(I was originally gonna call this ‘The Fault In My Coursework’, but I felt that was misleading)
I am referring to John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars as part of my A2 English Literature coursework; the question focuses on the relationship between passion and destruction, and I am using Hazel’s quote that she is a ‘grenade’, and is therefore hesitant to enter into a relationship with Gus, to show how passion can lead to the fear of, or even perceived, destruction.
This isn’t really an integral point to my essay, and will probably be a word-limit casualty as I try to cut this thing down from 5,000 to 3,000 words, but I was thinking about how I’d used TFiOS in my essay; while I’d referred to texts like Dante’s Divine Comedy fairly excessively, in a detailed comparison to Plath’s Fever 103, I discussed Green’s novel to a much lesser extent.
However, this doesn’t mean that it is an inherently inferior text, only that I wanted to use it in a different, perhaps more superficial, way than Dante’s; my analysis of Purgatory was fairly integral to my overall argument, whereas Hazel’s quote was kinda thrown in for the sake of having another point, and hitting the Assessment Objective that requires a crap-load (technical term) of links to other texts.
And I feel that being able to engage with texts on different levels like this is important; we can all learn something about our species and our culture from texts, but while some will actively try to determine answers and impose meaning onto us, some are floating ideas around, that we can accept, reject, or discuss: Dante sets out pretty clearly that what God says goes, but the extent and intention of Green’s clever criticism of society for having good intentions, but ultimately stereotyping people, in congratulating cancer patients for ‘fighting hard’ is more up for debate.
I suppose that’s why I like reading stuff in general, because we can combine ideas from a million different sources to try to find answers about ourselves as a civilisation. Also, the means we express these solutions is great fun to read into; Dickens’ ‘United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company’ is a hilarious, light-hearted satire on upper-class bureaucracy, but Simon Armitage’s Those Bastards In Their Mansions (of GCSE English poetry infamy) presents similar ideas, but in a much more direct, abrasive manner.
And that’s why I genuinely enjoy my English coursework right now, because the question’s focus on ‘passion for another’ and ‘destruction’ is so bloody broad that I can kinda mention anything, no matter how outlandish it seems, and make it relevant and part of a cohesive argument.
I think it’s these links between texts that I’m really enjoying at this point; it’s like cross-referencing multiple science experiments to find a conclusion that we can draw for all life, not just one example – by reading all of the things, I can see how multiple individuals find answers in, and react to, life.
Perhaps the best part of all this, though, is that there are no answers; we’ll never be able to say ‘passion leads to destruction because x‘, and I like that; I like how life is a combination of certainties – we will grow old, we will get sick, we will die – and uncertainties – why am I here, is there a purpose – that are independent of each other; we can be sure of dying, and never know what we lived for. This means that we can speculate on the nature of life for years on end, but still have the security of knowledge that we’ll all get old and die; this is perhaps morbid, but in a world where an Italian poem and an American novel can somehow validly share essay space, despite being written about 600 years apart, that fundamental certainty is almost comforting.
And, if A-levels are even slightly representative of University courses, I’ve got a Hell of a lot more speculating on humanity to do in the next few years.