How does McEwan present the Characters of Joe and Parry in the first two chapters of "Enduring Love"?
“Enduring Love” Essay
How does McEwan present the Characters of Joe and Parry in the first two chapters of “Enduring Love”?
Ian McEwan uses many techniques in order to portray the characters within his novel; we gain knowledge of Joes’ character through the narrative. The novel is written in the first person narrative of Joe Rose, his use of language clearly shows that he is well educated through his long descriptive sentences,
“My impression was that at the moment of impact the little stick figure flowed or poured outwards across the ground, like a drop of viscous fluid”.
Another portrayal of his elevated education is in his scientific justifications for the events that occur in life,
“We were running towards a catastrophe, which itself was a kind of furnace in whose heat identities and fates would buckle into new shapes”.
This is very effective, the metaphor of a furnace represents the changing of state, and this is an example of foreshadowing. This narrative effect suggests something will happen further on in the novel. The word buckle suggests an element of pain and that lives will be changed for good against the will of the people involved. This proves that science reflects his background and the nature of his thoughts. We also learn that Joe has a very normal, loving relationship with his wife Clarissa,
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“…there was nothing that threatened our free and intimate existence.”
From the very beginning we see the situation of the picnic as very idyllic and we assume he is quite wealthy as he is drinking “a 1987 Daumas Gassac”.
In addition, we become aware that Joe feels slightly lower in status than Clarissa, “I had tried to match hers”. It is obvious to the reader that he feels she is too good for him and is honoured by her love for him,
“A beautiful woman loved and wanted to be loved by a large, clumsy, balding fellow who could hardly believe his luck”. Joe has completely opposite views to Clarissa, whose passions lie in literature and the arts, as he is a very rational and often cynical thinker. He also dismisses the notion of the soul as he bases all his conclusions and private thoughts on the facts of science,
“I understand why a pre-scientific age would have needed to invent the soul”.
Throughout the first couple of chapters the narrator, Joe, withholds information, which is a true reflection of him as a character. At that time he was unaware of the events that would follow so I believe it to be a very effective narrative technique. Another reason for his withheld information could be due to his ever-growing guilt over the accident,
“I didn’t know, nor have I ever discovered who let go first. I’m not prepared to accept it was me”.
McEwan uses many ways to express his characters using similes, metaphors, alliteration and foreshadowing each of these has a positive effect on the readers understanding.
Joe speaks with premonition before we even meet Parry as a character so we, as the reader, become aware that he will have an influential role in the novel. As soon as we are introduced to Parry, the language used in the narrative gives us a very negative view of him,
“Knowing what I know now, it’s odd to evoke the figure of Jed Parry directly in front of me”, this quotation gives the impression of something sinister and unforeseeable that is likely to shock the reader it creates tension which makes it a very effective use of language. This simile used by McEwan is one of the more effective of the first few chapters as it gives a deep insight into the events of the novel,
“Rushing towards each other like lovers, innocent of the grief this entanglement would bring”.
The line that follows the simile gives the impression of unwelcome attention on Joe’s part, ironically Joe and Parry have never met.
This kind of language leaves the reader in anticipation, and wanting to be properly introduced to Parry as a character in the hope that they can form a judgement based on first impressions.
When the reader is introduced to Parry, the first impressions we get are of an obsessive nature,
“Everything, every gesture, every word I spoke was being stored away, gathered and piled, fuel for the long winter of his obsession”.
This metaphor foreshadows the future and suggests something will happen that is particularly hard to endure, the repetition of “every” shows a sense of obsession. The use of the word winter outlines the desolate, cold experience that Joe will face at the hands of Parry this is a very successful narrative effect that creates empathy from the reader. However, one of the main things we learn about Parry is the fact that he is very religious and he also imposes his religious beliefs onto others,
“…‘God has brought us together…I think you have a special need for prayer’”.
We begin to gain the impression that Parry is slightly disturbed maybe psychotic as he behaviour suggests this at the end of chapter two,
“ Parry’s head was slightly cocked, and the most joyous of smiles was spreading slowly across his face”.
It is also easily assumed from the narrative that Parry is becoming a threat to Joe,
“…to deliver me from the radiating power of Jed Parry’s love and pity”, the biblical reference of “deliver me” shows Parry’s almost immediate influence on Joe during their brief encounter.
We also learn of the contradictions within Parry’s’ character,
“His appearance was striking…threatening”,
The description of his voice clashes with this statement causing a conflict between image and audible features.
Although we are introduced to both characters we cannot completely trust the evidence that seems to suggest this as it is written from the narrators point of view which will be biased as he, Joe, obviously felt threatened by Parry. The opinion we get of both characters is from Joe so it would be unfair to make a full assumption of their personalities without reading on, this is a very effective technique used by McEwan as it gives the reader a good reason to continue analysing the characters further by reading the novel. However, the knowledge gained by the reader in the first two chapters becomes very influential throughout the novel and McEwan makes sure that the assumptions made at this point are valid later on to the rest of the story that he has created so much tension for.