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Many people believe that when reading a book written in first person narrative, it is an unreliable source. - Enduring Love by Ian McEwen

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Introduction

Many people believe that when reading a book written in first person narrative, it is an unreliable source. This is because it is a biased account, as the narrator will only tell his or her own side of the story. This is partly true of the novel "Enduring Love" by Ian McEwen. The narrator is Joe. Although he seems to be very controlled and sensible, it is clear from reading the first five chapters of the book, that he is not quite as controlled as first perceived. He has a very scientific brain and thinks about everything rationally but as the chapters progress, he begins to lose the clarity with which he first began. This can give the reader a feeling of uncertainty of the reliability of his narrative. Chapter one begins with such detail that it is impossible to believe that what was being described actually took place in the past. Joe describes everything with pinpoint precision and it is hard to imagine how he managed to remember everything with such accuracy. To reinforce the events he shifts the perspective of the narrator to that of a buzzard. ...read more.

Middle

He either becomes an all-seeing, all-knowing narrator, or a present-time narrator. This adds uncertainty about the reliability of the narrator, as it is clear that in some parts of the novel, he wants to make the reader anticipate the events and have a false sense of security about the novel's outcome; the reader is led to believe that they know what is going to happen. If one takes interest in reading the reviews on the first pages of the novel, one could get an impression of what the book is about. "...a stalker and his unfortunate victim." This tells the reader the basic outline of the novel and therefore, the reader will be looking for the character who will play the two main parts, stalker, and victim. Throughout the first few chapters, all the main events point to Joe being the stalker and Jed the victim. One could imagine that this was in fact Joe's intention. He wanted the reader to see it this way, which would explain some of his obscure references to his and Jed's relationship. When describing Jed's appearance, Joe says, "..tall and lean...looked fit...box-fresh trainers...his knuckles brushing against his leather belt were big and tight-knobbed...look of a pale Indian brave...his appearance was striking..." ...read more.

Conclusion

One begins to come up with other suggestions; Joe is obsessed with Jed? One could also see this as something that Joe has imagined. This is Clarissa's opinion through most of the novel, and could be true. The reader does not trust Joe's account of the events completely anyway, and it would be quite easy for he/she to think that Joe is in fact not talking about events that actually took place in real life, but ones that took place in his mind. This yet again puts an edge in the readers mind about the reliability of the narration. In terms of the novel "Enduring Love," my opinion is that within the first five chapters of the novel, the narrator is unreliable. I personally think that when one has finished the novel, it is possible to believe Joe and I think that it is Joe's intention to make the reader feel that he is unreliable. This gives Joe room to give information if and when he chooses instead of giving it at the perhaps, appropriate moments. It also means that Joe can skip from place to place within the story, not going in chronological order as expected. For these reasons, I feel that it is possible for narrators to be perceived as unreliable, but in some instances, that is in fact their intent. ...read more.

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