In The Fault in Our Stars, John Green explores the themes of love and death through techniques like metaphors and symbolism.
In the text, Hazel and Augustus, the two main characters, frequently used metaphors to describe their respective situations and emotions. When they first meet at a cancer support group, Augustus flirts with Hazel. After the meeting, he puts a cigarette in his mouth and Hazel is upset and astonished that Augustus, a boy with cancer, would willingly pay money for something that is known to cause cancer. He responds,
They don’t kill you unless you light them … And I’ve never lit one. It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.
Hazel is incredulous that Augustus chooses his “behaviors based on their metaphorical resonances”, but still agrees to spend time with him. Metaphors like cigarettes are a large part of how Augustus and Hazel express themselves as they are coping with trying to find their respective places in the universe and the knowledge of their possible or impending deaths.
A symbol in the novel is the book An Imperial Affliction. This work is about a girl with cancer and the novel finishes in the middle of a sentence and without a sense of closure. Hazel writes the author over and over again to try to get him to tell her the end of the story. Hazel’s relationship with this book is symbolic in the story. She is trying to control the ending of a fictional story because she is unable to control the ending of her own life. Hazel’s obsession with this book that does not have closure reflects her relationship with her inevitable death. She wants to have answers to what will happen to those she loves when she is gone.