The Fault in Our Stars

by John Green

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What are Hazel Grace Lancaster's physical traits in The Fault in Our Stars?

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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. 

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What are some physical traits of Hazel Grace Lancaster in The Fault in Our Stars?

While Hazel Grace Lancaster insists that her cancer does not define who she is as a person, the thyroid cancer which has spread to her lungs largely contributes to her physical characteristics, making her thin and paler than she probably would be if she were healthy.  She has a short, cute pixie style haircut and depending on the day, she might also sport a breathing tube to help with her oxygen supply.  Every day is a battle for Hazel; she tires easily and occasionally all of the medicine she is taking leaves her feeling ill or nauseous. 

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What are the physical features of Hazel Grace from John Green's The Fault in Our Stars?

Well, in the book, Hazel Grace describes her features as thus:

“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” (Chapter 1).

Is this really what Hazel Grace looked like? Probably not. Hazel Grace is what is called an unreliable narrator. Since she has suffered from cancer for years, she is very self-deprecating. 

While Hazel makes sure the reader knows about her "pageboy haircut" and "chipmunked cheeks" and "balloon for a head" with "cankles," she also lets the reader know she has tubes that run into her nose and rolls around an oxygen tank. In addition, we have a clue of what Hazel really looks like from how Augustus responds to her. He calls her "beautiful" and says he enjoys "looking at beautiful people."

Side note: Hazel Grace is based off of a real girl, Esther Earl, who became good friends with John Green before she died at 16. (Just search YouTube for "Esther Grace Earl.) 

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