The Fault In Our Stars: Is Gus’ Cigarette A Metaphor Or Not?

Since the release of The Fault In Our Stars film, the internet has been ablaze over Ansel Elgort’s character Augustus Waters. While some are smitten by his good looks and romantic charm, others think he’s a pretentious pseudo intellectual. The Fault In Our Stars fans have been jumping to Gus’ rescue every chance they get, but does the quality of Gus’ character really matter?

The most criticized moment in The Fault In Our Stars, both the film and the original novel by John Green, is when Augustus Waters puts a cigarette in his mouth but doesn’t light it. He says it’s a metaphor, because you put the thing that kills you in your mouth but don’t give it the power to kill you.

You can watch the controversial scene from The Fault In Our Stars here:

While some people attack The Fault In Our Stars character for his pretension, others point out that the cigarette he uses isn’t actually a metaphor at all. A metaphor is something that stands in place of something else to convey a larger meaning. Denying a cigarette the ability to kill you isn’t so much a figurative or literary device as it is just an interesting concept–a symbolic gesture of power over a deadly object. This is the argument Shmoop.com makes in their analysis of The Fault In Our Stars scene.

But here’s the thing. John Green, who wrote the original scene in The Fault In Our Stars novel, knows the cigarette isn’t a metaphor. The Fault In Our Stars does not suffer from some huge author error. Green posted on Tumblr about this exact issue, clarifying his intention with Gus’ character in The Fault In Our Stars, pointing out other instances where Gus makes intellectual mistakes:

“Well, a character in a novel saying that something is a metaphor is not the same thing as the author of the novel saying that it’s a metaphor. Gus’s intellectual grasp often exceeds his reach (he calls a monologue a soliloquy, and misuses quite a few of the bigger words in his vocabulary).”

But there’s more. John goes on to defend The Fault In Our Stars‘ famous scene by making the argument that maybe the cigarette is a metaphor after all.

“But I do think the cigarette is a metaphor, albeit a different one for us than it is for him. Gus’s idea is that the cigarette is a metaphor for illness, and he keeps it unlit and in his mouth as an expression of his power over illness.”

Bustle.com released an article about this The Fault In Our Stars dispute, claiming that while Gus’ cigarette may not be a metaphor, we should still be completely okay with his decision to call it that. Bustlepoints out that Gus is just a teenager–one who even admits he’s not a literary scholar or a philosopher. And while he’s also wrong about having power over the cigarette (he doesn’t have any power over his cancer at all, really) it’s Gus’ flaws that make his character great. It’s the realism of the characters in The Fault In Our Stars that make it such a great story.

The Fault In Our Stars is famous for treating characters with disabilities as real people with real flaws, desires, and personalities, not the pitiable extras they are in other works of fiction.

What do you think about The Fault In Our Stars? Do you forgive Gus for his errors?

New editions of The Fault In Our Stars are coming to DVD and Blu-Ray soon, including The Fault In Our Stars“Little Infinities Edition.” Find out more here.