"They don’t kill you unless you light them," he said as Mom arrived at the curb. "And I’ve never lit one. It’s a metaphor, see: you put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do it’s killing."
Hazel is quick to judge when she sees Augustus pull out a cigarette at the end of Chapter 1, but he offers this explanation as to his metaphorical view of them. Refusing to light the cigarettes provides Augustus with a sense of agency that his life as a child with cancer has largely deprived him of, and his continual return to this metaphor hints at his need to push back against cancer’s unpredictable nature. Beyond revealing his desire for control and stability, Augustus’s conscious choice to practice a metaphorical action speaks to his intellectual perspective, a quality which ultimately helps him bond with Hazel.
“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the Sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I’m in love with you.”
During their flight to Amsterdam in Chapter 10, Augustus makes this declaration of love to Hazel and, in doing so, confronts the reality of their situation in a way that she is not yet able to. His bold tone in this moment suggests that his feelings for Hazel overpower any reservations he has about death or oblivion, an attitude which emphasizes his belief in the significance of love above all else. This worldview, which ultimately wins Hazel over, also reflects his commitment to giving himself grace and allowing happiness into his life.
“It made sense, Gus leveraging his terminality to make my dream come true: The sequel was a tiny thing to die for, but it was the biggest thing left at his disposal.”
Throughout the novel, Augustus expresses concern over the idea that his death will be meaningless unless he makes a notable impact on the world. Hazel’s discovery in Chapter 25 that he may have written a sequel to An Imperial Affliction before he died reveals that, even in his final days, he remained preoccupied with finding a way to leave a legacy. His choice to do something for Hazel suggests that caring for and loving her is as significant a legacy as any.