What smell affects Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars?

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In The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Hazel is a precocious teenager who is also a cancer patient. In her church support group, she meets Augustus, or Gus, and the two become fast friends and eventually also become romantically involved. Gus is suffering from a cancer that has an extremely high 80 percent cure rate. However, Gus falls into the 20 percent bucket and he eventually succumbs to the disease.

Before he dies, his decline seems relatively rapid and Hazel cares for him any way that she can. When Gus calls Hazel from his car and he is clearly in need of medical assistance, she rushes to help him. Even though she nearly gags from the smell of his vomit in the car, she stays with him and calls an ambulance to get Gus to the hospital. Even so, there’s little that the doctors can do.

Hazel is in despair. She loves Gus and longs for the comfort of his arms around her. She envelops herself in his bedding to derive whatever comfort she can. She smells Gus’s scent, almost trying to duplicate their happiest times together. The author writes:

And then I crawled into his unmade bed, wrapping myself in his comforter like a cocoon, surrounding myself with his smell. I took out my cannula so I could smell better, breathing him in and breathing him out, the scent fading even as I lay there, my chest burning until I couldn't distinguish among the pains.

Gus eventually dies and Hazel naturally finds his death difficult. She also longs for the comfort of her parents. Her father understands how deeply she must feel this loss because Hazel does not socialize with many of her peers and Gus was a wonderful person. Hazel’s parents also understand how close she and Gus were. After Gus’ death, Hazel’s says her dad “grabbed my head and pulled it into his collarbone, and he said, 'I'm sorry Gus died.'"

Although Hazel “felt kind of suffocated by his T-shirt,” she needed the reassurance of having him hold her tightly. She needed to feel his arms around her to protect her from the world around her, if only momentarily. She says, “it felt good to be held so hard, pressed into the comfortable smell of my dad.”

She realizes that both she and her dad are angry at the world, angry at fate. They are angry that Gus died. Her father says of Gus, “Eighty percent survival rate and he's in the twenty percent? … I hate it. But it was sure a privilege to love him, huh?"

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