Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

John Tyree, the main character of this story, is from Wilmington, North Carolina. After high school, John had enlisted in the army, not completely sure as to what he wanted to do with is life. He is rather quiet and tends to keep to himself, not showing much intrest in strengthening his shallow relationship with his father.

The story begins as John is on leave in Wilmington from his Army tour in Germany. He spends his summer days on the beach doing what he loves to do, surf. One day, he encounters Savannah Lynn Curtis, a student at The University of North Carolina who is spending her summer working in Wilmington with her mission group. He shyly introduces himself to her after retrieving her bag from being dropped into the ocean. This quick introduction leads to something that John had never expected.

Their relationship progresses quickly, as John's time in North Carolina is limited. Their relationship as friends begins to grow into something stronger. Despite the fact that John remains rather timid and unopen, Savannah reveals herself as being a very outgoing, optimistic, and energetic girl. This shows when she insists that she meets John's father. John is hesitant of this, considering his weak relationship with his father; however, he gives in and takes Savannah to meet his quiet and timid father. Savannah shows a great interest in John's father as well as in his interest in collecting coins, something that he has been doing for quite some time. Savannah does, however, notice something strange with John's father. As a result she suggests to John that his father may be autistic. John feels as though she is intruding, but this anger quickly subsides as he realizes how much of an impact she has already had on him.

Unfortunately, John must return to Germany. As he returns to his work, all he can think about is Savannah and his longing to be with her again. Not long after the conclusion of that summer, John is given another short leave. He returns to Savannah in North Carolina, where the spark of their relationship is rekindled. John meets her family and spends much time with Savannah and her friends. The two fall even deeper in love, and Savannah vows to wait for John as he finishes his last year in the Army.

Several weeks later, however, the infamous events of September 11, 2001 terrorize the nation. Both John and Savannah are put into difficult positions. John feels as though it is his duty to extend his enlistment and serve for his country, despite his longing to finish his year and return to Savannah. John does choose to re-enlist, and Savannah must decide whether she will wait for John or not. He returns to his work with Savannah's promise that she will wait for him.

As John travels from his post in Germany to Kuwait, and eventually into Iraq, he still has hope that his relationship with Savannah will overcome their time apart. Sadly, Savannah sends John one last letter, revealing that she has fallen for another man. Completely heartbroken, John tries to put Savannah behind him and move on with his life as a soldier. It is not until three years later that he eventually returns to North Carolina because of his father's death. It is at this time that John once again encounters Savannah. He learns that she has married Tim, an old friend of hers who has become seriously ill over the years. Her marriage to Tim is based on the idea that Tim needs the support and companionship of Savannah through his illness. Love really has little to do with the marriage. The question is whether Savannah will revisit her past with John, or do what she feels is right by staying by Tim's side throughout the final years of his life.

Dear John deals with issues involving love and doing what is right. John and Savannah fall deeply in love and form a very strong relationship throughout the novel; however, in the end, they must both make difficult choices that focus around the idea of love vs. doing what is right. John must choose whether to return home to Savannah, or do what he feels is right by re-enlisting in the Army. When John returns home, Savannah is faced with a difficult decision; will she run back to John, or will she do what is right and stay with Tim? The overall message that Sparks is trying to portray to the reader is this: following one's heart and doing what one knows is the right thing may not always coincide with each other. It is likely that we may have to give up something we want in order to do the right thing. We as humans must make this choice.

Discussion Questions:

1) Savannah was clearly faced with a difficult choice when she learned that John was returning to the army for several more years. Do you think that Savannah should have waited for John like she said she would, or do you think it was understandable, and ultimately, a good choice for her to move on?

2) Have you ever been faced with this type of situation, where you have had to give up something you have wanted in order to do the "right" thing in a given situation?


Kelsey M. 13-14 said...

1. I think it's a difficult choice either way. She loves John but she has to do what's right for her at that point in her life. She decides to be there for and old friend while John decides to be there for his country. John chose his country over Savannah so she chose Tim over John.

Kristen T. 11-12 said...

I agree. I feel that it was right for both of them to move on. It was difficult for them to give up on what they had, but in the end they each knew that they needed to do the right thing. Savannah choosing Tim is definitly understandable. She could either pick an old friend who desperately needed her help, or pick John who could not truly be there for her during his time away. If it were me, I'm not sure that I could wait that long for him.

Sydney C.13-14 said...

I think it is understandable that Savannah would choose not to wait for John, but I am frustrated as a reader to know she has made a promise that she cannot keep. Soldiers do not have much connection with what is going on in American society when they are at war, thinking often only of their loved ones back home. As a soldier, John probably thought of Savannah as his one true asset that he could count on returning home to. It must have crushed him to read that final letter. John chooses to re-enlist over staying with Savannah, but he makes no secret about it. I feel that Savannah handles her choice poorly.

Kelsey M. 11/12 said...

I agree with Sydney. That is a big promise to make someone because how is she supposed to know how she will feel when John is gone for that long? On the other hand, if she and John are truly in love, she should be able to wait for him. If she has those kind of feelings for someone, I believe that it would be hard to move on and be with someone else even though she knows that John may not come back. I also think that Savannah could have been there for Tim in other ways and did not have to marry him in order to give him the support that he needed.

Kristen T. 11-12 said...

Even though I feel that it was somewhate understandable for Savannah to move on, I agree that she handled her decision poorly. I think it's terrible that she simply sent him a letter explaining her current situation and feelings. If her feelings for him were truly as strong as she claimed then to be, I feel that she could have at least had the decency to wait for him to return and tell him in person. If that was too hard to do, she could have done at least something else to tell him other than just sending him a letter out of the blue. John had instilled so much trust and hope in Savannah and in their relationship. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been for him.