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Dear John Summary
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Dear John by Nicholas Sparks.
Dear John (2006), a contemporary romance novel by Nicholas Sparks, follows a man who discovers his first love married someone else while he served with the US Army. Now home from war, he must build a new life for himself. Receiving widespread critical acclaim upon publication, the book is now a major motion picture. Sparks is the internationally bestselling author of the famous The Notebook among other popular romance novels.
Although Dear John is a work of fiction, Sparks took the inspiration for the book from a story told to him by his cousin, Todd Vance. Todd served in the US Army, and he shared his personal experience with Sparks.
John Tyree lives in North Carolina. He was raised by his single dad who spends more time obsessing over a coin collection than interacting with his son. John struggles to communicate with him; he has always felt neglected. John thinks his father needs to see a doctor because his health is deteriorating, but his father refuses. Without any sense of direction or fatherly guidance in his life, John doesn’t know what to do.
After some soul-searching, John enlists in the US Army. He is happier now that his life has a purpose. However, when he returns home on leave, he discovers that his father has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. On the one hand, John is happy that they have a diagnosis; now everything his father does make sense. On the other hand, he feels like a bad son because he must return to his active duties eventually, even if it’s not for a long time.
While on leave, John meets Savannah Lynn Curtis. He is instantly attracted to her and they hit it off. He spends time with Savannah down at the docks and at local gatherings. As they spend more time together, they fall in love. John realizes this is the woman he wants to marry. They can stay in North Carolina and he will be able to look after his father.
However, everything changes for John after 9/11. With the nation on high alert, and the world fearing another war, John feels he should put himself forward for active duty again. Savannah doesn’t want him to enlist, though she knows how much serving his country means to him. He enlists, leaving Savannah and his father behind.
Savannah is heartbroken. She loves John and wants to be with him forever. She is terrified he will be injured or killed and that she won’t see him again. To make them both feel better, they exchange letters all the time. Savannah’s letters keep John’s spirits up, and John’s letters brighten Savannah’s day.
Weeks turn into months, and time drags on. No one knows when John will return home, or if he will return. One day, John doesn’t receive a letter from Savannah. As the days go by, John worries something has happened to her. Finally, he receives a letter from her, but it breaks his heart.
Savannah tells John that she has met someone else. She fell in love while John has been away, and she is married. She has not written for a while because she didn’t know how to tell him. She is sorry, and she will always love him, no matter who she is married to. Devastated, John doesn’t want to return home. He doesn’t know what he’ll say if he sees her again.
Eventually, John must go home. Things go from bad to worse. His father has died, and he regrets not having had a chance to say goodbye. With this tragedy to deal with, he doesn’t have the energy to deal with Savannah and her new husband; however, it’s a small town and he knows he must face everyone.
The first time John sees Savannah since returning home, she is with her husband. She is married to Tom, her best friend since childhood. John knows Tom and knows he is a good man. Although he loves Savannah, he wants her to be happy. He knows he must let her go so he can move on.
Savannah, however, shocks John. She tells him that Tom is terminally ill with skin cancer. He will die because they cannot afford better medical care. John must make a choice—watch Tom die, or donate his father’s coin collection, which is worth a lot of money, to his care. John asks Tom to always look after Savannah and to be a good husband. Once Tom promises to keep Savannah happy, John donates his coin collection.
With access to proper treatment, Tom recovers. Lacking in direction once more, John throws himself into the army, returning to active duty. He does not plan to see or speak to Savannah again as that would prevent him from moving on.