Wonders of Tragic Love

People look for love. There is always this natural desire for love. But people look for it in different places – some look for it in their own lives like school, work, and even home; some experience it through movies; some even have great imaginations that embody the wide scope of love; but still there are some people who find love in romance novels, in love stories, in fiction.

Unlike movies, a book contains every single detail of a story that makes it more striking and powerful. A significant number of movies came from books. But what is there in love stories that people of all ages, especially women, stop from their daily errands just to have a glimpse of love portrayed in books?

An author that successfully touched the hearts of love story readers live by the name Nicholas Sparks – the guy behind the very famous novel-turned-into-movie “A Walk to Remember” starring Mandy Moore and Shane West, and the same guy who wrote an epic love story entitled “The Notebook”, which was also turned into a best watched film.

Sparks wrote 16 love stories, all of which became top in many best seller’s lists, and co-authored an autobiography with his brother Micah Sparks. He has millions of readers from all ages and different walks of lives from all over the world. He is a contemporary writer of romance, who begs to differ, because he dominates the sub-genre of romance: the love story.

What is there in Nicholas Sparks’ novels that film producers keep on asking Sparks for a film adaptation of his books? Besides, of course, his books hitting the New York Times’ best selling list? There is no definite answer. But true enough, Sparks’ books have this authentic emotion power in the form of tragedy that people love unintentionally.


In his book “The Notebook”, one of the most famous quotations that was being posted and shared in social networking sites, book club sites, and online compilation of quotations is “the greater the love, the greater the tragedy when it’s over.” Why did Sparks think of putting love and tragedy in one sentence?

Because for him, by definition, all great love stories have to end in tragedy.

Love stories like Romeo and Juliet, Gone With the Wind, and Titanic all ended in tragedy, and yet people consider them the greatest love stories of all time. Is tragedy really a significant element in a love story?

“If there’s no great love in the first place, you don’t feel anything. There is no tragedy. All around the world, millions of people are dying today. And yet we’re here working, we’re not breaking down, we’re not crying. Why? Because we don’t love them. But if it was your sister, or your child, or your husband, or your wife, or your mother, or your best friend, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be crying. Why? Because there’s great love. And nobody lives forever. All love stories have to end in tragedy.”

Tragedy is a very common element in Sparks book and his way of portraying tragic love is what sets his books apart from other love stories. For instance, all his books that were already turned into movies carry a disaster in the story and serve as the tear-jerker, which turns them into unforgettable love story.

The movie “A Walk to Remember” is about two teens in North Carolina. Typically, the man Landon (Shane West) is a very popular jock, and the woman Jamie (Mandy Moore) is an ordinary, and unpopular one. When they got together and fall in love, Landon realized that Jamie has Leukemia, and it changed his life forever.

“A twist of fate made Jamie his partner for the homecoming dance, and Landon Carter’s life would never be the same. Being with Jamie would show him the depths of the human heart and lead him to a decision so stunning it would send him irrevocably on the road to manhood…”

“The Notebook” is about a young poor man Noah (Ryan Gosling) who falls in love with a rich young woman Allie (Rachel McAdams). Their social classes later separated them. After long years of being apart, they saw each other again and they immediately went back to the race of love and got back together. It must be a done love story for some, but it didn’t happen that way because the story began with the tragedy. The movie began with an old man with an old notebook on his lap, and an old woman doing her morning ritual. Later, readers will find out that Allie has Alzheimer’s and she couldn’t even remember the man that she never forgot after their long separation.

“Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes. The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments, and fundamental changes that affect us all.”

A “have-a-good-cry” characteristic of “Nights in Rodanthe” is present in both the book and the movie. It is about a middle-aged woman named Adrienne (Diane Lane) who felt lost and realized that she has to contemplate on things after her husband left her for a younger woman. She decided to stay in Rodanthe, and watch her friend’s inn, where a doctor named Paul (Richard Gere) stayed over. Paul is about to visit his estranged son. In a few days, they fall in love and when they are about to see each other again and meet each other’s sons, Paul got killed.

“Now, with the storm closing in, two wounded people will turn to each other for comfort—and in one weekend set in motion feelings that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.”

“Dear John” is about John (Channing Tatum), a soldier in the army who is on leave, who falls in love with Savannah (Amanda Seyfried). Everything seems to be perfect even when John went back to the army because of the 9/11 attack. “Dear John” is the first line in every letter that Savannah sends to John. The tragedy is discovered later when John went home, and realized that Savannah is already married.

“Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life.”

Dear John, which was turned into movie in 2010, is not the last book-turned-into-movie with a tragic love story that Sparks has written. Last April 20, the film adaptation of his book “The Lucky One” was screened. It starred Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling. The adaptation of his latest book “The Best of Me” will come next. These movies, and Sparks other books never fail to have that element of tragedy, and his way of capturing the love despite the tragedy never fails to win the hearts of many feminine readers.

“He is able to take normal people engaged in normal activities and create extraordinary relationships. He creates a level of accessibility that is difficult to capture. While creating these realistic landscapes, Sparks is also able to captivate the reader by continually controlling and reformatting the expectations so the story is never entirely predictable.”

With these tragic love stories, Sparks was able to capture the emotions of readers, as if he has something very powerful that drags them into the story, hooks them with the book, lets them dream and imagine what is happening, and most importantly makes them shed a bucket of tears. It is like people feel the intensity of the tempest of the emotions in the novel, without actually being there. They can relate their feelings, although not directly.

Sparks said in several interviews in the Philippines and abroad that with his books, his readers feel like they have miniature lives in between the cover of his books, “If I eliminate one of the major emotions of life, sadness, you’ll close the book and you’ll forget about it because it doesn’t feel real to you. You did not live that mini-life. You’re missing something even though you don’t know what it is.”

Sparks generate authentic emotion power by providing his readers some real drama, unlike other love stories like those in chick literatures that falls under the melodramatic type, “There’s a difference between drama and melodrama; evoking genuine emotion, or manipulating emotion. It’s a very fine eye-of-the-needle to thread. And it’s very rare that it works.”

However, the tragic element in novels and stories didn’t begin with Shakespeare or any other Classic writer. In fact, it all came from the Greek people like Euripedes, Aeschylus and Sophocles. The Greek tragedies are very famous in our history that they captivate the readers through a mixture of certain elements.

Even though these Greek writers didn’t intend to involve tragedy in love stories, they somehow put that powerful element into picture, and that element makes the feelings all the more appealing and real.

Tragedy may be common in Sparks’ books, but they don’t necessarily end with it. Some of them even begin with tragedy. Sparks come up with different endings, and even when a reader nears the end, he or she can still be surprised by how the endings turn.

“Tragic or bittersweet elements are part of what define a love story. A love story is primarily a dramatic story, and the best dramatic stories allow the readers to experience a full range of emotions — empathy, hopefulness, happiness, love, anger and sadness — as they turn the pages of my novels”.

Sparks’ tragic love stories capture not only the minds of readers but also their hearts. His novels could get a reader too wrapped up with the novel, that he or she couldn’t stop reading and keeps on turning the pages until it comes to an end. The descriptive kind of writing helps the readers imagine and be familiar with the actual scenarios. A combination of certain elements is present in all novels, but these elements (tragedy, love, characterization of protagonists and antagonists, setting, climax and endings) were used uniquely that each novel doesn’t seem like a carbon copy of another. Instead every novel presents a different level of tragic love story in the purest form, and juggles the elements so as not to make it appear predictable and conventional and at the same time, makes it realistic the readers feel relatedness as if they could actually grasp what is happening in the novels.


“And the turmoil constantly plaguing the novel, the pang of sorrow or cracks of joy here and then, cleverly positioned in different areas of the story, is the exact definition of a Nicholas Sparks literature.”

Sparks claims that his books fall under the sub-genre love story. He doesn’t consider himself as a writer of romantic literature. But there is a very thin line between love stories and romance stories.

“But that is a love story as opposed to a romance novel! A romance novel always ends happily ever after. When I write, it is not that at all, sometimes it ends happily, sometimes it ends sad, sometimes very, very sad, and sometimes bittersweet like ‘The Notebook'”.

“(Romances) are all essentially the same story: You’ve got a woman, she’s down on her luck, she meets the handsome stranger who falls desperately in love with her, but he’s got these quirks, she must change him, and they have their conflicts, and then they end up happily ever after.”

Significantly, all of his books did not end up like pocket books, chick literature, and fairy tales like Cinderella. Although for Sparks, both kinds of novels have many elements in common like suspense, “good and bad forces pitted against each other, and “scenes that build to a major plot point”.

“Though both have romantic elements, the sub-genres have different requirements. Love stories must use universal characters and settings. Romance novels are not bound by this requirement and characters can be rich, famous, or people who lived centuries ago, and the settings can be exotic. Love stories can differ in theme; romance novels have a general theme — “the taming of a man.”

If romance novels end with happy endings then, Sparks love story sub-genre ends if not with tragedy, with a bittersweet note.

This love story is the sub-genre that makes love tragic but more realistic.

Side notes:

This article was written for a class project. And since my in-text citations did not attach (why, WordPress?), I just put them down. See sources below.

I love Sparks books. I’m a hopeless romantic, that’s because. But I’m quite disappointed with The Lucky One. Least liked book. Probably because the antagonist died. Hahaha! Anyway, good choice with choosing Zac Efron to play as Logan Thibault. He is certainly 100 degree celsius!


Matilla, Dexter (October 21, 2011). Nicholas Sparks talks of life, love and tragedy. Retrieved February 24, 2012 from: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/20293/nicholas-sparks-talks-of-life-love-and-tragedy





Spanich, R. (2006). “Literary Love Making in Nicholas Sparks Novels: Finding the Balance Between the Writer’s Life and Writer’s Work in Bestselling Romantic Love”. Undergraduate Research Symposium: Colby College.

Matilla, Dexter (October 21, 2011). Nicholas Sparks talks of life, love and tragedy. Retrieved February 24, 2012 from: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/20293/nicholas-sparks-talks-of-life-love-and-tragedy

Breznican, A. (March 12, 2010). Nicholas Sparks, Miley Cyrus share a last song love story. Retrieved February 24, 2010 from: http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2010-03-11-lastsong11_CV_N.htm

Mendoza, I. (November 6, 2001). King of pain. Retrieved February 24, 2012 from: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/340176/king-pain

Breznican, A. (March 12, 2010). Nicholas Sparks, Miley Cyrus share a last song love story. Retrieved February 24, 2010 from: http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2010-03-11-lastsong11_CV_N.htm


One Comment Add yours

  1. Stina says:

    I loved this! I was having a discussion with my girls today and i kept repeating that all love stories end with tragedy. It just seemed backwards to all of us because it just shouldnt have to be that way. The truth though, it really does! It would be unrealistic if we could bring someone back to life just to live happily ever after, but i feel like the happily ever after is carrying a loved one’s legacy even after they pass. Its romantically beautiful when you witness thAt. I think thats what makes a love story so great when it ends in tragedy because of all the beautiful things that happen afterwArds. For example, when noah still reada to allie even after she dowsnt remember. He still insists on reading to her. Its so breathtaking and pretty. Anyways, thank you for this. I will definitely share this with my girls.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think. :)

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