So this little cigarette right here has sparked a whole new brand of TFiOS hate, much of which is coming from people who claimed to love the book.
Many people are now pointing out how “pretentious” Augustus is, and I can’t help but think, You’re only just now realizing this. He was written to be a seemingly pretentious and arrogant person. The acknowledgement of this is actually highly important because, without it, the book loses the message that a hero’s journey is that of strength to weakness.
Augustus Waters has big dreams for himself. He wants to be known and remembered; he wants to be a hero; he wants to be seen as perfect. But there’s already something standing in his way… He has a disability, and society tells him that a person cannot be both perfect and disabled. So what does he do? He creates a persona for himself. He tries to appear older and wiser than he is. But the pretentious side of him is NOT who he truly is. It’s all an act. (This is evident in the fact that he often uses words in the wrong context.)
And when his cancer returns, we begin to see his mask cracking. The true Augustus begins to bleed through… Hazel even takes notice of this from time to time. And by the time we get to the gas station scene, Augustus is no longer the picture of perfection he was when we met him. The play has been canceled. The actor must reveal himself. And he’s revealed to be a weak, defenseless boy, succumbing to the cancer that is made of him.
THE PRETENTIOUSNESS IS INTENTIONAL. It stands to show Augustus’s journey from flawless to flawed, from strong to weak. It’s the key to understanding that Augustus was the hero he always wanted to be, even if he didn’t realized it.
I feel like this changes the problem from “John Green doesn’t know what a metaphor is” to “John Green doesn’t know what pretentiousness is,” at least assuming that he’d agree with your interrogation of the character. What you’re describing is not someone who seems pretentious, it’s someone who is pretentious.
The only way for a person to be seemingly pretentious is if they’re being genuine in their passion for whatever strikes people as pretentious (big words, fine wine, music, whatever), but their sincerity is misinterpreted. Otherwise… well, what you are describing above is what is called a pretense. It’s a put-on, but pretension is always a put-on. Every time someone is pretentious, they’re pretending. That’s the definition of it.
Given that, the only meaningful way in which one can pretend to be pretentious is a passing affectation for the sake of a joke (“Pardon me, but do you have any Gray Pupon?” jokes or the scene in Orange is the New Black where Poussey and Taystee debate the very important issues of the day in their White People Voices). Absent this sort of situation, one is just being pretentious. The part where you’re not really like that is what makes it pretentiousness and not… just being like that.
If a character in a book builds up a persona in which he acts arrogant and uses big or semi-obscure words that he doesn’t fully understand the meaning of—for whatever reason or deep underlying motivation—that’s genuine, Grade A pretentiousness. Accept no substitutions. That’s what pretentiousness is. Realizing that there’s a reason he’s pretentious is part of making him sympathetic and fully realized as a character, but everybody who is pretentious has a reason, usually insecurity of some form.
Whether or not this represents who he really comes down to the question of what it means to “really be” someone or something. Rachel Dawes and Aristotle would tell him that he is what he does repeatedly. As long as he acts like a pretentious little twit, he is a pretentious little twit.
Maybe it serves a necessary purpose for him, but it’s not seeming pretentious. It’s being pretentious.
TL;DR - pretending to be pretentious is being pretentious.
John Green has straight up said “Augustus is pretentious, he’s trying to be pretentious, he thinks people that act like he does have important lives”* - I think the OP is saying Augustus ‘seems’ pretentious because they don’t want to admit that Augustus is pretentious, because that makes him flawed. This is silly.
(also John Green has posted that he loves the jokes making fun of Augustus’ “it’s a metaphor” moment, so I don’t know why fans are getting rabid about it. it is a stupid moment, it’s not really a metaphor, no, augustus does not know what he’s talking about - who cares?)