that long, he just didn't want to sit in a space where people were staring at them. Augustus says that he was not embarrassed, just mad that people stare, and he doesn't want to be mad in Amsterdam.
Metaphorically, by taking the middle seat, Hazel is between her adult life and love of Augustus, and her childhood embodied by her mother. Hazel’s belief that eggs should not be considered special because of their fragility mirrors her belief that cancer kids should not be treated differently because of their cancer. By admitting that the line wasn’t that long, Augustus reveals he is still self-conscious about his cancer, even though he always appears confident.
As the plane takes off, Augustus grabs the armrest and clenches his jaw. Hazel asks if he is scared to fly. Augustus tells her that he will let her know in a moment. She puts her hand on his while they take off. When they are in flight, Augustus excitedly looks out the window and says that nothing has ever looked like that before. Hazel finds his enthusiasm endearing and kisses him on the cheek, telling him that it was just friendly. In his moment of youthful joy, Hazel could not resist kissing him.
As they begin their trip, Augustus begins to show some vulnerability, which suggests he is opening up to Hazel and moving away from his confident façade. Happy to see this façade diminishing, Hazel kisses Augustus on the cheek—she is finally giving into her attraction to Augustus, despite her fear of being a grenade.
Hazel and Augustus stay awake while Mrs. Lancaster falls asleep. They admire the beauty of the sky as the sun sets. Augustus quotes a line from An Imperial Affliction, “The risen sun too bright in her losing eyes.” Hazel notes that the sun is setting, but Augustus assures her that it is rising somewhere. He says that it would awesome to fly in a plane so fast it could chase the sun around the earth. Hazel says she would live longer because of relativity.
When Hazel’s mother falls asleep, they spend a romantic moment together watching the sun set. Hazel's correction of Augustus' about the sun speaks to her belief on her situation—the sun is setting on her. But Augustus sees it another way, noting that it is rising elsewhere, a more hopeful view. This moment speaks to their differing philosophies, but their shared interest in existentialism.
They decide to watch 300, but the movie on Augustus’ screen starts before Hazel’s. She leans her head on his shoulder and watches the movie on her screen. Hazel is not interested in the movie, but enjoys the fact that Augustus gets such a kick out of it. When she tries to talk to him, he tells her to be quiet, later apologizing, stating that he was “awash in the nobility of sacrifice.”
The different starting times of their movie provide an opportunity for them to come closer to one another; an opportunity that Hazel seizes This affection again shows that she is giving in to her love for Augustus. Augustus becomes entranced by the movie because of the heroics.
Hazel asks Augustus how many dead people he thinks there are. He happens to know the answer: there are 7 billion living people and 98 billion dead people. He reveals that he did some research on it a few years ago because he was wondering if everyone could be remembered. He says that if everyone remembered 14 dead people, everyone could be remembered, but humans are disorganized mourners, so they remember Shakespeare, but not the person who Sonnet fifty-five was about.
As an individual who has faced death in a very real way, Augustus has already spent time thinking about the question Hazel asks. His research is directly related to his fear of being forgotten after he dies, and his comment about Shakespeare rings with resentment over the fact that many people are simply forgotten.
Hazel asks if Augustus wants to read. Hazel is reading Allen Ginsburg’s Howl for school, and Augustus asks her to read some of it out loud. Hazel says its not the kind of poem to read next to your sleeping mother since Allen Ginsburg did more drugs than she has, and the poem contains sodomy and angel dust. Finally she decides to recite The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock from memory instead. When she finishes, Augustus tells her that he is in love with her. Hazel gets uncomfortable afterward, but Augustus says that he understands “love is a shout into the void” and that “oblivion is inevitable”, but he is not going to deny the truth. Hazel feels something rising up inside of her, but she is unable to say it back.
Allen Ginsburg’s poem Howl was written in resistance to the societal norms of post-war America. The subject matter is existential, which mirrors Hazel and Augustus’ existential dilemmas. The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock explores similar themes, but the fact that it is a “love song” makes it an appropriate choice for Hazel. The existential theme continues when he tells Hazel he loves her. Although there may only be oblivion after death, Augustus refuses to let this prevent him from loving Hazel now. Hazel is unable to say it back because she is still working through these ideas philosophically.