4. “I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it—or my observation of it—is temporary?”
Hazel’s father says these words during a conversation he and Hazel have after the recurrence of Augustus’s cancer. The quotation touches upon an issue central to The Fault in Our Stars. Throughout the novel both Hazel and Augustus seek to make sense out of the meaning of existence. Hazel’s belief is that the universe is indifferent to human life and suffering, and this view informs her thoughts on the meaning of existence and the possibility of an afterlife. As Hazel suggests to her father during their conversation, she doesn’t think anything happens for a meaningful reason or that our consciousness persists in any way after we die. Her father’s view, which he explains in the quotation, is much more open-ended. Because the universe seems predisposed to creating consciousness, it appears to want to be observed. While this perspective doesn’t go so far as to propose a god presiding over the universe, it does imply that the universe is in some way conscious of the life in it. It also says people don’t have the knowledge or authority to say for certain that a person’s consciousness is temporary.
This idea is significant through the remainder of the novel. Notably, it ties in with Augustus’s beliefs about what makes a life meaningful. Augustus places value in the thought of doing something heroic with his life because he wants others to acknowledge his importance. He feels that only by being remembered by those who live on after him will his life have meaning, as his importance to the world wouldn’t simply end with his death. According to Hazel’s father’s view, Augustus’s importance may not end with his death, and he is in fact acknowledged, perhaps not exactly as he would like but still the universe in some form knows of his existence. Moreover, her father’s words stay with Hazel and alter her own feelings. During her Support Group meeting after Augustus dies, Hazel asks herself why she still wants to be alive, and she concludes that she feels obliged to notice the universe. The suggestion is that her father’s idea has given her a sense of purpose that she didn’t have before.