Summary: Chapter 19
Augustus arrives home from the hospital a few days after the episode at the gas station. (Hazel refers to him exclusively in the chapter as Gus rather than Augustus). One day he directs Hazel’s attention to something, but she can’t see it. He says it’s the last of his dignity. The following day Hazel meets Augustus’s older half-sisters, their husbands, and their children. When Augustus wakes from a nap he asks to go outside. Hazel and the entire family join him. As they all talk Augustus jokes about his incredible intellect and “hot body.” He says seeing it took Hazel’s breath away, pointing to her oxygen tank. Augustus’s father whispers to Hazel that he’s thankful for her every day. As the chapter closes Hazel notes it was the last good she had with Augustus, until the “Last Good Day.”
Summary: Chapter 20
Hazel talks about the clichéd notion of the cancer patient’s “Last Good Day,” when the pain for a moment seems bearable. She says the trouble is you never know when it is. At the time it’s just a regular good day. Hazel gets a call from Augustus, and he asks her to meet him that night at the location where support group is held, which they jokingly call The Literal Heart of Jesus. He asks her to prepare a eulogy. Hazels tells her parents she’s going to meet Augustus that night, and they protest that they never get to see her anymore. Hazel gets angry, saying they used to complain she was a homebody. She shouts that she doesn’t need her mother like she used to and then storms off to her room to write the eulogy. Later, as she goes to leave, her father blocks her. Hazel reveals that Augustus asked her to write him a eulogy, and she says soon she’ll be home every night.
Hazel arrives to find Isaac standing at a lectern facing a wheelchair-bound Augustus. Augustus wryly states he wanted to attend his own funeral. In his eulogy, Isaac describes Augustus as a “vain,” “pretentious,” “self-aggrandizing bastard” who was uniquely capable of interrupting and editing his own funeral. Isaac concludes by stating he will reject robot eyes in the future for fear of seeing a world without his friend. Hazel then gives her eulogy, saying Augustus Waters was the love of her life. She says she won’t talk about their love story since it will die with them, and instead explains how some infinities are larger than others. An infinite set of numbers exist between 0 and 1, and between 0 and 2 there’s an even larger infinite set. Then she says how thankful she is for the little infinity she and Augustus had. She wouldn’t trade anything for the forever they shared within their numbered days.
Summary: Chapter 21
Augustus dies eight days after his prefuneral. Hazel receives a call from his mother in the middle of the night letting her know. Hazel calls Isaac to tell him. Her parents stay with her till morning, then give her some time alone. She thinks of how her final days with Augustus were spent in recollection, but now the pleasure of remembering is gone since there’s nobody to remember with. It’s worse than any pain she’s experienced from cancer, and she thinks how it’s like being slammed by endless waves but being unable to drown. She calls Augustus’s voicemail, attempting to revisit their magical “third space,” but she finds no comfort in it. She checks Augustus’s online profile, and condolences are already piling up. She imagines Augustus’s philosophical analysis of one comment about him playing basketball in heaven. Infuriated by the clichéd comments, Hazel rashly posts something critical of another commenter. Then she recalls Van Houton’s thought in a letter that writing buries, not resurrects. Finally, Hazel goes out to the living room couch, where she and her parents hug each other for hours.
The main focus of this section is how Hazel deals with the knowledge that Augustus will soon die, and then ultimately his death itself. Hazel contends with a huge amount of sadness and anger in these chapters. It’s evident that Augustus won’t survive much longer. Everyone is aware, including Augustus, who asks Isaac and Hazel to deliver eulogies for him. Augustus’s request forces Hazel to prepare for his death in a very concrete way, and quite understandably, the stress the situation causes her leads to some uncharacteristic behavior. Though normally Hazel gets along well with her parents, she lashes out when they try to get her to stay home rather than see Augustus the night he invites her to his “prefuneral.” We see a similar reaction as Hazel deals with the news of Augustus’s death. She’s so angry at the clichéd comments left to his online profile that she verbally attacks one of the commenters. This version of Hazel isn’t one we see much in the novel. She’s usually acting as the type of person who wants to limit the suffering she causes in the world, but in these instances her behavior is clearly a result of the overwhelming emotions she’s experiencing. These difficult emotions are on display at various times in the section. Delivering Augustus’s eulogy, for example, she can hardly get through her reading without crying, and she describes the period just after getting the news of his death as “unbearable,” with every second being “worse than the last.”
Hazel’s analogy for the way news of Augustus’s death makes her feel is telling on its own. She uses water imagery, saying it’s like being smashed over and over by waves but unable to drown. The reason this choice is significant is that Hazel has used this analogy before to describe her cancer. The tumors in her lungs cause her lungs to fill with fluid, making it hard for her to breathe and making her feel like she’s quite literally drowning. The health issues she’s had over the course of the novel suggest that these lung tumors will eventually kill her. Using the same analogy to describe Augustus’s death essentially equates losing Augustus to dying herself. (In an added bit of symbolism, Augustus’s last name is, of course, Waters.) The situation is especially unbearable because, to use her analogy, she is unable to drown. Drowning would at least mean an end to her suffering. Instead Hazel feels trapped at the most painful point of the experience.