Search for Meaning in “The Lucky One” by Sparks Essay
Updated: Aug 30th, 2020
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks exhibits the traditional narrative of the protagonist finding love despite the hardships he encounters on his way. The critique of the book usually names fate and luck as its central theme. This notion is confirmed by the role the fatal coincidence plays throughout the plot, numerous suggestions made by the characters, and, to some degree, by the book title. The official site of the book defines it as a “story about the […] power of fate to guide us” (“The Lucky One” par. 3).
However, despite the consensus among critics, both the fate and the chance are methods that are used by the author to reveal a much deeper concept of the journey through which the protagonist searches for the meaning of his life throughout the narrative.
The concept of finding meaning is developed by contrasting the chaotic nature of war and the order introduced by the photograph he has found. The protagonist, Logan Thibault, is a marine at service in the war in Iraq. As the narration follows the protagonist, it is natural that little attention is paid to the broader picture, like the political proceedings behind the conflict. Nevertheless, Logan’s point of view is also vague. Nowhere in the course of events does he exhibit any sign of patriotism or nationalism which would explain why he is taking part in the war. His involvement lacks any substance, and it may seem he would not be able to explain it if asked directly.
The same can be said about the conflict itself, as all of the missions that Logan participates in are of erratic and haphazard nature – not from the tactical or strategical perspective, but the standpoint of an unbiased human being. This is perhaps best illustrated by the experience Logan has acquired throughout his service, which did not include any logic and instead “taught him to trust his instincts, even though he’d never been sure where they’d come from.” (Sparks 32) In contrast to this, once he has found a picture of Elizabeth, he started noticing certain patterns in his previously erratic and random life. He has acquired unusual luck in card games and later has survived several violent skirmishes which have proven fatal for his brothers in arms.
His friend, Victor, upon hearing the details of Logan’s experience, immediately suggests that the picture is responsible for the unusual luck the protagonist has encountered. This introduction of the orderliness in the generally tumultuous and unruly environment is the first step towards Logan’s search for meaning in life.
The fact that Logan does not instead rely on the values of his country or any religious background as a source of his fortunes further implies that the photograph is the key to his future quest. The chance here is taking a role of an external force that “shapes the expectations of recipients and in particular the expectation that here even chance is somehow meaningful”, which in our case is the search for his identity (Pier 178).
The second part of the search for identity can be observed when Logan returns to Colorado after his service ends. He immediately discovers that he can not find a place for himself in his old home. Instead, he decides to take a backpacking trip in search of the photograph’s owner. This episode is important for two reasons. First, the photo of Elizabeth is now clearly the only thing that drives his purpose. “Until he’d found the photograph, Thibault’s life had proceeded as he’d long intended. He’d always had a plan.” (Sparks, 28) From this groundbreaking moment, however, his life is stripped of any meaning by the war. Second, his decision to embarking on a physical journey confirms the suggestion of his identity search, conceived in the first part. The journey of the hero is among the most popular ways of portraying the process of spiritual growth and finding the meaning of life.
As Van Den Abbeele puts it, “home is merely a concept, necessary to travel from or to leave behind.” (qtd. in Bruno 85). His choice of companion, the German shepherd named Zeus instead of any human figure, also suggests the intimate and personal nature of the endeavor.
Finally, the third part, starting from Logan finding Elizabeth, is the most comprehensive one in terms of supporting the idea of the personal search for the meaning in life. Upon meeting her, Logan does not disclose his implications regarding the photograph’s properties or the fact of the picture’s existence. Instead, he gets the job at the dog obedience center which belongs to Beth’s family, and gradually finds a way to her heart.
At the same time, Thibault finds new friends among her family members and faces the antagonist, Elizabeth’s former husband, Keith. His love is not an immediate event, and he instead has to make some effort to win Beth’s affection. At the same time, the burden of concealing information about the picture becomes gradually more troubling, and in the end, he discloses it. Unable to accept the truth behind his deeds, Beth accuses him of misdeeds: “You stalked me …” she said, almost as if talking to herself. “You lied to me. You used me.” (Sparks 182)
Up to this point, the hero’s progression is mostly described with his deeds which win Elizabeth’s heart. While this, too, can be ascribed to the self-identity, it is the climactic final standoff between Logan and Keith that puts the protagonist’s purported “luck” to the test. As a result of this conflict, Thibault finally gains Beth’s trust and dispels her doubts. To our analysis, however, this episode is especially valuable. In this way, the chance transforms from something granted by the metaphysical forces, without a clear motivation or explanation, into something a person might gain by making the effort towards it, something “predictable after those events have taken place” (Bruce 84).
While this may be used to expel any unnecessary supernatural element from the novel, it is more likely that the luck here is a plot device that helps to metaphorically explain the progress made by the hero in his search for purpose in life, involving “a doctrine of natural causality, most accurately defined through reference to its opposite — the chance” (Richardson 191).
The Lucky One is a story that centers around the concepts of chance and fatal coincidence as primary driving forces. Nevertheless, the core motive of the book is that of the protagonist’s journey in search of meaning in life. By contrasting orderliness introduced into the protagonist’s life with the picture of Beth and the chaos and lack of reason behind the war sets up the scene for his search of the identity. The elusive purpose of his life after the end of his service and the trip he embarks on to find the woman confirm this motive and add a trope of the physical journey to the already present inner personal one.
Finally, Logan’s striving to win Elizabeth’s heart and the hardships he overcomes culminating in the encounter with her former husband, Keith, solidifies the concept of chance as something that needs to be gained as a result of personal growth rather than something granted by the metaphysical realm. Thus, while chance as a random event is responsible for at least some of the events within the book, it is personal determination and dedication to finding meaning in life that determines the outcome for Logan Thibault.
Bruce, Donald. Literature and Science, Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, 1994. Print.
Bruno, Giuliana. Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film, New York: Verso, 2002. Print.
Pier, John. Theorizing Narrativity, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008. Print.
Richardson, Brian. Unlikely Stories: Causality and the Nature of Modern Narrative, Cranbury, New Jersey: University of Delaware Press, 1997. Print.
Sparks, Nicholas. The Lucky One, New York: Hachette, 2010. Print.
The Lucky One 2008. Web.
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