The Fault in Our Stars, The Metatext

The extraction of the metatextual references made in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Every other week is an exploration of a chapter. Submissions are welcome!

Response to AIA & Finnegans Wake [Submission]

I just wanted to point out that the sentence that Finnegans Wake ends in the middle of is the same sentence that it begins in the middle of (well, not exactly the middle), so unlike the end of AIA, there is a completion to the sentence. AIA just gets cut off, whereas FW continues in a never-ending circle. Perhaps AIA is about life where FW is about history (among other things).


tobreakandblossom messaged mentioning this too, saying: “I love the Finnegan’s Wake post. You might add that in that case, the ending fragment is the start of a sentence which is finished in the first sentence of the book. The first sentence is “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay”; the last is “A way a lone a last a loved a long the”. Cyclical, eternity, and so on…”

AIA and Finnegan’s Wake

                                       

“Also, Anna is honest about all of it in a way no one else really is: Throughout the book, she refers to herself as the side effect, which is just totally correct. Cancer kids are essentially side effects of the relentless mutation that made the diversity of life on earth possible. So as the story goes on, she gets sicker, the treatments and disease racing to kill her, and her mom falls in love with this Dutch tulip trader Anna calls the Dutch Tulip Man. The Dutch Tulip Man has lots of money and very eccentric ideas about how to treat cancer, but Anna thinks this guy might be a con man and possibly not even Dutch, and then just as the possible Dutch guy and her mom are about to get married and Anna is about to start this crazy new treatment regimen involving wheatgrass and low doses of arsenic, the book ends right in the middle of a” (Green 49)

An Imperial Affliction is not the only story to end in the middle of a [sentence]. Specifically, James Joyce’s last novel, Finnegan’s Wake, ends in the middle of a sentence and contains themes which parallel themes in TFIOS. In the Reader’s Guide of Finnegan’s Wake, William Tindall writes of the book saying, “Rise and fall and rise again, sleeping and waking, death and resurrection, sin and redemption, conflict and appeasement, and, above all, time itself—saecula saeculorum— are the matter of Joyce’s essay on man” (Tindall 4). This focus on duality and time, and the inclusion of the Latin phrase which translates as “the centuries of centuries” from the New Testemant accentuates the idea of infinities within infinities presented in Green’s novel. An Imperial Affliction’s ending and the central themes of TFIOS seem to allude to Finnegan’s Wake and further highlight how characters in TFIOS address eternity.

1984 and TIFOS [Submission]

(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.
Roman

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.

Encouragements

"Home is where the heart is" — an Encouragement in the Waters household

The cross-stitched sentiments scattered throughout the Waters’ home offer Mr. and Mrs. Waters comfort and hope. However, one of the Encouragements is actually an age old permutation of another saying. This selected Encouragement was originally,

Home is where the hearth is.

The origin of this saying stems back to ancient Greek mythology, in which Hestia, goddess of home and hearth, provided the inspiration for hearth houses. Hearth houses in ancient Greece were considered the temples and great halls which symbolized worship, prosperity, and unity. The traditional hearth extend towards smaller establishments, including town halls, and eventually, homes themselves. The fire of a hearth was never allowed to extinguish, as it would then symbolically extinguish the energy of life in wherever the hearth was located. For centuries, architecture revolved around the hearth, as it was considered the integral and core part (the heart) of the home. Eventually, the saying changed from hearth to heart, suggesting that one can carry home within them. The Encouragement here expresses a sentiment that has been altered by time but still resonates with people and gives them hope. Ultimately, that is the purpose of sentimental sayings; to provide comfort.

Existentialism

“The day of existentially-fraught free throws was coincidentally also my last day of dual leggedness” (Green 31).

Existentialism is a complex and involved philosophy, and it has been the focus of countless works of literature and art (especially in the 20th century). In brief, existentialism entails creating one’s own definition of meaning and constructing meaning through consciousness. Jean-Paul Sartre, the front man of existentialism, decalared, “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards” in Existentialism is Humanism. Essentially, he asserts that existence precedes essence. One has the choice of who they are, and are not fundamentally ruled by a pre-existing essence that is a byproduct of being human. Augustus struggles with his “existentially-fraught free throws,” thus perhaps he struggles with how he defined meaning when he was healthy, and how it had changed when he became ill. He becomes disgusted with the repetitive and useless nature of tossing free throws, much as Sisyphus struggles with rolling the enormous rock up the hill only for it to roll back down again. Both Augustus and Sisyphus undergo their own redefinition of themselves and the world around them, and introduce the theme of defining meaning in TFIOS.

Phalanxifor

"The drug was phalanxifor, this molecule designed to attach itself to cancer cells and slow their growth" (Green 25).

Phalanxifor seems to have multiple roots, but Green has confirmed that the fictional drug is based on an actual drug named herceptin (trastuzumab). Phalanx formation, on the other hand, is a battle formation harking back to Ancient Greece. This formation consisted of forming a rectangle of infantry advancing with spears to attack the enemy. Phalanx stems from the Greek word for finger (thus, the phalanx bone), a correlation Green intended, saying, “I was using phalanx in the bone sense; I imagined that the people marketing phalanxifor imagined it as having these little fingers that go in and unlock/kill cancer cells” There appears to be an Ancient Greek motif throughout TFIOS, therefore the battle formation may not be entirely coincidental. Hazel and Augustus discuss how cancer is often described as a war in which battles are won and lost the illness and the afflicted. The phalanx formation may also poke at this commonly expressed metaphor.

A Quick Note on…

All the Asks metaTFIOS has been receiving RE: the existence of The Hectic Glow.

Asking whether The Hectic Glow is real (and not a joke page on Omnictionary) is like asking whether An Imperial Affliction is real.

The Hectic Glow

"He played me a couple songs he liked by a band called The Hectic Glow…" (Green 36)

"Decay and disease are often beatutiful, like the pearly tear of the shellfish  and the hectic glow of consumption" (Thoreau Journal).

Thoreau writes of Consumption (now known as Tuberculosis, or, TB) with a poetic register of diction, highlighting the beauty in disease. TB in the 1800s parallels the way we view cancer today, an ailment that does not discriminate between ages (nor does death, really), with painful and socially isolating treatment. Hazel’s parallel to the primarily lung-based disease lies with the mets in her lungs, but throughout TFIOS she argues against Thoreau’s idea that disease is beautiful. As Hazel would (and did) say, “You’re arguing that the fragile, rare thing is beautiful simply because it is fragile and rare. But that’s a lie and you know it” (Green 145). TB gives its victim reddened cheeks, resulting in a hectic glow and thus making them physically more attractive, but what Hazel asserts is that disease does not make the diseased stronger, wiser, or more beautiful. The caliber of correctness in Hazel and Thoreau’s respective ideas is for the reader to decide.

Aside from being a Thoreauvian journal entry, The Hectic Glow is an actual band inspired by TFIOS.

[Image Source]

Stardust [Submission]

Hi! I just watched this video on the origin of the universe (http://dft.ba/-beginning-of-universe) - and he talks about how we all ‘are made from stardust’.

Then I looked at this blog and thought a bit. Then I realized, that if we in fact are made from ‘stardust’, then the fault is in us.

P. S. I hope this makes sense, I just thought it was kind of meta

Thank you for your submission. At one point in the novel, Hazel’s father says that “the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed” (Green 223). I think that our stardust composition is a universal quirk. And the interconnectedness between human nature and nature itself gives us an exceptional opportunity to revel in the difference between faults which lie within us and faults which we have no control over. I think that maybe we are, in part, at the whim of an indifferent universe, and the way we address this forms the faults within ourselves to an extent. So in a way, perhaps the faults in our stars constitute the faults within us.

Infinities [Submission]

Caveat: Contains spoilery content.

“The two years of her life that intervened must by no means be effaced from our memory but rather reckoned as a pleasure, for they afforded us delight and happiness. We must never consider a small good as a large evil, nor be ungrateful for what fortune has given us because it has not filled the measure as full as we expected.” - Plutarch’s Consolation to His Wife, regarding the death of their daughter

This made me think of The Fault in Our Star’s concept of little infinities within larger infinities. Hazel and Augustus have their little infinity of time together, and it’s better not to let its outcome taint the memories of what transpires during their time together. Plutarch says the same - their daughter was alive for a small infinity of two years, and he talks about how they should be able to remember those years fondly, even if things ended poorly, when looking at the larger infinity of their lives.

John’s idea of infinities within infinities says a lot about the malleable, distorted passage of time, and about how Hazel shouldn’t count her time with Augustus by the months or days or seconds. Plutarch, instead, measures with good and evil, which I think is interesting - what, ultimately, is the evil? The feeling of loss? Death itself? Cancer, specifically, for Hazel and Augustus?

The second half of the latter sentence is catching my attention too. Because Hazel and Augustus know they won’t have a larger infinity together, perhaps it makes it easier for them, for Hazel, not to be ungrateful for the gift that is their smaller infinity, a small good amidst what Hazel has spent years trying not to see as a large evil.

Thank you for your submission. Regarding Plutarch’s measurement of time between good and evil, I think the evil lies in the absolute indifference of the universe to the suffering that comes with love and loss. The world, as they say, is not a wish-granting factory. But the beauty in it, it seems, is that sometimes what the world offers is enough. Sometimes, it is enough to create an infinity within an oblivion, enough to allow love to exist, and enough, as Plutarch says, for us to be grateful such opportunities exist.