What are some physical traits of Hazel Grace Lancaster in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Green wastes no time providing details of his protagonist in The Fault in Our Stars.  The opening sentence of Chapter One begins with this self-description regarding Hazel’s age:

“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year . . .”

So, we know right away that Hazel is a teenager, and we quickly learn that she is dying of cancer.  Describing her first encounter with the cancer support group to which her mother insisted she join, Hazel states the following regarding the group’s coordinator and his request that each member identify his- or herself:

“Then we introduced ourselves: Name. Age. Diagnosis. And how we’re doing today. I’m Hazel, I’d say when they’d get to me. Sixteen.  Thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs. And I’m doing okay.”

Additional information regarding Hazel's physical appearance is provided in the opening chapter, information that emphasizes the effects of the cancer eating away at her body and of the treatments that invariably take an enormous toll on one's physical stature:

"I was wearing old jeans, which had once been tight but now sagged in weird places, and a yellow T-shirt advertising a band I didn’t even like anymore. Also my hair: I had this pageboy haircut, and I hadn’t even bothered to, like, brush it. Furthermore, I had ridiculously fat chipmunked cheeks, a side effect of treatment. I looked like a normally proportioned person with a balloon for a head. This was not even to mention the cankle situation."

While “beauty,” as the ancient Greek adage notes, “is in the eye of the beholder,” we can surmise that Hazel is physically attractive from her introduction to Augustus (Gus),  who would become her close friend and lover and who is also battling cancer – the disease to which he will succumb.  Noticing his tendency to stare at her, Hazel questions him regarding his motivations:

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

Augustus half smiled. “Because you’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people . . .”

This, however, is all rather superficial.  The best description of Hazel focuses not on her physical attributes, but on the space she occupies in the universe.  In Chapter 25, Augustus, in a letter to the author Peter Van Houton, describes Hazel as only one to whom she is emotionally connected can hope to aspire:

“Hazel is different. She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.  People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad, Van Houten. It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do no harm.”

This description of Hazel by Augustus is painfully real.  He makes no attempt at deifying Hazel, nor does he portray her as anything other than a human being who lives the life she was given. 

melissa1106 | Student

Hazel Grace Lancaster in The Fault in Our Stars is described as a teenage girl who is battling cancer. She sees herself as wearing away old clothes. She has dark short "pixie cut" hair and exhibits some side effects from her treatment such as puffy cheeks and fatigue. In Augustus' eyes however she is beautiful and not defined by her disease.