For those not in the know, TheDrunkLibrarian is doing a fantastic recap of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. We have both connected over how terrible this book is, and she has come to me for my skills to analyze what is arguably the most controversial part of the whole damn book. Get your ciders and popcorn ready, because this is going to be a long one.
“Augustus Waters,” I said, looking up at him, thinking that you cannot kiss anyone in the Anne Frank House,
Because that would be incredibly disrespectful.
and then thinking that Anne Frank, after all, kissed someone in the Anne Frank House
That “someone” was Peter van Pels, a sixteen year old who was hiding in the Annex with his parents Hermann and Auguste van Pels and the Frank family. So tell me, Sunshine, exactly where were they going to go kiss if they couldn’t leave the Annex for fear of being caught by the Gestapo?
and that she would probably like nothing more than for her home to have become a place where the young and irreparably broken sink into love.
Well we don’t know what she would think now since she, y’know, died in a concentration camp. But who am I to say that this museum that preserves the memories of eight people who had to live, starve, keep quiet and go without electricity and water in an annex of a business in order to not be caught by the Gestapo not be a romantic setting?
“I must say,” Otto Frank said on the video in his accented English, “I was very much surprised by the deep thoughts Anne had.”
For fuck’s sake you’re in the same room as the recording of the man who was the only survivor in his family! Surely this has to ring some bells that what you’re thinking of doing right this second is disrespectful! Don’t do it! Resist! Resi–
And then we were kissing.
My hand let go of the oxygen cart and I reached up for his neck, and he pulled me up by my waist onto my tiptoes. As his parted lips met mine, I started to feel breathless in a new and fascinating way. The space around us evaporated, and for a weird moment I really liked my body; this cancer-ruined thing I’d spent years dragging around suddenly seemed worth the struggle, worth the chest tubes and the PICC lines and the ceaseless bodily betrayal of the tumors.
“It was quite a different Anne I had known as my daughter. She never really showed this kind of inner feeling,” Otto Frank continued.
Hey, you know what I just thought of? Hazel should have brought her mother along with her, and her mother would have a) prevented Hazel and Augustus from making out in an inappropriate place and b) probably would have felt the same way as Otto Frank and conveyed those feelings to Hazel, and they could have a bonding moment. Green was already (quite nicely, in my opinion) comparing how confined and restricted Hazel feels in her body when she was climbing up the steep, narrow staircases within the walls that confined Anne Frank, so why not do so here? It would make sense, and it would give Hazel’s mother a reason for being in Amsterdam other than being a chaperon who isn’t even chaperoning.
But no. Otto Frank’s words are just there to emphasize the blatant point that Hazel is acting differently than she usually does and in a way her parents wouldn’t expect. Our narcissistic main character doesn’t act much differently than she usually does because I don’t know what screams “narcissism” any louder than making out in the Anne Frank House without a care in the world.
The kiss lasted forever as Otto Frank kept talking from behind me. “And my conclusion is,” he said, “since I had been in very good terms with Anne, that most parents don’t know really their children.”
GAWD OTTO FRANK WHY YOU GOTTA BUTT IN THIS TEEN ROMANTIC MOMENT WITH YOUR GENUINELY TOUCHING AND PROFOUND THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER WHO DIED IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP?
I realized that my eyes were closed and opened them. Augustus was staring at me, his blue eyes closer to me than they’d ever been, and behind him, a crowd of people three deep had sort of circled around us.
I would like to take this moment to say that, as horrible and thoughtless as this make-out passage was, I could believe it because being completely self-absorbed is a very common trait for this age group, and for good reason! You don’t just flip a switch from a self-absorbed child to a completely selfless teenager. Shit, I’ve known twenty-year-olds who even made out in the catacombs of Paris, and that place is dark, damp, and literally piled with centuries-old skeletons.
They were angry, I thought. Horrified. These teenagers, with their hormones, making out beneath a video broadcasting the shattered voice of a former father. I pulled away from Augustus, and he snuck a peck onto my forehead as I stared down at my Chuck Taylors.
While I can believe this sort of behavior, I’m not going to condone it. One of the things you learn as you grow up is how to think outside yourself and to put others’ needs first (like respect for the dead) ahead of your own needs. Hey, slip-ups happen, but the main thing is that you learn from your mistakes and become a much more well-rounded adult. However, it’s usually difficult to know that you even made a mistake until someone calls you out on it. I’ve made mistakes that people have called me out on it, and I know I’d be of poorer character if they didn’t and if I didn’t take what they said in consideration. It’s hard, but it’s one of the most important lessons to learn.
And then they started clapping. All the people, all these adults, just started clapping, and one shouted “Bravo!” in a European accent.
Augustus, smiling, bowed. Laughing, I curtsied ever so slightly, which was met with another round of applause.
Had Hazel and Augustus suffered the stink eye of everyone in the room and left the museum, I would have forgiven this. It would have told me that, even though the two were swept away in the moment, this was rude at best and extremely disrespectful and an act of desecration at worst. I would have have forgiven this even if Hazel and Augustus thought that the other adults were full of shit, because the TEXT would have said otherwise.
Instead, the Anne Frank House, Otto Frank, and Anne Frank are used as props for a fictional romance about two self-obsessed teens that are told that it’s okay to ignore the real horrible things that happened to these real people in this real house. Of course, what else am I to expect when John Green says this about his use of Anne Frank in the novel:
Q: Why did you decide to throw in the story of Anne Frank alongside these fictional young women whose lives are also cut short?
Green: Anne Frank was a pretty good example of a young person who ended up having the kind of heroic arc that Augustus wants—she was remembered and she left this mark that he thinks is valuable—but when he has to confront her death, he has to confront the reality that really she was robbed of the opportunity to live or die for something. She just died of illness like most people. And so I wanted him to go with a sort of expectation of her heroism and be sort of dashed.
NO. NO. NO.
I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ONE GODDAMN WORD ABOUT “DEATH OF THE AUTHOR.” I see too often the theory of “death of the author” used to excuse fucked up shit like what we’ve just witnessed here in this book and this interview. Authors and their stories do not exist in a vacuum. I say with experience that an author’s perception of the world affects both conscious and subconscious choices when writing. I also say with experience that it’s important to try to find what the author intends on telling her or his reader, but that it is also important for the reader to find their own interpretation of a work. I’m not saying that a reader can’t interpret a work because it conflicts with an author’s intent, I’m saying that a reader can criticize a text separately of as well as with an author’s intent.
And my, my, my does this interview really just explain everything that we’ve suffered through in this passage. He deems Anne Frank’s story important because of how it relates to his male love interest and not to his female protagonist who is telling her story from her point of view. He is using the classic cliché of using female pain and suffering to further a male character’s story, only Green hides it because we’re seeing this story through Hazel’s eyes.
What’s worse, however, is that he even has the fucking gall to hand wave Anne Frank’s death as just dying of an illness.
For those of you who aren’t aware of what happened to Anne Frank after she and her family were betrayed, the Franks were arrested, charged as criminals and deported to Auschwitz where Anne, her sister Margot, and her mother Edith were separated from Otto Frank. Because anyone who was deemed unfit to work was sent to the gas chambers, Anne believed her father to be dead because of his age and health. She was then put to hard labor by digging up rocks and sod before contacting scabies, where she had to recover in a dark and rat-infested infirmary. Some time later she and Margot were sent to another concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen (Edith died of starvation after they had left). Anne and Margot both contacted typhus in an epidemic that killed over 17,000 prisoners. Anne died only a few days after Margot died, and both their bodies were tossed in a mass grave. They both died only a few months before the camp was liberated on April 15th, 1945.
Yes, what finally killed Anne Frank was typhus. It was typhus she contracted while being held prisoner in a concentration camp where she was separated from her family, starved, worked until exhaustion, and suffered the worst that humanity had to offer. To say that she “just died of an illness like most people” is ignoring the true historical events that led Anne Frank to her grave.
The visitors of the Anne Frank House applaud Hazel and Augustus’s complete and utter disrespect of the place where Anne Frank had to hide in for two years because neither they, John Green, nor the text see Anne Frank as a person worth of respect. I guarantee you that if they had an ounce of respect for her, this scene would not have gone down the way that it did. Hazel and Augustus could have kissed before going to the Anne Frank House. Hazel and Augustus could have left the house and kissed. They could have kissed on the cranky Peter Van Houten’s welcome mat. There are literally dozens of ways that Hazel and Augustus could have had a first kiss that didn’t disrespect Anne Frank’s memory. Green chose otherwise. Whether he chose consciously or unconsciously I honestly don’t give a flying fuck.
Now, with all that said–