Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars - thoughts, part I

Read the book. Saw the movie.

I thought the movie was a really good adaptation of both the sprit and flow of the story. The acting was outstanding and conveyed the emotion of this powerful story. Although there were some aspects of the plot that were condensed for the sake of time, it was faithful to the story. So my thoughts are not so much about the movie or the book, but about the story itself.

For those who don't know, the story is about a pair of teenagers who have been dealt the unfortunate hand of being, as the book calls them, "cancer kids." The key characters are a guy and girl who realize they are likely terminal and their parents. It's a story which attempts to deal realistically with what it's like to try and find meaning in life with the specter of death hanging over your head.

As I read (and then watched), here are some random thoughts I had:
  • Much of the story centers around Augustus' fear of oblivion. He wants to make sure that he is remembered for something significant and that his death has meaning. This is one of many emotions in the story that rings true. I think that deep down all of us want our lives to mean something. Whether we live 18 years or 80, we want it to matter than we've been here.
  • Hazel is focused, almost obsessed, with the need to face her fate realistically. She rejects what she considers to be false hope, and either corrects or ridicules those whose language belies denial of the truth that she is going to die soon. Early on, she makes a speech to her support group that went like this:
"There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything...Maybe this time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever...And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that's what everyone else does."
To me, this speech underlies the entire theme of the book. Because if Hazel is right, all the despair and depression and pessimism about cancer and death makes sense. But if she's wrong...
  • Despite the lack of hope, there is a tremendous amount of love displayed in the story. And I don't mean the romantic love based on attraction - although it's there. The love Hazel's mom has for her; the unselfishness of Augustus in so many ways, toward Hazel but also toward his friend Isaac. I could list so many more examples and be more specific, but then the post would come with s spoiler warning. Read it or see it for yourself - you'll be moved by howe love permeates the story.
  • A word on the title: As you may recognize, it's taken from a line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, where Cassius says, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." The idea of the quote being that our fate is not a matter of bad luck but rather the result of our choices. Of course, the book/movie is taking the position that having cancer is indeed a matter of fate. And it is. But like any other fate, how we respond to it is everything. I believe that in many ways the story's characters rise above their cancer, showing the title to be a lie. But in other ways they do not.
  • Dealing with grief. There was no sugarcoating on that. I remember what it's like to know someone I love is going to die soon, and the grief is as real as the grief after they're gone. And I saw that depicted as I remember it.
You know, we're all terminal. The short time we have on earth is passing by so fast. So if we're honest with ourselves, we all need to know how we are going to process our impending deaths. In that sense, The Fault in Our Stars is a story for all of us. To be fully prepared for death, I believe the resurrection of Jesus can give us the faith, hope, and love to be ready for it. What does it look like to face it with love but without faith and hope? This is it, and it's done very well.

Highly recommended for the questions it asks and a realistic picture of death as the enemy. But the premise that facing death with joy and peace is a fairy tale - that is just not true. It is for many, but it doesn't have to be. Thank God for that.

Next post: Hazel and Augustus' discussion of heaven (page 167)

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