How does one person come to matter to the universe? How do relationships impact an individual’s understanding of his or her life’s purpose? In each of his novels, John Green explores what it means to “matter” as he traces his protagonist's journey to discover the difference between a superficial longing for approval from others, and the value of becoming a more genuine, caring individual. In this way, the author uses the theme of mattering as a backdrop for his characters’ coming of age. In The Fault in Our Stars, protagonists Gus and Hazel fall in love, and through their relationship, Hazel begins to feel a deeper connection to her world. Gus pushes Hazel to step out of her identity as a cancer patient and live her life more fully. As they travel to Amsterdam, venture out on road trips, and experience new things together, Gus lifts Hazel’s spirits and teaches her what it means to lead a life of value. Through her relationship with Gus, Hazel comes to realize that she does matter, both as an individual and a member of the global community.
Just as Green’s characters feel disconnected from their world because of their broken relationships, soldiers during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were separated and isolated from their loved ones at home. Through letters, soldiers and their loved ones were able to maintain their relationships with each other. Expectations for relationships evolved as society changed. Also, relationships between soldiers and their loved ones sometimes flourished and at other times floundered during wartime. After Pearl Harbor the number of wartime marriages increased, as couples rushed to “tie the knot” before soldiers left for an uncertain future. Once on the battlefield, letters from home offered them a sense of normalcy and enriched their relationship with loved ones. Letters gave detailed accounts of loved ones’ daily experiences. Many couples fell out of love because of the long gaps in correspondence and no physical connection. With sporadic mail and missed emotional connections, some relationships faltered.
Major Works Consulted:
Carroll, Andrew. War Letter: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars. New York: Scribner, 2001.
Photo Credit: Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Dutton, 2012.
Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Dutton, 2012.
--. Paper Towns. New York: Dutton, 2006.
Litoff, Judy Barrett, and David C. Smith. Since You Went Away: World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front. New York: Oxford UP, 1991