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What do you find interesting in McEwan's portrayal of Jed Parry?

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Introduction

What do you find interesting in McEwan's portrayal of Jed Parry? "Enduring Love" is said to be a book about contradicting the standards of literature, blurring the reader's perceptions of characterisation and narrative trust. Through various shifts in narrator McEwan portrays Jed Parry in various lights to suggest that our perception may not always be trustworthy, and we are often too trusting of the opinions of others. McEwan chooses to tantalise his readers' perceptions of Jed Parry from the outset. In the first chapter we learn only basic details about him, such as the fact that "he was twenty-eight, unemployed, living on an inheritance in Hampstead", a description whose embellishment lies beyond the next ten chapters. However, with comments such as "knowing what I know now, its odd to evoke the figure of Jed Parry ahead of me", it appears that McEwan has erected a literary signpost, provoking the reader to at least consider, if not to make assumptions about, Parry's character. The contradictory description of his physique leads to further curiosity about Jed, as is the intermittent nature of his speech, where Joe notes "what was so exhausting about him was the variety of his emotional states and the speed of their transitions". As a result McEwan lures us through the rest of the novel as, like Joe, our need for an explanation for Parry's curious behaviour deepens. ...read more.

Middle

This way, Joe can always believe that he could have succeeded, and there is no chance that he will ever fail as he will never have tried. Similarly, with his letters Parry can believe that Joe reads and responds to them even though his love was never actually reciprocated. The majority view holds that religion and science often express conflicting views on life. However here McEwan sets out to dispel this convention by drawing together his two representatives of either party. Despite surface discrepancies such as Joe's atheism and Parry's 'God', and the use of visual barriers, for example when Joe sees Parry "stuck there" on a traffic island cursing Joe, the way in which the two express themselves appears inevitably to draw them together. McEwan's choice of language is often the most distinctive sign of this. One need only look at the first sentence of Parry's first letter to see terms such as "I feel happiness running through me like an electric current", or when Joe hopes for "some phenomenon" to save John Logan. It is also true that whilst Parry holds a belief in a God, Joe himself has a strong faith in science, using it to rationalise such emotional issues as his marriage, which he refers to as "an ancient carriage clock", something which, although is complex, can be regulated and controlled. More profoundly though, and perhaps still somewhat unconventionally for modern times, in his second letter Parry speaks of how science can compliment religious belief, with thought-provoking comments such as "the study and measurement of nature is really nothing more than a form of extended prayer". ...read more.

Conclusion

Even when Parry has been taken out of their lives after the ultimate invasion of physically entering his home, the couple are still left with many unresolved issues, and it appears that Parry was just a catalyst for an inevitable realisation that the couple were never really in "Paradise" to begin with. We feel that we are hearing McEwan's words rather than Joe's when we read "the narrative compression of storytelling...beguiles us with happy endings into forgetting that sustained stress is corrosive of feeling". By only including the stereotypical happy ending in the appendix, the fate of these characters rests to some extent on the choice of the reader, as the appendices of books are not usually assumed to add much to the plot. With his portrayal of Jed Parry, Ian McEwan is trying to achieve more than just a thrilling read. In giving us this ending in the form of a scientific report, not only is implying definite closure on the novel, but also enhancing the fact that rationale defeated romanticism. Beyond this, he seems to be proposing that despite facades, we are all the same as each other. We all have an element of "human sameness" that is in-built into our society. Therefore "Enduring Love", and the portrayal of Jed Parry in particular, leads us to pontificate whether there are any so-called oddities or just misunderstood people? It appears that more than one element of social convention is being challenged here. Shreena Soomarah 6BPE Mr Keith "Enduring Love" essay ...read more.

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