Published in 2003, The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks is a novel that explores and examines how an individual strives to come to terms with a significant, traumatic event in their life by reaching out for love.
In The Guardian, Nicholas Sparks presents the narrative’s protagonist with a variety of different types of love ranging from undying, to reserved to unsettling obsessive, and in these three differentiating categories, the reader comes to understand that though each character is representing a different classification of the same emotion, the way in which love manifests and impacts can have severely different outcomes.
Firstly, in protagonist Julie’s deceased husband Jim, the reader can identify undying, almost ethereal love. Though Jim succumbed to cancer before the novel begins, we feel his presence and love throughout the narrative in the form of the loyal Great Dane puppy Singer. Throughout the novel Singer acts as something of a loving and protective substitute for Julie in her times of need. There is healthy debate with regards to whether Singer is in fact a supernatural reincarnation of Jim himself, but what cannot be argued is that the dog’s actions, especially towards the novel’s climax, can certainly be associated with a selfless, undying, true kind of love that is regarded above all others.
Secondly, and perhaps more subtlely, there is reserved, shy love in the form of neighbor and family friend Mike Harris. Though Mike’s love for Julie is displayed in a far gentler way than the metaphorical message of Singer/Jim, his impact on Julie’s life should be underestimated or belittled. Throughout the novel and Julie’s unsettling experiences with Richard, Mike provides a constant, reliable and affectionate presence that is arguably vital to Julie’s mental well being as the plot progresses, and the fact that the couple do indeed get married at the novel’s climax is testament to just how important and effective this reserved but solid type of love is.
Thirdly, and perhaps most outlandishly, displayed throughout the story is harmful, obsessive love in the form of key antagonist Richard. Richard’s violent, single minded, unstable form of affection towards Julie provides a stark and interesting contrast from the character of Mike, and Sparks achieves an intriguing feat of showing just how differently love by two different men for the same woman can manifest itself. Rather than caring for and catering to Julie’s emotional needs as Mike, and to an extent Singer/Jim do, Richard’s love is a much more selfish, and ultimately psychotic emotion that has very little consideration for the object and rather a large amount of focus on the wants and whims of the admirer.
Overall, in The Guardian what Nicholas Sparks has managed to do is showcase to the reader a multi-layered yet clearly defined examination of the different ways that love can impact and affect an individual. For an emotion that is often used in literature in such a straight forward fashion, Sparks has provided a combination of the positive and negative aspects of love in the form of one intriguing and narratively thrilling tale.