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TFIOS Key Quotations . Analysis . The secret to good explanation. Use key words/phrases from the evidence you have given and explain what it tells us. Does it paint a picture? How would the character be feeling at this point? Link to other techniques.

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the secret to good explanation
The secret to good explanation
  • Use key words/phrases from the evidence you have given and explain what it tells us.
  • Does it paint a picture?
  • How would the character be feeling at this point?
  • Link to other techniques.
  • Link to other parts of the book that this links with.
character essay
Character Essay

Important points to consider:

  • Use of first person narrative – unique and honest insight
  • The way Hazel speaks about and copes with her cancer.
  • Her obsession with An Imperial Affliction.
  • Her falling in love with Augustus.
  • Her encounter to Van Houten’sand how she responds.
  • The way that she responds to Augustus illness.
  • How she deals with his death.
  • The way she acts when she find about her mums university course
first person narrative
First Person Narrative
  • Green’s use of first person narrative is essential in providing the reader with access to Hazel’s unique and honest insight into her illness and what it is like to be a teenager coping with terminal cancer. (this is one of the most effective ways that Green makes Hazel interesting to the reader OR makes the reader feel sympathy for the main protagonist etc.)
  • We can tell that she is a very witty and honest from the way that she responds to:…
  • We feel sympathy for Hazel from the outset of the novel when:…

The following examples give you an idea of how you should attempt explanation. Some examples are basic and others go further to show you how you could develop ideas further.

  • Use the exemplars to help you revise and develop further.
  • Some are colour coordinated to show you where in the evidence that the explanation has come from.
  • Use the success criteria to help you.

Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying, almost everything is, really.)

  • This illustrates the unique way in which Hazel perceives life and her illness. It shows that she is a very philosophical about life and her cancer. It is unusual because she doesn’t blame her depression on the cancer but instead on dying. This evokes sympathy for Hazel, as she is so young (seventeen) and yet having to think about her death and how it will affect those around her.

“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.” (1.2)

This illustrates that character of Hazel has a unique perspective on her cancer as she doesn’t relate cancer to her depression but blames this on dying. She understands that this is a fate that will affect everyone in life, which shows her acceptance of the fact that she will die, as will everyone. It shows how philosophical Hazel is about her condition. It shows that Hazel’s life has been dominated by her illness and she has had to read and learn a lot about it. The fact that she speaks of her illness in such a forthright way, explains that she feels others have misconceptions about it and she knows the truth of it. This first person narrative gives the reader a more insightful view on teenage cancer.


“my mom believed I required treatment, so she took me to see my Regular Doctor Jim, who agreedthat I was veritably swimming in a paralyzing and totally clinical depression, and that therefore my meds should be adjusted and also I should attend a weekly Support Group.”

This again illustrates the lack of control that Hazel has over her own life, the reference to her “mom” and doctor Jim being in agreement” implies that Hazel exists on the periphery of their decisions about her life. It shows that he is very much involved in Hazel’s life. The fact that the depression is referred to as “paralyzing” shows the debilitating effect that it has on Hazel’s life, preventing her from moving forward. The fact the they say that Hazel is “veritably swimming” it is symbolic on many levels. It shows that there is no doubt about how low Hazel is feeling but more so “swimming” is an unusual word to use when discussing depression. It paints the picture of water, used throughout the story, not only because Hazel’s lungs frequently fill up with water but it highlights her struggle and fight against the way that she is feeling. It makes the depression seem like a more physical thing.


“I’m like. Like. I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”

The repetition shows that Hazel is thinking of how best she can explain to her mum how she really feels inside. It illustrates that she is hesitant initially but can’t hide her feelings any longer. She blows up, which shows us the strain/stress that her illness puts on her relationship with her mum. Hazel uses a metaphor to compare herself to a “grenade”, which conveys that she is eventually going to die and the “casualties” are the people that she will leave behind that she has gotten close to. This comparison is effective because a grenade is destructive like Hazel’s cancer and also there is an element of uncertainly about when it will go off, just like Hazel is unsure about when she will die. It conveys that she has no control over her illness or the devastation that it will inevitably cause.The question at the end is Hazel’s attempt to gain her mom’s reassurance and acceptance about show she feels and therefore give her a break.This illustrates the theme of isolation and helps us understand why Hazel shies away from friendships.


“I didn't tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You're a woman. Now die.” (when Hazel is at Augustus house)(2.13)

  • This conveys the difficulty Hazel has in revealing the truth of her illness to those she meets, as she can see how hopeless her survival might seem to others. She is almost embarrassed to admit it in case it causes others keep their distance. It illustrates how young Hazel was when she was first diagnosed with cancer, and implies that her adolescence/ growing up is over before it has begun, as implied by “You’re a woman. Now die.” This highlights Hazel’s sarcastic tone, much like the way that she deals with her cancer using humour to hide the serious nature of her illness, as a coping mechanism.

“I realize that this is the kind of deep and thoughtful question you always hoped your readers would ask—what becomes of Sisyphus the Hamster? These questions have haunted me for years—and I don’t know how long I have left to getanswers to them.”

  • This depicts that Hazel realises that her questions are trivial compared to the deeper ones explored by the text, as she is being sarcastic, but it reveals Hazel’s need to know the answers to simple, ‘real’ life questions raised by Anna’s death, primarily what happens to those left behind. These are the answers in the book that Van Houten can’t answer because he himself doesn’t know and even if he did the truth would probably hurt. Hazel is really looking for reassurance from the author that he can’t provide. The fact that these questions “haunt” Hazel highlights that questions about what will happen in the future are continually present in Hazel’s mind. It also illustrates that thoughts of death are never far from Hazel’s mind as she questions how long she has left to find out. We know later on the story that Van Houten belittles Hazel’s questions by referring to them as “silly” but we can later understand why as he cannot lie to Hazel that everything will be ok because we find out that his life has been destroyed by the loss of his daughter, “I watched him shrink in the rearview mirror, he pulled out the bottle and for a second it looked like he would leave it on the curb. And then he took a swig.” (Links to other parts of the story that backs up this explanation)
now try your own
Now try your own…

“That was the worst part about having cancer; sometimes the physical evidence of the disease separates you from other people. We were irreconcilably other” (144).