Your Dad Loves You, I Can Tell, Even If You Can’t Jael Zimmerman Westmoreland County Community College Abstract Dear John by Nicholas Sparks uses two main characters, John’s father and Tim’s brother Alan, to express the symptoms and complications of the psychological disorder Asperger Syndrome. This disorder is considered a form of autism. People with this disorder will be passionate about one or more topics, but will struggle with daily tasks.
The novel provides an extended metaphor through John’s father through his obsessive interest in his coin collection, and is difficulty in forming a relationship and communicating with his son as he attempts to raise him on his own. Evidence from his routine schedule and his trouble in controlling feelings is compared to Savannah’s friend Alan, a boy actually diagnosed with the disorder as a child. Savannah uses her knowledge from her studies in college and experience with Alan to diagnose John’s father, and help him understand why he has acted this way through John’s entire life.
Your Dad Loves You, I Can Tell, Even If You Can’t Nicholas Sparks incorporates psychological concepts of Autism and Asperger Syndrome that reveal evidence of their symptoms in one of his best selling love stories, the novel, Dear John. When John was a still a child, he picked up a coin one day and noticed a defect. He quickly showed it to his only family, his father, who became infatuated with it. They took it to get looked at by a professional who explained to them that John had luckily stumbled upon a rare and value Jefferson Mule.
Sometimes accidently a penny impresses into a nickel, and producing this surprisingly valuable error coin. When John was still young he enjoyed the conversations over coins with his dad, but eventually as he got older, he grew tired of his father’s obsession. And, he found that without coins, there wasn’t much to talk about. Mr. Tyree attempted to raise John on his own, but he never really kept track of where John went all the time, or what time he was home, so John seemed to get himself into some trouble as a teenager before joining the army.
However, his father had his routines that he always kept up with. He always made a certain food according to the day of the week, and Sunday was lasagna. But every night after dinner, his dad would leave the door to his room containing his coin collection cracked open, and never said a word to John after that. When John left for the army, his dad always shook his hand, and walked away quickly without a hug. After two years in the army, John is back at Wilmington beach for a two week leave. John first encounters Savannah on the boardwalk, and shows great courtesy by rescuing her purse from the ocean.
She is at the beach for the summer volunteering, but intends on going off to college. After a few days together, their relationship quickly progresses into intimacy, since his leave is short. John only has one year of service before he can be honorably discharged, so Savannah demands to meet the man who raised him, his father. He warns her that she won’t get much out of him, but is surprised how she talks for hours with him asking questions about his coin collection (Sparks, 2006). Savannah claims that he shouldn’t be so hard on his dad, and that he has done really well for himself for being in that condition.
She hands John a book on autism, and claims that his father’s behavior shows symptoms of Asperger Syndrome. Her friend Tim has a brother named Alan who was diagnosed with the condition and claims she has had experience looking after him. John is angry with her at first for studying her father, but understands that she was trying to help. He returns to the military promising to come back and marry her after. The two keep in touch through letters, but the war on terrorism begins, and he is persuaded to extend. Eventually, the letters stopped, and years later he returns on a forty-eight hour leave for his father’s funeral.
He returns home to find that Savannah has moved on and gotten married to Tim. Her love for Tim is different that it contains more sympathy, because he is slowly dying of illness, and she feels responsible to take care of Alan. She has started a program for children with autism, and owns a farm where she encourages them to ride horses, and help them have fun and to aid with their illness. John sells his dad’s entire coin collection to help find a cure for Tim’s illness (Sparks, 2006). The story ends with the saying that when you really love someone, you think about their happiness, more than your own.
The novel presents characters that represent the symptoms and complications of Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Behavior is dysfunctional, when it interferes with a person’s ability to function on a daily basis (Davis&Palladino, 2007). Some of the more common characteristics of Asperger Syndrome include difficulty in communication, problems expressing feelings, devotion to routine, and obsessive interests in one or more topics (Jaffe, 2010). John’s father, Mr. Tyree conveys indication of the psychological disorder in his behavior throughout the entire novel. Even though Mr.
Tyree has raised John on his own, during the novel, there is not much communication between the two. As a teenager and even as a adolescence, when John was home his father would greet him the same way every morning simply saying good morning. They would eat breakfast and dinner in silence. When he tried to discuss Savannah in a conversation, he didn’t know what to say. The fact that John could never talk to his dad about something other than coins only irritated him more as time went on. Mr. Tyree is an example if Asperger Syndrome, a less severe form of autism.
Raising John on his own, preparing dinner daily, and driving John to the airport frequently are daily tasks that prove his condition to be less serious than some forms of autism, but still reveal symptoms of the disorder. He is limited to one sided conversations, and does not notice the listener’s reactions (McLaughlin, 2008). This developmental disorder is generally discovered in adulthood (Jaffe, 2010). This syndrome affects four times as many boys than girls (McLaughlin, 2008). John’s father struggles to show his feelings towards John, and how much he really does care about him.
He claims that his favorite coin is the Jefferson Mule that they found together. However, as John gets older, he tends to keep to himself. He never really regulates John’s discipline, and he comes and goes as he pleases. Even though his father drives him to the airport every time he is on leave, he never hugs John or expresses any feelings of missing him. His father has trouble illustrating his feelings of depression, sympathy, and even love towards his own son. People diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome share the same symptoms. They act shy, have trouble with anxiety (Jaffe, 2010).
John’s dad gets stressed and overwhelmed over the little things. John tries to make dinner for them one night, and his dad insists that he does it himself, and becomes distressed over the matter. Also, he makes sure anyone that touches his coins is wearing a glove in order to preserve them. Situations involving changes in routines, failing at tasks, and interferences with rituals cause anxiety in some people with this syndrome (Samet, 2002). Alan, a boy with autism in the novel has similar symptoms of this disorder. Unlike John’s father, he was diagnosed as a kid, and has stronger signs of the disorder.
For example, Alan has trouble controlling his anger with his brother Tim in the book. When Tim falls ill, he can’t understand why Tim can’t return home from the hospital, and in a few situations, he has a tantrum of aggressiveness, shaking uncontrollably. Savannah can sometimes prevent it, but once the tantrum has begun, it is a prolonged event. When anxiety builds up to a certain level, outburst can result. Unfortunately, for a child, an outburst may be overwhelming and difficult to end (Samet, 2002). Many people confuse signs of Asperger Snydrome, a combination of symptoms, and Bipolar disorder, which only contains one symptom.
Bipolar disorder involves a person experiencing episodes of mania and depression (Davis, &Palladino, 2007). There is no doubt that John’s father is devoted to routine. He wakes up at the same time, reads his newspaper, and only says good morning to his son every morning. He only makes certain types of food on certain days of the week. For example, on Sunday he makes lasagna. In the evenings he makes his way to his study, which contains his coin collection. He remains in there with the door always cracked open, until he goes to bed. John tries to help his dad out with his routine tasks, but his dad always refuses.
He desires to take his dad to a nursing home while he is ill and John is off at war. John struggles to get his father in the car, unable to control his anxiety and fear of leaving the home he was accustomed to. John’s sympathy and understanding of his father’s newly recognized condition makes him worry about his adjustment. Although the condition is in some ways similar to autism, a child with Asperger’s syndrome typically has normal language and intellectual development. John’s father was a functionable adult, with a combination of less severe symptoms.
People with this syndrome dislike change in routines and make act out without control of emotions (Jaffe, 2010). A common behavior for those with Asperger Syndrome is being preoccupied with only one or few interests, which he may be very knowledgeable about (Samet, 2002). John’s dad becomes overly interested in collecting and studying coins. He can only make one-sided conversation about coins, and can’t really communicate socially discussing anything else. He spends every evening in his study playing with coins, and is obsessed with the particular subject.
He manages to talk to Savannah, a complete stranger, for hours on the one subject. Dear John is not just a love story. Its readers feel a sensation of empathy for people with the disorder Asperger Syndrome. The novel successfully uses characters to represent the symptoms and complications of living with someone with the psychological disorder. John’s father, along with the character Alan, expresses the symptoms through his obsessive behavior, his uncontrollable emotions, his distinct routine behavior, and his difficulty with communication as an extended metaphor in Dear John.
References Sparks, Nicholas. (2006). Dear John. Warner Books. Davis, Stephen,;amp; Palladino, Joseph. (2007). Psychology. Pearson. Jaffe. (2010). Dear John and Asperger Syndrome. Retrieved from ;lt;http://www. blog. drjaffeandassociates. com;gt;. McLaughlin, Kate. (2008). Asperger’s Syndrome. Retrieved from ;lt;http://healthgoodness. com;gt;. Samet, Deborah. (2002). Symptoms of Asperger Syndrome. US Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from ;lt;http://www. theasperger. connections. org. ;gt;