My thoughts on THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
I just finished my second reading of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I can’t say that I enjoyed the book. Those of you who have read it understand. It isn’t enjoyable. But it is good. Ultimately, though, for me, the author’s hamartia is far more fatal than the characters’ disease.
The story itself is a tragedy, but the heroes’ tragic flaw is not fatal pride, like Oedipus; fatal passion, like Romeo; or fatal optimism, like Gatsby. Their flaw is in themselves – literally – the cancer that kills them IS them. Unlike the classic tragic heroes, Hazel and Augustus are fully aware of their tragic flaws. They are not in denial, not surprised by death. They know their days are numbered, that their “infinity” is shorter than others’. It is heartbreaking to become attached to characters who are dying. I like happily-ever-after. That’s not in there. Green doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that death is ugly and mean and can destroy the living as well as the dying.
Augustus loves metaphors, and the novel is full of them. The ones that stick out to me most, naturally, are those that reference faith. Support meetings take place in the “heart of Jesus” – the basement of a church. But those meetings are meaningless, full of empty repetition and one upmanship. They are led by a fool who can only offer mantras and the same story over and over again. That man is a modern-day eunech who has lost his manhood and has nothing lasting to offer to anyone. Nothing of value happens in the church, only talk of death and death itself. To Augustus, there is more life and hope in video games than there ever could be in “the heart of Jesus.”
“Why are we here” is the unspoken question each character asks, a question that is discussed, but never answered satisfactorily. The fictional book Hazel loves so much is, I believe, a metaphor for the pursuit of purpose. She is desperate to know how An Imperial Affliction ends, what happens to the characters after the narrator dies. She travels across the globe to find those answers only to discover, in a wizard-behind-the-curtain moment, that the author is a fool. She rejects him then, and she even rejects him when he pursues her. He is not worth knowing.
The only divinity hinted at in this novel is the divine Universe, a Universe that deserves to be recognized and appreciated while you can recognize and appreciate it. The Universe is powerless to stop evil or sickness or death, but it will live on. Man will eventually die out, the sun will eventually burn out, but life creates life, so the Universe will remain. The best we can do is to appreciate being part of it for however much time we have. Because we will all eventually be forgotten, whether we are Shakespeare or the person about whom he wrote Sonnet 55.
As a Christian, I read this book, and my heart breaks for the author and for the millions of people who think like him. To them, faith in God is an impotent belief system, good only to create sayings to be hung on walls and cross-stitched on pillows. Living in heaven is as fanciful an idea as living on a cloud. Intelligent people must reject that notion, they must stop trying to seek immortality and just embrace our own flawed mortality.
The ultimate irony is that the God who created John Green gave him that incredible mind – the mind that has the ability to write beautiful stories. The God Green rejects gave him the free will to reject him. The God who Green sees as, at best, helpless, and, at worst, abusive, created the Universe that we should enjoy.
As I finished this book, I prayed for John Green, that he comes to know the true God, that he sees Jesus isn’t Patrick the Support Group Leader or Van Houten the Author, or just an idea constructed to help people deal with the painful circumstances of life. He is so much more than that. Life is so much more than just these mortal bodies enjoying this immense universe. I prayed he would see that love DOES make life worth living, but true love, true purpose, cannot be found in another human, but in Christ Jesus. The fault, John Green, is not in our stars, it is in our hearts. And what we are all looking for is not Alaska, but the Savior.