Critical Essays Narrative Techniques: Sparks' Literary Form


Instead of starting at the beginning and telling the story in chronological order, Nicholas Sparks begins The Notebook near the end of what would be a linear narration and then employs both the framing technique and flashback to tell his tale.

The main storyline is the reunion of Noah and Allie and the conflict that they face as they must decide the path their lives will now take. This particular event only lasts three days in 1946; however, important information that shapes their reunion occurred weeks and years earlier. If you imagine a picture in a frame, the reunion is the photograph. And the opening and closing chapters of the novel are set in the present, some 49 years later. The present-day storyline frames the reunion story. Although the frame represents the present and current storyline and the picture represents the reunion, within these two main storylines are other stories, some are episodes and others are vignettes, which are told in the form of a flashback. These stories, told within the context of the other storylines, fit within both the picture and the frame. And some of these smaller stories of earlier events frame even smaller stories of other events. Each story is distinct within itself while simultaneously being an integral part of a greater whole; every individual picture is a part of a bigger picture.

This framework technique provides the structure of the plot, and flashback is the technique Sparks uses to tell the stories. Characters reveal these "framed" stories through their shared and private memories. Often the reader shares a flashback with a character that is not shared with any other character.

The narrator also provides information. The narrator of The Notebook in the opening and closing chapters is Noah. But the narrator of the middle chapters provides a limited, third-person omniscient point of view. This perspective sometimes allows the readers into the mind of a character — typically Noah and Allie — but sometimes does not — such as Anne and Lon. This technique is important because it allows the storyline to flow seamlessly from past to present and back again.

Stylistically, the narrative techniques work well because The Notebook is not just a love story; the novel also explores the nature of fate and free will and the way people interact with one another. The intricacies of relationships parallel the intricacies of poetry and the framing technique enables Sparks to weave the past together with the present, leading to the emotional climax and creating a compelling read along the way.