“And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
Hazel offers this response to Augustus’s admission that he fears oblivion in Chapter 1, and the matter-of-fact tone that she uses in this moment highlights two key ideas that will play out thematically during the remainder of the novel. First, her casual discussion of the topic highlights the fact that she, as a terminally-ill child, must confront the meaning of her own mortality in a way that other children cannot grasp. While Hazel seems to brush off Augustus’s fear and advises him to ignore it, her mention of oblivion’s “inevitability” suggests that this meaninglessness cannot be ignored forever.
“I couldn’t be mad at him for even a moment, and only now that I loved a grenade did I understand the foolishness of trying to save others from my own impending fragmentation: I couldn’t unlove Augustus Waters. And I didn’t want to.”
Once Augustus reveals in Chapter 13 that his cancer has returned, Hazel has the sudden realization that attempting to shield others from the impact of her death is a useless pursuit. Her fear of hurting others dissolves as she finds herself in the position to be hurt, understanding that her love for Augustus will continue despite what might happen to him. While she might not fully realize it in this moment, this idea extends beyond her relationship with Augustus and applies to her parents as well. They will continue to love her and carry on after her death rather than falling into oblivion.
“Nobody biting it from the plague or small pox or yellow fever or whatever, because there is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honor in dying of.”
While this line comes from the end of Chapter 13, Augustus expresses concerns about having a meaningful death throughout the novel. He emphasizes to Hazel that he wants to leave a legacy behind to avoid falling into oblivion, and he fears that cancer will rob him of the opportunity to do so. What Augustus will eventually come to realize, however, is that his loved ones will carry on his memory and, in doing so, allow him to leave his mark on the world.