Where Does the Book Title “The Fault in Our Stars” Come From?

As more and more fans discover John Green’s best-selling novel The Fault in Our Stars thanks to the recent film adaptation starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, questions arise about this moving story: Is the book within the book, titled An Imperial Affliction, real? No. What happens to Hazel, the 16-year-old narrator, after the ending of TFIOS? Green says, that much like Peter Van Houten, the fictional author of An Imperial Affliction, he doesn’t know himself. The issue that has fans talking the most, however, is the source and meaning of the novel’s poetic name. On that, John Green has more to say.

Within TFIOS, Peter Van Houten quotes a line from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Cassius, a principal conspirator in the plot to assassinate Caesar says: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” In this, Cassius implies that the decisions they’ve made are the source of their current troubles; fate is not to blame. More broadly, this quote has been taken to mean that individuals are fully accountable for their own shortcomings and misfortunes.

On Green’s website, he dismisses this concept as “ridiculous,” writing: “There is plenty of fault in our stars. The world is a profoundly unjust place in which suffering is unfairly distributed.” Ultimately this book reflects Green’s opinion and is in opposition to Cassius’s statement. Peter Van Houten thinks that Roman noblemen like Cassius have the luxury of believing in their own personal agency above all else. This is not the case for the main characters Hazel and Augustus; they’re sick because of some unfortunate cosmic alignment, not because of the choices they’ve made in their too-short lives.

What are some of your favorite book titles? Can you think of more titles that reference great works of literature? Share with us in the comments below!