How does McEwan create interest and suspense in the opening chapter of Enduring Love?

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How does McEwan create interest and suspense in the opening chapter of Enduring Love?

        The first chapter of Enduring Love is all about the accident that brings all the characters together in the novel and introduces them to us. There are a lot of interesting techniques used in this chapter which create interest and suspense. There are at least ten points I could talk about but I have decided to talk about three at length.


        One of the main conventions used by McEwan in the first chapter of Enduring Love is the delaying of information. This convention is used a lot in films and books and works brilliantly in this chapter. McEwan starts by giving us a very brief account of what happened before the accident. The main character Joe and his wife Clarissa are having a picnic, enjoying themselves. They are about to start on a bottle of ‘1987 Daumas Gassac’ when they hear a man’s shout. This is the point where information about what happened is held from us. There is no description of what is taking place. McEwan uses phrases like ‘the danger’ and ‘the encounter’ to describe the event. This is a clever technique to use because it really frustrates us to not know what is going on whilst the character clearly does. It almost forces us to read on. He also releases very small pieces of information about the accident as well, that also allow interest and suspense. Phrases such as ‘the fall’, ‘fatal lack of co-operation’ and ‘this was the last time I ever understood anything clearly at all’ all add to the tension, making us desperate for the lengthy description that Joe will give to us. Apart from the lack of description of the accident, there is also the fact that Joe keeps getting sidetracked, feeding us information about all of the people that were there that day.

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                “About two hundred yards to my left two

men ran side by side. They were farm labourers

who had been repairing the fence along the field’s

southern edge where it skirts the road.”

        This information seems pointless but it just increases our interest in what is happening. This information is creating suspense in an unusual way, but it achieves the desired effect. McEwan does this for the first eight pages of the book, stopping even to reminisce about what he did before going to the park, buying the picnic and Clarissa’s present for example. Finally he ...

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