(May Contain Spoilers of both books)
(Taken from my personal Tumblr)
So I just finished reading 1984 by George Orwell, and besides being a brilliant piece of literature, throughout the book I was reminded at some parts of The Fault in Our Stars.
Now this may be slightly confusing to you, but I will explain how I came to this conclusion.
I’ll start with Green’s book
Now TIFOS is concerned with life and death, and what constitutes a good life. While 1984 seems on the surface to be concerned with humanity, the mind, control, politics…etc. Yet these two seemingly different concerns of both books are intrically linked.
Hazel Grace, the main character of TIFOS, is dying she knows she is dying however she doesn’t know when or where, she will die. She is worried that when she dies she will be a grenade, hurting those around her and wonders what will happen when she eventually does die.
It may surprise you that 1984, is also like this. The main character, Winston, once he starts his affair with Julia, knows he is going to die. Like Hazel he doesn’t know when or where, but he knows he has signed his death warrant. An amazing line that Winston stats, that almost immediately reminded of TIFOs is “To hang on from day to day and from week to week, spinning out a present that had no future, seemed an unconquerable instinct, just as one’s lungs will always draw the next breath so long as there is air available.”
“Spinning out a present that had no future…” Sounds a lot like infinity doesn’t it? Much like Winston and Julia in the first half or 1984. Hazel and Augustus, try to live a life while their alive. They stop worrying about death for a moment and live.
Both books are concerned with humanity; however once they reach their middle they seem to diverge. 1984 concentrating on politics and the horror of the power of the Party and what may happen, while TIFOS continues to explore the questions of life and death.
Yet in my belief the books return to a central issue near their end.
That of the mind. Both books are concerned with mind, although it may not be startlingly obvious in TIFOS.
Let me explain by reasons for believing TIFOS is about the mind: (We know how 1984 is)
There are parts in the book where Green spends time on the diseases that both Augustus and Hazel have, while of course Hazel’s cancer never seems to be forgotten throughout the book. However these scenes highlights one key point to me. Diseases may attack the body violently and painfully, especially cancer as highlighted in the book, but they attack the mind much more viscously.
The fact knowing you’re going to die, in a horrible way scares your mind much more than your body. And that’s the most powerful attack any disease can have, on your mind. Hazel and Augustus are not only battling to live an infinity within an infinity, but also battling to stay human, not to survive but to live. You don’t beat cancer by destroying it within your body; you destroy cancer by not letting it destroy your mind, by not letting it take your humanity. Which 1984 is also concerned with.
Winston fights for his humanity, fights to keep his thoughts. He is not afraid of dying; he knows he is going to die. He is afraid of dying not human, of dying without his own thoughts, of being tricked to believing the beliefs of the Party, of dying while believing a lie. And if you’ve read 1984, well you know how that ends.
While TIFOS ends, with Hazel and Augustus retaining their humanity, of not surviving the cancer, but of defeating the cancer. There is a very important difference between those two words.
Ultimately, I believe both books are about our humanity, and I believe both books get their points across in an amazing and brilliant way.
And both are books I will be reading again and again.
In chapter two Augustus tells Hazel, “Like, cancer is in the growth business, right? The taking people over business. But surely you haven’t let it succeed prematurely?” (Green 32). I think this is what you’re addressing here, with retaining humanity while grappling with disease. 1984 is on many levels a psychological novel (though perhaps not so much as so as, say, Dostoevsky) and I think the parallel that you’ve drawn here certainly works.