3. Augustus nodded at the screen. “Pain demands to be felt,” he said, which was a line from An Imperial Affliction.
Augustus says these words while playing video games in the basement with Isaac, who is grieving after being dumped by his girlfriend Monica. On a fundamental level, The Fault in Our Stars is a novel about coping with harsh realities, and particularly with suffering. We often watch the characters deal with intense pain, physical and emotional, and one of the more prominent ideas that comes up again and again is the notion that pain can’t be avoided. As Augustus puts it in the letter to Van Houten that Hazel reads at the end of the novel, we don’t get to choose whether or not we get hurt. Inherent in this point of view is an undercurrent of stoicism that we see often in Hazel and others. If pain can’t be avoided, the best way to handle it, they suggest, is head on. It’s for this reason that Hazel feels disgusted by all the platitudes about kids with cancer. They are ways of trying to avoid rather than confront all the pains involved with being young and dying of cancer, and as a result they’re intellectually dishonest. What’s more is they don’t eliminate, or even alleviate, pain. Instead, Hazel believes pain should be recognized for what it is, an inherent part of being alive (a “side effect” of living as she might put it), and that it should be acknowledged rather than avoided. The phrase “Pain demands to be felt” in a sense sums up her point of view regarding her cancer.