8 Reasons I Fell In Love With “The Fault in Our Stars”

(Sort-of spoilers ahead, specifically in #3, 5 and 7. If you haven’t read the book yet, you should be able to read the other numbers or at least the bolded sections. Maybe writing this in depth list isn’t so helpful to people looking for a good book to read if it spoils parts of the novel…oh well.)

Yesterday I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which has got to be one of the greatest modern novels composed, for the following reasons (in a somewhat but not really particular order).

1) Allusions and Symbolism. Lots and lots of allusions. Being a former AP English Lit student, I was able to identify them many of them as the meaning each work brought to the novel. Allusions include “The Red Wheelbarrow”, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and of course, Shakespeare. The title of the novel comes from a line in Julius Caesar, in which Caesar says, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves” (Shakespeare 1.2.140-141). Furthermore, there is a smorgasbord of symbols, particularly representations through the characters. There is a ton of water (rebirth, cleansing) symbolism (for example,  Augustus’s last name is Waters and they (Hazel and Gus) travel to Amsterdam, a city famous for its canals).

2) Writing Style. I’m usually a fan of the classical, lots-of-fancy-language-and-run-on-sentences style of writing, but the ideas surrounding the novel are so strong John Green does not need to be “fancy”. Moreover, it just makes more sense the writing style is more relaxed, considering a teenager is the narrator. It includes some script-like conversation between characters (Example: Me: Hi Mom. Mom: Hi there), which I really enjoyed for some inexplicable reason.

3) Themes. There are a multitude of important concepts covered in the novel, the most important being the struggle for immorality and two ultimate life questions: Will I be loved? Will I be remembered?

The novel emphasizes the way even a novel cannot immortalize an individual. For example, John Green states, “Nothing (at least that can be done by humans) immortalizes anyone. The Fault in Our Stars will hopefully have a long and wonderful life, but it will eventually go out of print, and eventually the last person ever to read it will die, and then the characters will no longer live in any consciousness” (The Fault in Our Stars Q and A 5-6).

So that might seem depressing, especially to someone like myself who adores the possibility of immortality promised in writing. However, Green goes on to explain, “Also, that is okay…What Gus in particular must reconcile himself to is that being temporary does not mean being unimportant or meaningless” (TFIOS Q and A 6). Even though one is mortal, the here-and-now of life is just as important as it would be if our lives were remembered forever. Essentially, the novel suggests the meaning of life is to continue to lead significant lives notwithstanding our own mortality.

The novel also describes the struggle of those like Hazel who attempt to refrain from becoming a “grenade”, harming their loved ones with their departure (specifically death). John Green demonstrates through Hazel and Gus’s relationship hurting one’s loved ones, simply by being loved, is okay. As Gus writes, “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” (TFIOS 313).

4) Characters who also love literature, metaphors, and using big words. These are people I can relate to! Not only do these characters make reading more personable (to me at least), it allows John Green to include important literary allusions flawlessly (see #1) in the novel.

5) “Okay”. Isaac and his girlfriend say “Always” to each other as a sugary, romantic way of saying “I will love you forever”. “Okay” becomes Hazel and Gus’s “Always”, which is not a promise of a forever but of real, substantial love. Sort of the kind of thing I find attractive in a relationship (not overly romantic).

6) Realism. Many of the other components of this list could fit into this category, such as writing style and theme, but I wanted to point out just how real this book feels. Its characters and the interactions between them seem pretty legitimate to me. The novel addresses realistic ideals, including the impossibility of human immortality.

7) The novel does not portray cancer patients as overly cheerful, strong, wonderful people, or the dead as virtuous and venerable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mommom, who passed away this year. But she had many, many flaws. Cancer patients, stereotypically depicted as heroic survives, can be these astounding, angelic individuals. But they are still real people, who experience anger, misjudgments, and, well, all of the normal human emotions. All of the cancer patients in this novel-Hazel, Gus, Isaac and Caroline Mathers-are complex characters with good and bad qualities.  Additionally, when Isaac and Hazel write their eulogies for Gus’s funeral, though they opt for a more sentimental speech at his actual funeral, they poke fun at his life and his shortcomings. Green does not “sentimentalize or romanticize anything in the book” and combats the oversimplification that “suffering is heroic, and that cancer suffering in particular strengthens you and makes you better” (TFIOS Q and A, pg 23).

8) I read this novel at a perfect time in my life. The past year, more specifically the last month, of my life has been encompassed by the question of the meaning of life. More importantly, what is it that I want from my own life? While I was reading the novel, especially in the beginning, I was shocked by the reality of my own mortality, and, in short, would not accept it. As I began to realize I was “temporary”, I spiraled into more depression. I would channel my inner Augustus Waters and ask myself, what is the point if no one will remember us?  After finishing the novel, I have been satisfied with a somewhat answer. Indeed, there is a point in living fully even though we are only mortal. I have yet to discern the specifics of the meaning of my own life, but will and must continue to hope living is truly worthwhile.

I am so excited to see the movie when it is released in theaters, and am very pleased to have enjoyed the “small infinity” contained in this novel.

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Chapter 1.6 of The Stranger by Albert Camus

Yeah, duh, there’s gonna be spoilers below. This one is sort of long, but I hope you can read it through. Or don’t, I’m not trying to pressure you. The 1.6 is for Part One, Chapter 6. 

This is the moment I had been waiting for. FINALLY IT HAPPENED.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. So they-Meursault, Marie and Raymond-are on their way to Raymond’s friend Masson’s beach house, They see the Arabs that have been following Raymond around, but the Arabs are seemingly not interested in seeking revenge on this particular Sunday. They ride the bus and cross “…a small plateau that overlooks the sea and then drops steeply down to the beach” (Camus 49).

Honestly, with the following descriptions, I was having a tough time visualizing the beach.

Okay, so no lie, when it said “Masson wanted to go for a swim, but his wife and Raymond didn’t want to come” (Camus 50) I got all excited cause I thought Raymond was going to hit on his wife or coerce her into the pimp business, and then they’d come back and Masson would try to kill Raymond or the other way around.

But nah, nothing of that sort. More couple-ey swimming hoopla, and notice the lack of importance for Masson’s wife-we don’t even know her name. But, yanno, women. When the three men take their walk on the beach, they meet the Arabs walking toward them. As they’re fighting, Raymond tries to be all macho and idiotically turns from his victim to Meursault to tell him he’s “..gonna let him have it now” (Camus 54) and subsequently gets slashed with a knife.

So then the Arabs back away and leave, and Masson takes Raymond to a doctor nearby. When they get back to the house, Raymond is acting funny and says he is going down to the beach to get some air. Despite being swore at and told not to follow, Meursault accompanies him, like any friend trying to keep another friend out of trouble would.

They find the Arabs by a spring (again, I had trouble visualizing this setting), and Raymond asks if he should “…let him have it” (Camus 56). Meursault, in a way, calms the situation by telling Raymond that shooting the Arab when he doesn’t even say anything would be lousy. When Raymond wants to call him something and if he answers, to shoot, Meursault puts meaningless restrictions on the event, first saying that he can’t shoot if he doesn’t draw his knife, then informing Raymond that he should take him on man to man.

For some reason-I suppose he wants to uphold his manly honor-Raymond submits to Meursault’s restrictions and hands Meursault his gun when he asks for it. They have a little moment as Raymond hands him the gun, and simply stare at each other.

“It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot” (Camus 56). I noted it as an interesting observation, a very black and white type of comment. In context and referring to a gun, of course it’s true. However, there are minutiae that make a difference. Do you shoot at the head, the heart, the stomach, a foot, a limb? What damage do you intend to do?

Then again, in the eyes of the law, it comes down to if you shot the person or not. BUT then again, court does take into consideration premeditated hoopla, and there is a difference between murder and injuring someone, unless malicious intent is found.

Honestly, this argument is only valid if you’re efficient at shooting a gun and can actually aim.

They go back to the bungalow, but Meursault stops short of the steps, and he is….”unable to face the effort it would take to climb the wooden staircase and face the women again. But the heat was so intense that it was just as bad as standing still in the blinding stream falling from the sky. To stay or go, it amounted to the same thing” (Camus 57).

So he goes for a walk in the blistering heat. He heads toward the relief of the spring to find that Raymond’s man (singular, so there’s only one there) had come back, and he”s just sunbathing. They see each other and each grab the weapons in their pockets, though the Arab lays back down with his hand in his pocket, glancing at Meursault every now and then.

So Meursault just stands there in the scorching sun. He begins to think about how this day is a lot like the one he buried Maman in, which makes me wonder if he had any sudden pang of shock or grief or something related to Maman’s death that triggered this unreasonable event.

Anyway, he keeps saying how hot it is, and he starts to move forward for no apparent reason-“I knew that it was stupid, that I wouldn’t get the sun off me by stepping forward” (Camus 59). But he keeps advancing, and the Arab draws his knife and slashes Meursault across the forehead and over his eyes. It’s a very descriptive, well written paragraph describing the heat and sweat and blood over his eyes (which I will rewrite, despite how excessive it is).

The light shot off the steel and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead. At the same instant the sweat in my eyebrows dripped down over my eyelids all at once and covered them with a warm, thick film. My eyes were blinded behind the curtain of tears and salt. All I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes. That’s when everything began to reel. The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave; I felt the smooth underside of the butt; and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, is where it all started. I shook off the sweat and sun. I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I’d been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness. (Camus 59)

…So he shot the guy because it was hot. That is what I gathered from this. This was the moment I threw down the book on the table where I had been taking my break so some of my friends could stare at me.

That bold part is my favorite part of the whole spiel. I’m still lurking on the edge of the whole juxtaposing the heat of Maman’s funeral with the heat of the day of the murder. There’s something important there. When he says that he shook off the sweat and the sun, was he shaking off grief and insensibility, finally coming out of his daze? I think so.

Then there is the big question-why did he shoot the Arab four times after he had killed him? I will do some literary research on this whole murder scene and hopefully be back with more answers!

Thanks for reading, if you’ve gotten to this point-it was pretty bulky. Part 2 is next!

Lyrics to an (almost) Song

Not even close to a song, considering I have no musical talent. But lately I’ve been writing a lot of poetry in the form of songs (cause isn’t that essentially what songs are-poetry put to music), with a rhythm in mind. This one has a Treacherous by Taylor Swift vibe to it, if it helps at all to imagine what it could possibly become.

The penalties could be high

If I find out I was wrong

All your promises and words

Could leave me all alone

 

And honestly I don’t know how

To let anyone know me

And up until now I believed

That’s how it should be

 

Don’t fall too hard

Or tread too fast

I don’t know how

To make things last

It’s apparent I’ve never truly loved

But maybe…

I’ve learned it’s hard

For me to trust

But I’ve never felt

Quite this rush

It’s apparent I’ve never truly loved

But maybe with you…I want to

 

And please don’t disappear

Don’t turn around

Don’t leave me lying

There, cold, on the ground

 

Don’t fall too hard

Or tread too fast

I don’t know how

To make things last

It’s apparent I’ve never truly loved

But maybe…

I’ve learned it’s hard

For me to trust

But I’ve never felt

Quite this rush

It’s apparent I’ve never truly loved

But maybe with you…I want to

 

Promises could be broken

We could fall hard

Then not go anywhere far

I could turncoat

When it’s time to charge

But the biggest fear I have

Is maybe my heard doesn’t belong entirely to you

I don’t want to hurt you

 

Don’t fall too hard

Or tread too fast

I don’t know how

To make things last

It’s apparent I’ve never truly loved

But maybe…

I’ve learned it’s hard

For me to trust

But I’ve never felt

Quite this rush

It’s apparent I’ve never truly loved

But maybe with you…I want to

Maybe I want to…

Maybe I love you…

 

Update: And as far as my novel for NaNoWriMo goes…it’s not even close to being done with a few days left in the month. However, this isn’t a total loss: I was very happy that it gave me the chance and motivation to start writing one of my stories, and I hope to continue to write it.

Fizzled out?

Fizzled out? NOPE. Just Chuck Testa.

Well, recently it seems that not as many people have been discovering or reading my blog. But this isn’t gonna be a whining post begging people to start commenting and reading and following.

Throughout my comparably short life, I’ve grown up as a writer, very slightly each year. I used to be terrified to share my work. Some of my work I still won’t share, but I’m less afraid now. In addition, I welcome criticism, because there are only two things it can really do to me: it can make me a better writer or make me laugh because I don’t think they are wrong-I know they are wrong.

It’s only criticism, and just like in everything else in reality, people aren’t always going to agree with you or like what you do.  But that’s a huge part of being a writer, being able to continue to write…and write…and write, even if no one likes it. Writers have to have a certain degree of confidence in themselves in order to make it, and lately I’ve been trying to soak up as much confidence as I can get. I’ve come to believe that a true writer writes simply for the joy of it, and no one should lose touch with that.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m about to embark in NaNoWriMo Month, which is National Novel Writing Month, in which participants pledge to try to write an entire novel (i forget the word minimum) within the month of November. This is great for me because I never have the motivation to write most of my stories, and now I have some.

So wish me luck, and Happy Halloween to anyone out there reading this. =D