Sunday, May 26, 2024

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Written By Anvita Srivastava (Grade 11)

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities”.

As humans, we all aspire to be great. We all desire to be remembered. We all wish to leave an imprint on the world. We all want to undeniably mark our existence on the face of death. But, is that what we need?

The Fault In Our Stars: an absolute masterpiece written by John Green. The novel came out back in 2012, and yet, twelve years later, its impression is still fresh in my head and heart. The title was inspired by Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, controversial to the dialogue said by nobleman Cassius to Brutus: “Men at some time were masters of their fates, / The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Rather than implying that the mishaps in our lives occur due to our very own actions, John Green argues that it is all written beforehand, written in our stars. And in the end, it’s not our fault, but instead, ‘The Fault In Our Stars’.

The story revolves around two teenagers, Hazel and Augustus, battling against different kinds of cancers. Although Hazel, the protagonist of the novel, does not see this as a battle. Sixteen years old, astute and witty, Hazel Grace does not worry about the disease that has maimed her. Her thoughts on life, or rather death are crystal clear. She does not fear oblivion, nor death itself. Hazel knows that one day, all things will cease to exist: humans, plants, nature, sky, earth, you name it, and then none of anything will be remembered. And in this thought, she finds solace.

The book gives away the message that even though these two teenagers are plagued with cancer, even though cancer is written in their stars, the choices they make with the time they have are theirs alone to make. John Green had stated in one of his vlogs that he hated the idea of healthy people looking at cancer-stricken patients and learning their lessons. Hence in his book, he decided to not have any healthy kids. The author perhaps wanted to emphasize the fact that the lesson that is to be learned, is not by the healthy individuals, but by the ones who are really infected. They must know that the time they have left is completely in their hands. They mustn’t worry about what’s to come and what’s not to come, but instead, make the most of what they have at that moment. Make the most of what they have in their hands. In the limited time that both Augustus and Hazel have left, they are grateful for each other. They have gifted an infinity to one another in their constrained time frame. And hence, some infinities are bigger than other infinities.

The novel has that kind of writing that makes you ponder over it for days after you’ve kept the book down. I was no exception as a reader to this fact. The story ends with a letter written by Augustus. That letter precisely is what moved me more than the entire book itself.

Augustus explains how it is the inane nature of humans to want to be remembered, to want to leave a mark on this world. How we all at some point seek to outlast death. We all long to do great things, only in the hope for the world to remember us. But, they don’t. And instead, the mark you leave soon becomes a scar. “The coup you win becomes a dictatorship, and the glorious minimall you built becomes a lesion.”

He explains how we are all alike dogs, squirting on fire hydrants. How we all have the insane urge to mark our territory, to mark everything as MINE. As humans, we all want to “do”. But, in reality, the ones who actually leave a significant mark, who do good to mankind, are not the ones that “do”, but instead the ones who observe. He gives an example of how the man who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox.

And this literally made me shut the book and stare ahead and wonder, “How did I never think of this”.

The Fault In Our Stars has layers upon layers of lessons embedded in it. To say it has inspired me, would be an understatement. As an aspiring writer, I have fallen in love with the way John Green writes. On every page there is a thought, or a dialogue, or a sentence, so simple, so mundane, and yet it leaves you wondering how beautifully the author has put it into words. These are the same thoughts we all have at some point in our subconscious mind, but are not talented enough, or rather not clear enough to pen them down. And to see that another individual has done that so immaculately, makes my heart swell.

As a person, the fact of how we all wish to be remembered is no good, was a huge mind changer for me. I, too, have always wanted to be successful, to be famous, to do great things. But in the end, I now question whether it is all worth it. Perhaps ‘doing’ great things shouldn’t be one’s aim in life. Instead, observing, understanding, and noticing keenly should be our goals. Maybe by perceiving and comprehending what nature has to offer us, we might be able to look forward to making a change. A change that does not leave a scar.

American historian and author David McCullough rightly said “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard”. And John Green, to say the least, is marvellous at the art. To say that merely a phrase from this tour de force of a book inspired me, would be too modest. Everyone can whip a piece of writing, but only some leave an everlasting imprint on your soul. Indeed, some infinities are bigger than other infinities.

Featured Image Courtesy – Vulture


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