The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A week goes by without a call from Augustus. Hazel goes on with her life, visiting with Kaitlyn and her boyfriend, going to class, taking her medication. One night she sits down with her parents at the dinner table. Her parents are talking about an earthquake that hit Papua New Guinea. They had met in the Peace Corps there, so anything that happened in Papua New Guinea brings them back to a time when they were young. While they talk they do not even acknowledge Hazel.
Hazel becomes aware that her parents had a life before her, but now that she is sick they must put all of their energy into taking care of her. Hazel feels guilty about the amount of time her parents must spend caring for her, the way her impending death warps their life.
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While eating, Hazel feels out of breath, which reminds her that she has a PET scan scheduled in a couple of weeks. She realizes nothing is gained from worrying about the results at that moment, yet she can’t help but worry, which she says is a side effect of dying.
Hazel’s health is a constant source of concern for her. She tries to focus on the moment, but the immensity of the thought of dying makes this a difficult task and takes her focus from living now and being happy like other kids.
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After being excused from dinner, Hazel goes into the back yard to call Augustus. They talk about An Imperial Affliction, and how Augustus understands why it is so important to Hazel. He continues by saying that he feels cheated by the ending. Hazel defends the book by saying this it portrays death accurately by ending mid sentence. Augustus then coyly asks Hazel if Van Houten is really a recluse. She replies yes, that he has never replied to her letters. Augustus then begins to read an email that Van Houten sent to him. He tells her that he got in touch with Van Houten through his secretary Lidewij Vliegenthart.
Augustus and Hazel’s differing reactions to the end of the novel show a disparity in their philosophy toward death and dying. Hazel accepts the ending as true to reality, but Augustus feels cheated as he looks for some meaning in Anna’s death. Augustus, being the heroic type and go getter, contacts Van Houten, which begins a series of “heroic acts” he completes for Hazel, which give his life meaning after death.
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Hazel tells Augustus to continue reading her the email. The email is sincere and warm, but full of philosophical musings about the function and meaning of art. He ponders whether there is a meaning to life or a meaning to being human. Van Houten’s letter then goes on to tell that he will not be writing a sequel to An Imperial Affliction, as this venture would not benefit him or his readers. Augustus then gives hazel the email address.
Van Houten’s musing about life, death, and art and meaning establish the ongoing philosophical tone of The Fault in Our Stars, dealing with the meaning of life, the meaning of art, and arts ability to authentically represent life.
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Hazel spends the next two hours writing an email to Van Houten. She writes that she is a cancer survivor and that his book has a way of telling her what she is feeling before she can even feel it. Then she asks him to answer a few questions. She wants to know what happens to Anna’s mom, whether she married the Dutch Tulip Man, whether she has another child, and whether she moves. She wants to know what happens to Anna’s friends and pets.
Hazel seeks answers from Van Houten in an attempt to gain some insight into what will happen to her friends and family after she dies. She believes that Van Houten has the answers to these questions. This assumption shows her naiveté. She assumes that these answers exist in Van Houten and his art, which is later revealed to be false.
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After sending the email, Hazel calls Augustus back and they talk about An Imperial Affliction and The Price of Dawn. Augustus shares a quote from the beginning of the book that reads, “Say your life broke down. The last good kiss/you had was years ago.” He then asks Hazel when she had her last kiss. The last kiss she’d had was pre-diagnosis, and had felt juvenile and sloppy. Augustus shares that his last kiss with Caroline Mathers, his ex-girlfriend who’d died of cancer. Hazel can’t imagine losing someone you were in a relationship with, so she apologizes to Augustus. He says not to worry, that “we are all just side effects.” Hazel responds by saying that people are “barnacles on the container ship of consciousness,” quoting An Imperial Affliction.
The fact that Hazel’s last kiss was pre-diagnosis shows the way in which her cancer has gotten in the way of her normal development into adolescence and adulthood. She is unable to imagine what it was like for Augustus to lose Caroline because she has never experienced loss in this way. Interestingly, her own greatest fear is causing this kind of harm with her own death. They find a language and philosophy through which they are able to cope with this challenging reality through An Imperial Affliction.
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They pause on the phone before hanging up. Augustus says, “okay,” and Hazel echoes his “okay” with her own. They repeat the word once more each, and Augustus suggests that maybe “okay” can be their “always”. Hazel says, “okay” and Augustus finally hangs up the phone.
Like Isaac and Monica, Hazel and Augustus find a word that works as a promise to always love one another. Although their fate is different than Isaac’s and Monica’s, they will eventually learn the way in which these kinds of promises are disrupted by the unpredictability of the adult world and life.
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Two weeks later, Van Houten has still not replied to Hazel’s email. On Wednesday during class, Hazel gets a text from Augustus telling her that Isaac is officially NEC, which means no evidence of cancer. Unfortunately, however, he is completely blind.
Isaac’s situation is bitter sweet. Although he is free of cancer, it has come at the price of his sight, showing the way in which fighting cancer is not always valiant and inspirational; sometimes it is simply tragic.
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Hazel goes to visit Isaac at the hospital. When she walks in she says hello, but Isaac mistakes her for Monica. He asks Hazel to come closer so he can examine her face with his hands, “and see deeper into [her] soul than a sighted person ever could.” The nurse says he is joking, and Hazel quickly replies that she knows. Isaac tells Hazel that Monica has not even visited and it hurts. He reaches for the pain pump and hits the button sending a shot of narcotics into his arm. The nurse condescendingly tells him not to worry. She says the fourteen months he was with Monica was not that long in the scope of things. They joke about the characteristics of a good nurse, then Isaac becomes depressed again, saying this everyone deserves to experience true love, but he has been short changed by Monica. Then the medicine kicks in and he falls asleep.
By mistaking Hazel for Monica, Isaac’s desire to see his ex is revealed. Like many characters in the book, he deals with his tragic situation through humor, asking to touch Hazel’s face to see into her soul, playing off of the cliché of the intuitive blind man. The nurse’s reaction to his pain over the loss of his relationship with Monica shows her lack of empathy, and lack of understanding of the way in which his cancer affects his ability to be normal. Although what the nurse says may be true based on her adult perspective, as a young person Isaac’s loss is devastating.
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Hazel goes down stairs to the gift shop and buys some flowers for Isaac. When she gets back upstairs, Isaac's mother has arrived and is holding his hand. She shares that she feel guilty for leaving him, but she had to pick up Isaac’s brother from school. Hazel assures her that he did fine, and then she leaves.
Isaac’s mother’s guilt shows the way in which parents of kids with cancer go to great lengths to care for their children, but like any other parent, fall short.
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The next morning Hazel wakes up and finds an email from Van Houten. In the email he tells Hazel he is unable to share what happens in writing because that would constitute a sequel to An Imperial Affliction. He does, however extend an offer to discuss what happens after the novel’s end if Hazel is ever in Amsterdam. Hazel immediately knows that a trip to Amsterdam is out of the question. When she tells her mother about the letter and invitation to Amsterdam, her mother says they don’t have the money. Mrs. Lancaster, knowing how important it is to her, offers to talk to her father about it, but Hazel tells her not to spend any money on it, knowing that she is the reason they have no money in the first place.
Van Houten’s refusal to share the ending in writing speaks to his philosophy about writing falling short when attempting to elucidate reality, and foreshadows the disappointment of their visit later in the novel. When Hazel brings it up to her mother, she feels guilty knowing that her illness is a financial burden on her family.
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Hazel calls Augustus and reads him the letter. He asks if she has used her “wish” referring to an organization that gives one wish to dying kids called the Genie Foundation. She says that she used her wish, not knowing that the Phalanxifor bought her some time. Augustus gives her a hard time for using her wish to go to Disney Land, which he considers cliché. Hazel explains that she was thirteen.
The young people with cancer in the novel are treated differently than healthy children, as shown by the “cancer perks” and “wishes” they receive. They know that these perks are given through a sense of pity. Augustus gives Hazel a hard time because Disney Land is an inauthentic experience that strays from their search for truth and meaning in their lives and deaths.
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On Saturday, Hazel is with her mother at a farmers’ market when her phone rings and Augustus tells her he is at her house. When Hazel gets home, she sees Augustus sitting on the front steps with a bouquet of orange tulips. He asks her if she wants to go on a picnic. Augustus and Mr. Lancaster begin talking about basketball and Hazel goes inside with her mother. Mrs. Lancaster asks Hazel if she wants to put the flowers in a vase, but Hazel wants to put them in her room because they are her flowers, not meant for everyone in the house.
Augustus hits it off with Hazel’s parents, which is a big step in their relationship and part of a young man’s experience when courting a young woman. Hazel’s desire to keep the flowers for herself speaks to the way she feels about Augustus and the way that she wants their relationship to be mature and not involve her parents.
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When Hazel comes back from her room, her parents are talking to Augustus about his recovery from cancer. He tells them he has been NEC for 14 months. Mr. Lancaster tells Augustus that he should know that Hazel is still sick, and that she needs to take it easy. Hazel emerges and intercepts the conversation, and they leave.
Mr. Lancaster’s concern for Hazel shows that although she and Augustus are working toward a mature relationship, they have not completely entered that realm. Hazel’s illness causes her father to feel immense concern for her, which leads to a sense of overprotection that inhibits her ability to live out a mature relationship with Augustus.
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Augustus drives because he wants their destination to be a surprise. As he jolts on the breaks, Hazel feels the tightness in her lungs and can’t help but think of the PET scan she needs to get. As they approach their destination, Hazel thinks of the cemetery down the road. Augustus pulls out a cigarette and puts it in his mouth. Augustus cryptically asks what they are missing in Indianapolis. Hazel lists a number of things, finally landing on the fact that Indianapolis is missing culture. Just then, they arrive at a park behind the museums where a bunch of artists had make sculptures.
Even though she is going on a date with Augustus, Hazel can’t help thinking about the PET scan which will determine if her cancer has returned, showing the way in which her illness interrupts her life. Augustus’ cigarette shows that whatever he is planning for Hazel makes him nervous and in need of a feeling of control.
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They sit before a large sculpture of a skeleton. There are kids climbing on it, jumping from bone to bone. Augustus tells Hazel it is called Funky Bones, created by Joep Van Leishout. Hazel notes that the name sounds Dutch. Augustus tells her it is as, just like the name on the jersey he is wearing. He produces an orange blanket, a pint of orange juice, and some sandwiches. Hazel asks what all of the orange is about, and Augustus replies that it's the national color of the Netherlands.
The children playing on the skeleton metaphorically speak to Hazel and Augustus’ situation—they are still young, like the kids playing, yet they are constantly confronting the issue of death embodied by the skeleton. The Dutch themed picnic shows that Augustus has put a lot of thought into it, suggesting he really cares about Hazel’s happiness.
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They eat their sandwiches, watching the kids play on the sculpture. Hazel begins to suspect that Augustus has something up his sleeve that involves Amsterdam, but she feels to awkward to ask him. Augustus tells Hazel that he loves the sculpture because its composition makes it irresistible for kids to play on. Eventually, Augustus begins a “soliloquy” about the shame of using one’s “wish” on a theme park. He reveals that he never used his wish, and the Genies have agreed to send him and Hazel to Amsterdam.
Augustus’ affection for the statue speaks to his philosophy about life and death, like the cigarettes and heroic video games he likes the act of confronting death. Subconsciously, Augustus’ decision to bring Hazel to Amsterdam is his attempt to do something heroic for her, something that he will be remembered for.
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Hazel is elated, but as Augustus reaches out to touch her face, her body tenses and she recoils. She tells him he really doesn't have to use his wish to take her to Amsterdam. Augustus tells her that he really does have to take her because she is his wish.
Although she doesn't know it, Hazel pulls away instinctively because she doesn't want her death to hurt Augustus. She feels like accepting is setting Augustus up to get hurt, but Augustus has more experience with death than Hazel because of his relationship with Caroline Mathers, so he knows on a deeper level what he is getting into.
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