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Free Study Guide for A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks

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ONLINE SYNOPSIS A WALK TO REMEMBER BY NICHOLAS SPARKS

CHAPTER ONE

Summary

This chapter begins with Landon giving us a description of Beaufort, his hometown. He says it was like many other Southern small towns with its everpresent humidity, people who speak to you even when they don’t know you, crabbing in the sound or the river and where there are only three channels on TV. What’s most important to the residents is their church and Beaufort, in spite of being small, has eighteen of them in the town limits alone.

The Southern Baptist Church, of which Landon is a member, is known every year for its Christmas Pageant, which is actually a play written by Hegbert Sullivan, who had been with the church as its minister for many years. The play, called The Christmas Angel, had been written by Hegbert, because he thought the traditional staging of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was for heathens. He believed that Ebenezer Scrooge should have been saved by angels instead of ghosts, since there was no way to know if God had actually sent them. He had tried changing the end of the play to suit his beliefs, but that did not go over well with the community, so he just wrote another.

Landon describes Hegbert as somewhat of a joke among the children of the town, because he preaches “fire and brimstone” every Sunday and he emphasizes the sin of fornication. This, of course, leads to teasing and the playing of pranks on the minister. His situation is not helped either by his old man appearance with his pale, translucent skin and his inability to smile at anyone. He didn’t understand the behavior of the young people in his congregation even though he had a 17 year-old daughter named Jamie.

Landon also tells us that The Christmas Angel became an overnight hit with the town and every Christmas, it sold out and ran twice to packed houses. Landon speculates that people love it so much and cry buckets every time they see it, because it is basically a true story, figuring in Hegbert, his wife who had died giving birth to Jamie, and Jamie as a baby. Because it has such a serious message, Hegbert also wants the young people of the high school to perform it. He wants them to learn that if you “put your trust in God, you’ll be alright in the end.” Landon says it was a lesson he would eventually learn in time, even though it wouldn’t be Hegbert who taught it to him.


Landon then tells the reader all about his own family and his own life in Beaufort. His father is Worth Carter and he is a congressman for “everything east of Raleigh and north of Wilmington, all the way to the Virginia border.” He has held this position for almost thirty years and, obviously, wields tremendous power in his district and in his state. Landon tells us, without using it as an excuse for his own behavior, that his father was never there for him growing up, because he was always in Washington, D.C. “He was a stranger, someone I barely knew at all.” As a result, he grew up under the care of his mother, whom he describes as “a nice lady, sweet and gentle, the kind of mother most people dream about. However, he recognizes that she cannot substitute the male influence he needs and combined with his growing disillusionment with his father, he turns into a bit of a rebel. He never actually does anything really bad, but he does break enough rules that parents in the community whisper to their children not to be like that “Carter boy. He’s on a fast track to prison.”

Landon goes on to relate that Hegbert Sullivan and his father dislike each other because of Landon’s grandfather. Hegbert had worked for the man at one time and saw up close what a “bastard” he really was. The old man amassed a fortune on the backs of the townspeople, charging them exorbitant interest on loans from his bank, making promises he never kept, and foreclosing on their property in order to take it for himself. Landon observes that if anyone deserved to die an early, horrible death, it was his grandfather. Instead, the old man died at a ripe-old age while sleeping with his mistress on his yacht off the Cayman Islands. Landon thinks the fact that life isn’t fair should be the number one lesson taught in school.

When Hegbert quits in disgust, he turns instead to preaching in the Southern Baptist Church. Because of his obsession with preaching, he never married until he was 43 and Jamie wasn’t born until he was 55. His wife died giving birth to Jamie and hence The Christmas Angel came to past.

During his senior year, the staging of the play is left up to the Drama Class, taught by Miss Garber. Of course, Jamie Sullivan is given the lead role of the angel and everyone in the community is looking forward to it even more, because of the significance of the play to her own birth. Landon finds himself in the Drama Class also, just because he was looking for a “blow off class” for his senior year. Miss Garber has big plans for the class including leading her students towards “self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-fulfillment.” Of course, Landon finds these goals a little silly and thinks he can just ignore them. The best thing, he thinks, about the class is the fact that he is one of only two boys, which means he can use his “manly approach to women” without any competition.

Miss Garber tells the class that Jamie will be the Christmas angel and begins applauding wildly. The class goes along with the clapping somewhat tentatively, because, even though Jamie is a nice girl, she was unusual to say the least. She deliberately wears her hair in a bun, always has on a brown cardigan and a plaid skirt and is seldom noticed by anyone around her. She also carries her Bible wherever she goes and even reads it a lunch. Furthermore, she is always helping people and animals, going at least once a week to the orphanage, and bringing hurt “critters” to the local vet to be mended. She often voices her opinion that everything is a part of the Lord’s Plan and she even believes she is blessed to be Hegbert’s daughter. All of this is a huge strike against her when it comes to having either girlfriends or boyfriends. So, even though the parents of the town believe the world would be a better place with more Jamies in it, Landon and his friends think one is plenty.

When Jamie turns around to acknowledge the applause of her classmates, Landon is struck by the fact that she has developed breasts and has a nice tan. For the first time, at least to him, she looks almost pretty. She turns again and smiles pointedly at Landon and indicates she’s glad to see him in the class. As the narrator, he observes that “it wasn’t until later that I would learn the reason why.”

Notes

The fact that Landon emphasizes so early in the story the immense popularity of the Christmas play is a clue for the reader that somehow this play will figure strongly in how his senior year in high school is a lasting memory. Also, the fact that he suddenly begins to see Jamie Sullivan in a different light is an important clue to events he has yet to relate.

Landon’s description of Hegbert is also important to note for two reasons: one, he is the author of the play and it is a reflection of his own life; two, he has a bitter past with the Carter family because of Landon’s ruthless grandfather. Therefore, he doesn’t have much good to say about Landon either. This will be important to remember for events to come. Hegbert also has little to admire about Landon, because Landon has always been behind pranks played on the serious preacher. This then lays the groundwork for a relationship which will spring up between Landon, Jamie, and her father.

There is also significant foreshadowing at the end of the chapter when Landon tells us he didn’t know until later why Jamie was glad to see he had taken the class. Could it be that he is part of the Lord’s Plan about which she always speaks?

 

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