The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15


Hazel, Hazel’s mom, and Augustus land in Amsterdam. The three stay at the Hotel Filosoof where the rooms, August’s a floor ahead of Hazel’s shared room with her mother, are all named after great “filosoofers” (p.157). Hazel’s mom wants to see a park, but Hazel is so tired that she goes to sleep with the BiPAP and when she wakes she finds that her mother waited by her the whole time. She announces that Hazel and Augustus will be going to a nice dinner that night, arranged by Peter von Houten’s assistant.

Hazel wears a sweet dress and, when she opens the door to her room, finds Augustus in a beautiful, well-tailored black suit. Hazel asks if that’s the suit he wears to funerals and he lightly says, “That suit isn’t nearly this nice” (p.160). They ride the tram, watching light petal-like elm tree seeds blow around in the air. The restaurant is called Oranjee; Hazel and Augustus are escorted to a canal-side table a given complementary champagne, which they discuss the origin of with another kind waiter. The food, sent out in many courses, is delicious; they eat and drink champagne until they are full and tipsy. Augustus brings back up his suit, revealing that he bought it to be the suit he’d wear in his own funeral back when he was given his diagnosis, even though he had an 85% chance of cure; Hazel says she understands but is once again reminded of the difference between their diagnoses. Over dessert they discuss belief in an afterlife, Hazel saying she doesn’t believe in anything and Gus saying he believes in “Something with a capital S” (p.168). They argue about Gus’s obsession with dying for something or leaving something behind after he goes, which Hazel says is a mean thing to say to her who feels as if she is unable to do that. Though some tension remains, they are able to change the subject and find that Peter von Houten paid for their meal.

They walk along the canal talking about what the visit with Peter von Houten will be like the next day and what they believe happens after An Imperial Affliction ends. They sit on a park bench together, leaning into one another, content. Finally, Hazel asks about Caroline and Augustus tells the story of seeing her on the hospital playground from his hospital room and her being moody and miserable, perhaps because of her personality or perhaps because of her cancer and its specific effects on her mind and emotions. As he got better, she got worse, and he stayed together with her even in her last year of life when she would call him names and even repeat the same mean things over and over due to short-term memory problems. Though Hazel again says that she doesn’t want to hurt him like that, Augustus tells her, “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you” (p.176).

Hazel sleeps poorly and the next morning they eat a deli meat-filled breakfast in their room and then prepare for their exciting day. Hazel decides to dress as much like Anna, the protagonist of An Imperial Affliction, as possible. Hazel and Augustus split from her mother for the day and walk off to Peter Van Houten’s house. When they arrive, a bass beat is thumping loudly and they have to knock repeatedly to make their presence known. Van Houten pops his head out, and then slams the door on them again, yelling at her for inviting them to his house. Finally, he opens the door again, speaking to them harshly but ushering them inside.

His house, especially the living room they are led to, is strangely sterile but for two large, black garbage bags full of 18 years of fan mail. He offers them scotch, drinking multiple throughout their meeting and getting progressively drunker though it is still early morning. He talks to them about alcohol, insults their intelligence, rants about philosophy, plays them Swedish rap, and refuses to tell them what happens after the book ends. Finally, he relents to tell them what happens to Sisyphus the Hamster, though when he gets to the subject of the Dutch Tulip Man he says that he is obviously a metaphor for God and will go no further since he argues there is no reality of the characters outside of what is written. He returns to insulting them flippantly, telling them that they seek pity from everyone and that they are a side effect, a sentiment Hazel had long connected with and thinks to herself can’t hurt her as much as she has already thought hurtful things about herself over the long hours in treatment for her illness. Lidewij yells her resignation at Van Houten, done trying to stop him. Hazel steps toward Van Houten, yelling at him for answers and smacking the glass out of his hand.

Hazel and Augustus escape outside. Hazel cries as they walk and Gus promises to write her an epilogue himself. Lidewij runs up behind them, asking to take them sightseeing herself at the Anne Frank Huis and Hazel consents, wanting to still make the most of their trip. In the car, Lidewij confesses that she set up their trip mostly herself, hoping that seeing how his book affected them would break him from his alcoholic downward spiral. They go to the Anne Frank Huis and even though Lidewij warns that there are a lot of steep stairs, Hazel wants to go. Hazel pushes herself up each set of stairs and a final ladder, struggling against her lungs and the pain that lack of oxygen causes the rest of her mind and body, feeling like she owes it to Anne Frank. At the top she has to sit against a wall, slumped and coughing, until she can finally get up and explore the rooms and discuss the stories of Anne and her father, the sole survivor. Hazel is particularly touched by a book with the names of all of the people from the Netherlands that died in the Holocaust; Anne Frank’s name is there, but Hazel is particularly interested in the four Aron Franks in the book, people who died without their stories being remembered. In an adjoining room there is a video of Anne’s father speaking and with this in the background, Augustus and Hazel kiss for the first time, lingering there together with Hazel thinking that all of the struggles she’s had with her body and with cancer have been worth it for that feeling. When they open their eyes they find a group of people staring at them, but against expectation the crowd breaks out in applause.

Lidewij drives them back to their hotel, and once there Hazel suggests that they go to Augustus’s room. When pulling the elevator door open, Augustus has a moment in which he seems in great pain, but then he pushes on. He warns her about what his leg will look like without the prosthetic and she tells him to get over himself, kissing him in the hallway as he gets out his room key. In his room they are limited by Hazel’s attachment to her oxygen tank but undress down to their underwear and get under the covers. They have sex, which is not described in detail but is said to be “slow and patient and quiet and neither particularly painful nor particularly ecstatic” (p.207). Augustus falls asleep afterward and Hazel leaves quietly, writing him a silly love letter on her way out.

The next day, Augustus, Hazel, and Hazel’s mom get breakfast, the two younger ones describing the situation at Peter Van Houten’s house and making it sound funnier than it was. Her mother leaves them together with a significant air and Augustus leads Hazel back to the hotel. On the way home, walking in foreboding silence, Hazel thinks about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; she feels that it seems to place her as less than human, at least unable to self-actualize, because of her sickness. She comments to herself that she thought Augustus was able to see past this because he was once sick, but maybe he still is. Once they are in her room Augustus tells her the news: he had a PET scan just before she went to the ICU with fluid in her lungs and "lit up like a Christmas tree" (p.214). He apologizes for not telling her earlier, both understanding that he is now the grenade and she the hurting lover. They both cry, moving into bed together and beginning to talk about the palliative chemotherapy that he has begun. Gus begins to rant about dying without a cause again, thinking about the martyrs (and lack of "Cancer Kids") depicted in the museum they're going to skip going to.

They fly home, uneventful but for getting complementary champagne and a fit of intense pain in Gus's chest. They arrive at home and Hazel discusses An Imperial Affliction with her father who read the book while she was gone (as usual, he disliked the non-ending). The next afternoon, Hazel drives to Gus's house to eat with his parents while Gus naps, attached to new chemo drugs. Isaac's mom brings him over and Gus wakes up, bantering with Isaac who has found out Gus's diagnosis. Isaac still hasn't heard from Monica since they broke up so Augustus, as weak as he is, takes Hazel and Isaac on a mission; they buy a dozen eggs and take them to Monica's house where Isaac, directed by Augustus and a bad shot because of his recent blindness, eggs her car thoroughly. Her mother briefly comes out to tell them off, but Augustus reminds her of the situation, a blind boy "deservedly" egging his callous ex-girlfriend's car in broad daylight, and she retreats.

A few days later, Gus, Hazel, Hazel's parents, and Gus's parents all eat dinner at his house. The tone is light, with both sets of parents appreciating what Hazel and Gus have been able to give each other in terms of companionship and understanding. A week later, Gus ends up in the ER with chest pain. He has been confined to a wheelchair from then on because his heart is working too hard and Hazel is not allowed to see him. Hazel stays in a waiting room nearby for a while, looking at recent pictures of themselves all the way back to their surprise trip to Funky Bones and thinking how quickly everything between them had happened. She mulls over something Peter Van Houten said during their disastrous meeting - "some infinities are bigger than other infinities." Two weeks later, she wheels him back to Funky Bones with a bottle of champagne and he notes, "Last time, I imagined myself as the kid. This time, the skeleton" (p.233).


In this section, both Hazel and Gus think deeply about the told and untold stories of people after they die. The 14 dead people who could be remembered - but aren't - by any living person, the four Aron Franks in the book at Anne Frank Huis, and the lack of "Cancer Kids" in the art museum all represent Gus's major fear of not leaving a mark after he dies. Hazel is offended when he brings this up at dinner at Oranjee, feeling that it is rude to say to someone who may soon die without knowing then that Gus's prognosis is just as grim if not more so. These moments add to the theme of the meaning of life and death that runs throughout the story - what must one do to have a successful life and what is the worth and way of remembering someone after death.

Hazel's contemplation of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - both how it, in her mind, leaves her out and how Gus has supposedly defeated it - seems to be somewhat a misunderstanding of the framework itself, though a reasonable one. As is often the case in biology and psychology, models based on a kind of large-scale evolutionary level do not always translate well into modern day circumstances. While Hazel feels that having cancer keeps her in the lowest category of dealing with physiological needs, the fact that modern medicine allows her to function on a day-to-day basis and even to deal with questions of self-actualization prove that this is not the case. A chronic illness, unlike something acute and immediate like the time she awakes screaming in paid from a headache and is forced to turn off all connection to outside stimuli, can be managed, and the limbo that this places one in between the reality of physiological ailment and the ability to function at further levels in the hierarchy creates much of the tension in the book. The fact that Hazel feels so threatened by the framework, however, reveals how sensitive she is to other people's perceptions of her as ill or even "less than human" versus how she feels.

Augustus's use of simile when he describes his cancer to Hazel - saying he "lit up like a Christmas tree" (p.214) - follows a general trend of him using witty, imagery-laden language to disguise his sadness. Another example of this kind of language is "On a roller coaster that only goes up" which he says at Support Group before his recurrence and again to Isaac when he is already dealing with an intense decline in health after returning from Amsterdam. Using simile and metaphor to describe his situation helps him to distance himself from it, something he desperately wants to do because of his feelings of fear and inadequacy.

Gus's steep decline, which begins about as soon as he tells Hazel about his diagnosis, is a shocking turning point in the book. His illness turns the original conflict - Hazel fearing entering a relationship with him because she doesn't want to hurt her with her illness or death - ironically upside-down. Hazel must now cope with his illness, making a choice between being a Gus (to Caroline) or a Monica (to Isaac), a choice she thought she could spare Gus from having to make but now realizes was not as clear-cut a decision as she tried to make it. Loving Gus and having to suddenly cope with his illness gives her a look at how he saw her originally and at how parents of children with cancer view the young ones they too thought were going to be healthy and vibrant long past the time they would be.

As throughout the book, this section sees an intermingling of childhood and a kind of premature aging or seriousness cast on childish things by cancer. The car-egging scene is an important example of this; as in all teenagers, the three have a desire to get out aggression and seek justice, but even Monica's mother realizes that this scenario is something more than youthful angst, an outpouring of emotion against the treatment of Cancer Kids by other people and the world. This theme is also reflected in Augustus's thought at Funky Bones that even when he was at the museum with Hazel, she with an oxygen tank and he with only one leg, he was able to see himself in the children. So close to death, however, he can only see himself as the bones, ironically surrounded by sun, kids, and art, signs of joy and life.