Question Kenn Vun Art, Media & Literature

Feminism in The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns

Among the novels written by John Green, select two novels and analyse the text in both novels by using a single literary criticism theory.

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Whether or not John Green’s novels can be read as ‘feminist’ has been hotly debated. His novels are narrated by young adult males: the exception to this is The Fault in Our Stars, which is narrated by sarcastic cancer patient Hazel. She is intelligent, witty, and refuses to embody the trope of the tragic heroine wasting away and pining for love. Her relationship with Augustus bucks dominant power dynamics in that she needs to be the ‘strong’ one: his cancer is worse than hers, therefore it is she who sees him through his last days, delivering a eulogy for him and stoically comforting others, despite her own suffering. Some critics point to his inclusion of imperfect and three-dimensional teenage female characters like Hazel as positive representation; however, others critique his over-reliance on the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ (MPDG) trope. An MPDG is a typically quixotic female, there to facilitate the awakening of the male protagonist. The trope is arguably ‘a fundamentally sexist one, since it makes women seem less like autonomous, independent entities than appealing props to help mopey, sad white men self-actualize’ (Rabin, 2014, n.p), as seen in Green’s Looking for Alaska. 2008’s Paper Towns actually attempts to deconstruct the MPDG: it follows narrator Q’s obsession with the aloof and mysterious Margo. Q pursues Margo – first emotionally and later, literally across state lines - but ultimately learns that she did not wish to be found. He misconstrued her ‘clues’, and eventually realises that she is not the person he imagined. As a consequence of idealising her, he failed to acknowledge that she is a real, flawed and complex human being, and she criticises him for this. Here, Green inverts the MPDG trope and allows Margo the autonomy to be a real person, not a projection of Q’s fantasies.

References

Green, J. (2013). The Fault in Our Stars. London: Penguin.
Green, J. (2015). Paper Towns. London: Bloomsbury Childrens.
Rabin, N. (2014). “I’m Sorry for Coining the Phrase ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’.” Salon.com. Accessed 21.09.2016 – available online.