Areas of Study
Areas of Study
Maybe not of every kind, but McEwan is careful to include many different varieties: the love between Clarissa and Joe; Jed's love for God and for Joe; erotic love between partners; the love of 'agape' for all beings; does Jed know what kind of love he has for Joe? Joe's love for 'real' science, Clarissa's for Keats; Keats' great love; and Jean Logan's, and the Professor's, and the Hippie ideal, and Clarissa's frustrated love for children, etc, etc.
Are there any conclusions McEwan arrives at?
Is this a study of love, or should we leave that to science?
How close to psychopathology is the condition of love as portrayed here?
Whose love is shown to be 'enduring' at the end?
Look at Jed's letters, is his love really about having power over Joe?
Is love to be 'endured', for example, something that makes you suffer?
An enduring coupling of its own. Clearly Joe and Clarissa represent either side - a little mechanically? - and the two sides come at the same problem from different angles. What is the best way to explore the mysteries of a smile or the vagaries of infatuation? McEwan allows us to see what both sides would do, and even gives us a 'second' scientific ending to contrast with the novelistic 'first' ending. Perhaps we might say that Jed belongs in neither camp and with neither art nor science to guide him he is lost.
Is your allegiance to art or science dependent on whether you favour Clarissa or Joe's version of events?
Can a novelist deal seriously and accurately with scientific ideas? Is he biased already because of his chosen form?
How is Joe's character shown to be 'scientific'?
How is Clarissa's character shown to be 'literary'?
A word used perhaps a little too often early on, but important nonetheless. Narrative relates to any method used to try and make sense of the world, to tell a story which is reassuring and sounds right. There are competing narratives in the novel and Joe's interest in the scientific unreliability of them should highlight the issue of belief and credibility at the heart of narrative, or stories, or fictions - fabrications, which we may believe to be true, or we may question.
What is it about the way Joe tells his 'story' to Clarissa that makes her reluctant to believe him?
What does Joe have to say to get the police interested?
Why does Jed have such a radically different 'reading' of the story Joe tells us in chapter one?
At what points does McEwan make it difficult for us to know which 'story' to believe?
In what ways is Jed's 'story' convincing?
Can you list the 'stories' Clarissa believes in order to convince herself that she doesn't love Joe?
What does the scientific narrative at the end offer that the novel doesn't - and what does it fail to deliver?
We may see Jed as the "Jesus Freak" Clarissa labels him as early on but all the characters have their set of beliefs, so what's the difference? Can we really say that Joe and Clarissa don't force their beliefs on others as we assume Jed does? What about Inspector Linley's beliefs? Jed's enduring faith is the last thing we get to read and it is strong, stronger than Clarissa's in Joe, or Jean Logan's in her husband. At the end of the novel we get two calls for forgiveness - Jed asks Joe and Professor Reid asks Mrs Logan, who herself despairs of ever receiving forgiveness from her husband. With such a religious closing tone this novel can't simply be an attack on religious fanaticism - can it?
Is faith shown to be powerful or destructive?
Why do we not see either Clarissa or Joe explicitly ask for forgiveness from each other?
Joe speaks like a scientist, Clarissa like a literature scholar and Jed like a religious fanatic. A trite statement, but how far is our understanding of their character based on the kinds of verbal constructions they use?
Look at Joe's way of describing the catastrophe in chapter one - do his scientific constructions make his understanding clearer?
In Clarissa's arguments against Joe where can you spot the literary critic reading between the lines?
How does Jed use religious language to manipulate Joe and to fix reality as he wants it? What can you point to in his language that demonstrates he is fanatical and mentally unbalanced?
There will be other language traits that these and other characters use. Look for how McEwan is able to give us a picture of what a person is like through what they say as well as what we're told they do. Begin with Linley and Mrs Logan.
A major theme in McEwan's work, whether a child suddenly goes missing, as in The Child in Time, the Berlin Wall crumbles, (Black Dogs), or two lovers kill a man and gruesomely cut up his body together, therefore dismembering their own love for each other, (The Innocent). Enduring Love is similar to the last novel mentioned insofar as it too deals with a love that cannot stand the strain of the consequences of the catastrophe. But then what is the real catastrophe? That a man died or that one man fell in love with another?
Does the catastrophe only reveal what was already there?
Does McEwan seek to resolve the catastrophe or explore its repercussions?
The desire to be objective that the main characters, in their different ways, have.
How important it is to have power in a relationship.
Children as a metaphor for hope and new solutions.
The story of the 'mysterious force' holding atoms together as a symbol of universal love.
The oppression of young men by revered figures. (Have a look at the story of Keats and Wordsworth.)
Jed as representation of the irrationality we pretend we're safe from.