Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Fault in Our Stars: Hamartia and Fate

I promise it was not the movie that made me read the book. To be honest, I haven't watched it yet. I don't really like to read a book when everyone's hyped about it. Besides, somewhere deep inside I still hate tragedies, although the plays I read help me to tolerate them a bit.

However, I found a very interesting Youtube video two days ago, all accidentally, and after a few more videos, I realized that the speaker of these hilarious videos was called John Green. I wondered if he's the same John Green that writes all those books so I looked him up on Google, and ta-da!

I ended up reading his book and finishing it just last night, soaking my pajamas in my own tears and cursing the title he chose for his book, taken from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and incidentally one of my favourite lines there.

Let's discuss the book before Shakespeare fangirl in me takes over.

The book is about a girl named Hazel Grace, who has lung cancer and has to bring oxygen tank everywhere. She has a family to be envied: a loving mother and father, and a lovely girl, herself. In her own way, she wants to make her parents happy, but she feels like she's a burden to them, like she hinders their happiness. Of course the parents incessantly say and show that they love her very much, but it makes her feel worse about it.

Meanwhile, she falls for a boy who falls for her too, Augustus. He's a cancer survivor who lost one of his legs in operation. Hazel begins to analyse her feelings towards Augustus, thinking of herself as a 'grenade' that could explode anytime. She wants to spare him the heartache by not being too close to him.

Hazel loves one book and one author: AIA and Peter van Houten. Augustus shares her love for them too. In their correspondence with him, Peter likens their relationship with Romeo and Juliet's, calling them 'star-crossed lovers' (somehow). Let me quote.
I am in receipt of your electronic mail dated the 14th of April and duly impressed by the Shakespearean complexity of your tragedy. Everyone in this tale has a rock-solid hamartia: hers, that she is so sick; yours, that you are so well. Were she better or you sicker, then the stars would not be so terribly crossed, but it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” Easy enough to say when you’re a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.
There. (Emphasis is mine.)

Eventually, Hazel and Augustus become lovers, and, yeah, "The course of true love never did run smooth." But I will not give you any spoilers here about the ending. It cannot be told, it has to be read.

What strikes me in this novel is of course, the word hamartia, and the nature of fate. The title of this novel alone reveals that (maybe) it's what in the author's mind. The Fault in our Stars.

It's easy to see that the 'stars' is fate, destiny. The fact that they are both kids with cancer, the fact that they would probably die young, the fact that they fall in love with each other, it's all in their 'stars'. Hamartia has been a classic element in tragedy since Ancient Greeks played with masks. It means flaw in character or fault in his/her action that ultimately leads to his/her tragic end. Like, you know, with Othello it is his jealousy, with Coriolanus it's his stubbornness and his definition of honour, etc.

The novel argues, though, that in Hazel and Augustus' case, the hamartia, or 'fault', is not in themselves, but in fate. By fate I don't mean the three sisters who cut threads instead of weave them. Nor do I mean the 'predestination', in which some people believe that God writes down all details in our lives and watches as we 'play' our parts. The fate that we're talking about is more like the things out of our controls, things that we cannot change. In the novel, of course, the hamartia is their illness, and right, in this case, "The fault, dear readers, is in their stars."

Some people love to mark the quality of the books they read with stars. I don't want to add more fault to my judgment, so, no, no star in this case. What I want to say is that this book deserves reading, absolutely. I don't know if the book will become classic one day, but it certainly discusses life and death and the meaning of our existence. All best wishes to the authors. If the book becomes a classic, than my blog is true to its purpose. If not, then this post is an intermission for more classics to come. (I'm still struggling with Walden and my reading challenge by the way.)

Thanks for reading this blog post, and, happy reading to you.


  1. Ah, sama, aku terdorong buat baca John Green gara2 video youtube nya. Tapi masih ragu2, dan setelah baca reviewmu ini, seperti kuputuskan buat mencoba :)

    1. Sama denganmu dan Listra, aku aslinya gak suka baca buku yg terlalu 'hyped'. Tapi setelah baca reviewmu, mungkin suatu saat aku akan coba. Setelah demam-nya menghilang mungkin.... Eh bzee...boleh pinjem gak kapan2? wkwkwk...ujung2nya!!

    2. Ayo ayo... baca John Green nggak berasa kaya baca teenlit atau YA banget kok.. Lebih kaya baca Fitzgerald rasanya. :)