Essay-style Questions: Enduring Love

1. How satisfying do you find Chapter 24 as an ending to Enduring Love?

Answer

Introduction:

Shows basic understanding of the structure of the novel.

Responds directly to the question.

Offers an overview, setting the tone for the essay, raising questions
but not answering them yet.

McEwan attempts to have his cake and eat it as chapter 24
is both the ending and not the ending to the novel at the same time. Both
appendices extend our understanding beyond the rather inconclusive final
lines of chapter 24.

Can it possibly be satisfying to read something so indecisive? Or are
we offered a refreshingly open perspective on the main concern of the
novel - love and how it endures or is to be endured? We need to consider
if it is good enough to have matters wrapped up, secure in the knowledge
that Jed's love is wrong, or if a lack of certainty is required in the
face of Joe and Clarissa's mutual misunderstanding and the irrational
nature of love as presented in the novel and exemplified by Jed. And anyway,
who said chapter 24 is not satisfying on its own...

Formal closure:

Begin with how the chapter actually is a satisfying conclusion.

Introduce some formal analysis of style and structure to bolster this
side of the argument, referring back to the question while you're about
it.

Bring together textual analysis with thematic and structural concerns.
A strong argument for satisfying closure.

Looking at symbolism to push the argument further along with recognition
of stylistic elements in the author's writing.

By the time we come to chapter 24 the threat of what Jed
Parry might do has been removed. It is now time to conclude the other major
plot element, the mystery of John Logan's 'other' woman...

Formally there are many signals that we are reaching the end; the picnic
Joe arranges is much the same as in chapter one, and the very fact that
Joe picks Clarissa up to take her to the picnic suggests a mirroring of
the opening and therefore a somewhat satisfying rounding off of events,
especially as Jean Logan is finally relieved of her suspicions...

The last lines are not confusing or inconclusive. The story of the river,
of the atoms bound by a 'mysterious force' can be read as symbolic for
the action of love, itself a mysterious binding force. This then becomes
an honest and totally appropriate ending to such a complex sequence of
events. As told here, in a scientific anecdote, it also perfectly marries
together the twin concerns of art and science, and of course, as it is
told to Jean Logan's children, we cannot fail to recognise the implicit
hope for the future that they embody, a favourite McEwan metaphor...

Loose ends:

Beginning to answer the 'satisfying' arguments head on.

Recognising alternative interpretations in a comprehensive fashion.

It's ok to criticise the author as long as you take it somewhere....

ie. to the next stage in the argument. Neither chapter 24 nor the appendices
provide formal closure. Perhaps this is actually more satisfying though...

The threat of Parry may have been removed, but the consequences
of his intervention live on. There is surely no satisfaction in Joe and
Clarissa being unable to forgive each other when we see Mrs Logan and even
Jed being able to...

So much for a sense of formal closure. The picnic lead to a catastrophe
last time, the story of the river is vague and inconclusive and Mrs Logan's
relief can hardly replace a reconciliation between Joe and Clarissa...

No wonder McEwan needs the two appendices, he can't bear to offer a saccharine
'Joe and Clarissa love each other after all' ending in the body of the
novel. So he assumes that a dispassionate scientific account, (where the
information that 'R' and 'M' were later reconciled is slipped in at the
end), will trick us into seeing this outcome as objective and right rather
than a screamingly romantic piece of wishful thinking...

The authority of the 'scientific' ending is undermined anyway with Jed's
final letter. Here the nice clean edges of the scientific interpretation
are revealed for what they are - impotent theorising in the face of such
powerful irrational feeling, which shows no sign of diminishing despite
examination and diagnosis. Nothing is cleared up, everything's left very
messy...

Conclusion:

Taking the art and science debate and returning it to the central issue
- the complexity of love as presented.

The next and concluding step, the ending can be read as a formal closure
or a bunch of loose ends because...

We as readers make the imaginative step to make sense of what is presented.
Not pretending to have all the answers but at least recognising the complexity.

This marks a return and extension of the ideas put forward in the overview.

Neither the objective control of science nor the 'trick'
of art can tidy up the matter of love. In fact, both narratives are charmingly
modest in their achievements. This would seem to be appropriate for such
a mysterious subject as love and honest to the ambiguity in the title...

The art versus science debate is sustained in this ending and also somewhat
reconciled. It is possible to believe Joe and Clarissa will return to
one another come the end of chapter 24, so we don't necessarily need the
'proof' of Wenn and Camia's article. Equally the 'vague' story of the
river also calls on our imaginative faculties, hence proving the value
of science...

Either way, what we are left with is the realisation that the characters
in this story are not real, but we as readers are. What endures is love.
McEwan offers us the opportunity to experience this complex but common
phenomenon with imagination rather than closing off our responses inside
the asphyxiating formulae of bog standard romance fiction. This, surely,
is very satisfying indeed.