‘The Notebook‘ by Nicholas Sparks captures themes and symbols with philosophical and psychological implications, particularly on the issue of the relationship between feelings and memories. It begs the question, how much do our memories shape our feelings? The novel is small in volume but mighty in its ability to provoke thoughts and introspection.
Like books such as ‘Romeo and Juliet‘ by William Shakespeare and ‘Pride and Prejudice‘ by Jane Austen, the familiar theme of love is found in ‘The Notebook‘ by Nicholas Sparks. Also, there are other less popular but important themes, such as aging, memory, beauty in nature, and class discrimination in this novel. Let’s take a close look at some of these themes here.
In ‘The Notebook,’ love is remarked as a force capable of overcoming all odds, be it social class, science, time, age, or physical ailment. Love is a powerful value capable of bringing life and restoring purpose to life regardless of whatever challenges there may be. Noah and Allie fall in love as teenagers, but their nascent love faces many challenges. The first challenge is their separation when Allie moves with her family to a new city. The next challenge is interference from Allie’s parents, then Allie’s betrothal to another man. But Allie and Noah overcome all these challenges to their union and marry each other.
The challenges continue even in their blissful marriage. The death of one of their children and the loss of Allie’s mind are the greatest of these challenges. But it does not deter Noah from nurturing their love, and their union waxes stronger.
Aging and Mortality
A dominant setting in the novel is a nursing home for old people, where we see several inmates, including the protagonists passing through several levels of physical debilitation as a result of their old age. The novel remarks on the inevitable deterioration of the mortal human body with time and that this deterioration must eventually lead to death.
From the perspective of old age, the narrator rues the folly of wasting one’s limited time in life chasing things that will not matter in the long run at the expense of eternal values like love.
‘The Notebook‘ by Nicholas Sparks also highlights some of the differences between the mind, body, and behavior of young people and old people.
Memories and Feelings
One of the other ascendant themes of ‘The Notebook‘ is the existential argument that feelings are much beyond what the mind can comprehend and that memory is only a peripheral value when juxtaposed with feelings.
This is best explained in the complexities of Allie’s interactions with Noah as she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease wiped Allie’s mind clean of all her memories, including the memory of her soul mate and lifelong lover, Noah. Yet, she feels a connection with him and feels safe in his company despite her inability to recognize him. Sometimes, the power of Allie’s feelings for Noah defies her disease, and she is able to recall memories of him.
Nicholas Sparks suggests in ‘The Notebook‘ that the workings of the human mind are not only controlled by experience and memories but also by feelings.
The Beauty of Nature
‘The Notebook‘ celebrates and pays tribute to nature in several ways. From Noah’s appreciation of and description of elements of nature to Allie’s art and paintings, we see a profound picture of the beauty of nature in flowers, the sky, swans, and trees, among others.
The characters Noah and Allie enjoy nature so much that the view of flowers and birds becomes both romantic and therapeutic to both of them.
‘The Notebook‘ by Nicholas Sparks frowns at the discrimination against people based on social class. In the novel, Allie’s parents try to put an obstacle between Allie and Noah because of their snobbish belief that Noah being from a poor family, is not good enough for their socialite daughter.
Class discrimination made Allie’s parents blind to Noah’s admirable qualities of kindness, hard work, and integrity. This made them stand in the way of their daughter’s happiness.
Analysis of Key Moments
- Noah is an eighty-year-old in a nursing home and goes to visit his wife, Allie, but Allie does not recognize him because she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
- Noah begins to read to Allie from a notebook that narrates a story from another timeline.
- Noah is a lonely young man back from the war and spending his fortune and energy refurbishing an old, abandoned house in New Bern, North Carolina.
- Young Allie is three weeks away from getting married to Lon Hammond, but she decides to visit Noah in New Bern before getting married.
- Allie and Noah reconnect and rekindle their love after a few dates together.
- Lon grows suspicious of Allie after she misses numerous calls he placed at the hotel where she is meant to be. He decides to go to New Bern and find out what is going on with her.
- Allie’s mother, Anne Nelson, rushes to New Bern to warn Allie that Lon is coming in search of her. She then gives Allie letters from Noah, which she had hitherto hidden from Allie.
- Allie goes to meet Lon and breaks up with him.
- Noah and Allie get married and have children, but with time Allie begins to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
- Noah and Allie both move to a nursing home, and Noah makes it a routine to go and read their love story to Allie every day.
Style, Tone, and Figurative Language
The style of the narration is a combination of the first-person narrative and the third-person narrative. The author also makes use of framing devices in the novel. A framing device is a narrative technique where a story is told amidst another story. Often, the beginning and ending chapters serve as frames for the story told in the chapters in between. As we have in ‘The Notebook,’ chapter one and chapter eight frame the story told in chapters two to seven.
The tone of the narrator is poetic and wistful, and there are figurative devices deployed in the narration, notably similes and metaphors.
Analysis of Symbols
Symbols are items that signify something abstract beyond what they are at surface value. Some of the symbols in ‘The Notebook‘ are:
Beyond its practical utility as a shelter, Noah’s house in New Bern is an emblem of his dreams and his belief that dreams eventually come true through hard work, patience, and diligence.
The house is also a symbol of the dead things that can be brought to life by the power of love and attention.
Allie’s painting is a symbol of her desires and ideals. At some point in her life, she lost sight of both values in her life, but the recovery of her art and talent in painting was symbolic of her acceptance of her true self.
The Storm and the Hearth
The Storm in ‘The Notebook‘ symbolizes the challenges posed to Noah and Allie’s union. On the other hand, the hearth symbolizes a haven that Noah and Allie find with each other that protects them from the cold and dangers of the storm.
The notebook is a symbol of the power of words and stories in preserving memories, feelings, and enriching experiences. Allie, whose memory was failing her because of her disease, could only revive the passions of her past by listening to her story from the notebook.
What mental illness does Allie have in ‘The Notebook?’
Allie is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in ‘The Notebook.’ The disease makes her lose memories of her identity, family, and her past.
What is the age difference between Noah and Allie in ‘The Notebook?’
The age difference between Noah and Allie is two years. Noah is two years older than Allie. They first began their relationship when Allie was fifteen years old and Noah seventeen.
Why is ‘The Notebook‘ regarded as unrealistic?
‘The Notebook’ by Nicholas Sparks is regarded as unrealistic by many because of the character Noah. Noah is too idealistic and without flaws that make him relatable as a character.
Who is the antagonist of ‘The Notebook‘ by Nicholas Sparks?
The antagonist of ‘The Notebook’ is Allie’s mother, Anne Nelson. She poses as the major obstacle against the protagonists’ love and happiness.