Enduring Love

Enduring Love Summary and Analysis of Chapters Eleven and Twelve


Instead of Joe’s usual narration, Chapter Eleven is a letter from Jed Parry to Joe. Parry writes to Joe about their adventure in the rain and the “strong as steel cable” love between them. He thanks God for their love and for the rain and sunlight that falls on both of them. Parry asks Joe for his forgiveness, not for his crazy antics, but for not recognizing Joe’s love for him at the outset. He writes of hearing the relief in Joe’s voice when Joe picked up Parry’s 2 AM phone call and giving thanks for their love, praying on his knees until dawn. Parry tells him that “exploration has begun of the ocean floor but the surface remains undisturbed” and goes on to describe his life (pg. 94). He lives in a large, beautiful house on Frognal Lane in Hampstead, which he inherited from his mother, who inherited it from her sister, who was married to a crook. He has a sister in Australia whom no one can find and he is the only inhabitant of his large country house.

Parry speaks of the beauty of nature surrounding him and shares his joy at discovering Joe’s message for him. Parry touched the hedge that Joe had brushed while rushing out of the house and found that the leaves that Joe had touched felt different than the others. Parry reveals that he used to teach English as a foreign language but that he was unhappy and stopped once he inherited his house and small fortune. Parry looks forward to conquering Joe’s denial of God through the “healing power of love” and has childishly written Joe’s name down on paper over and over again. He tells Joe that he will let him decide how to inform Clarissa of their love and ends by asking Joe if he can ever forgive him for not immediately recognizing their love.

In Chapter Twelve, a couple of days after Parry’s letter arrives, Joe leaves to visit Logan’s widow, Jean, in an Oxford suburb. Joe speeds across the English countryside, using his concentration on the road to distract himself from his professional and personal discontent. He thinks about the “curtain” signal but is unable to find anything in his research. Clarissa and Joe’s relationship has been a little bit better, but a subtle emotional divide is growing between them. When Joe showed Clarissa Parry’s letter, she responded, “His writing’s rather like yours.” Joe thinks that Clarissa felt uneasy at Parry’s confidential and familiar tone, even though she knew that it must be a lie. Clarissa then left to go to work, leaving Joe feeling as if they hadn’t quite resolved a dispute.

After Clarissa left, Joe wandered around, thinking about how their relationship, once so easy and natural, now seems difficult and artificial. He worried that Clarissa blamed him for bringing Parry into their life, but Clarissa had insisted that she is more upset that he’s back to his obsession with “getting back into science.” Clarissa also complained that Joe was cutting himself off, making himself “alone.” Joe begins to worry that Clarissa is starting to regret their relationship and that she’s using Parry as a front to distance herself from Joe and start an affair.

As an excuse for the next thing he did, Joe invokes a scientific article about how humans who were the best at self-persuasion were the ones who survived to pass on their genes. Joe “unknowingly” walked into Clarissa’s study and rummaged through her letters, trying to find evidence of an affair. He didn’t, and he immediately felt deeply ashamed and tainted. He had problems facing Clarissa, and, to clear his head, he left for Jean Logan’s house. Catching up to the present moment, Joe realizes he is almost at the Logans’ house and is unsure of what he wants to say. He realizes that his real purpose is to explain his own innocence in Logan’s death.


Chapter Eleven is written in an epistolary style, i.e. in a letter format. Epistolary writing must necessarily be first person, with a knowledge scope limited to what the writer knows. While Joe’s narration is usually retrospective, making references to facts he wouldn’t have known at the time, Parry’s letter to Joe is limited to Parry’s knowledge in the moment.

Sparingly used, epistolary writing creates a text within a text. This engages with the theme of “reading.” Joe reads and rereads Parry’s text, trying to understand the meaning and thought behind it. Clarissa, a literary scholar, and Joe, a scientific writer, try to figure out Parry’s meaning, by analyzing the text. From examining Parry’s letter, Clarissa creates a thesis proposing that Parry is merely a figment of Joe’s imagination. She uses as evidence the similarity between Parry and Joe’s writing styles.

Within his letter, Parry uses many rhetorical devices to describe his love for Joe. He uses a simile to compare their love’s strength to the strength of a steel cable and his happiness to an electrical current. These devices are traditionally used in love letters or confessions and make Parry’s love letter almost seem legitimate. Joe recognizes this when he worries that Clarissa will believe the letter, or at least have an emotional reaction to the tone.

Parry’s comparison between their knowledge of each other and an ocean is another familiar expression of love. While Parry uses the ocean to distinguish between how they know each other's “ocean floors” (i.e. their souls) but do not know their “surfaces” (i.e. the every-day details of their lives), it also has other consequences. Parry compares the love between them to a natural, powerful force—something that Parry and Joe’s love is not. Joe and Clarissa’s love should be the one with comparisons to nature, but, in the wake of Parry’s obsession, their love has become artificial and fragile. Parry’s metaphor for their love calls into question what natural love really is.

Joe’s realization of his purpose in going to see Jean Logan, to prove his innocence in Logan’s death, provides a way of approaching Enduring Love as a whole. Enduring Love constantly calls the reader’s attention to the act of storytelling and the multiplicity of viewpoints. What we must keep in mind is that IEnduring Love] itself is a story, told by Joe, with a purpose. As a narrator, Joe is more reliable than the clearly deranged Parry, but he still isn’t completely reliable. Joe has a purpose in telling the reader his story, and it’s in his visit to Jean Logan that we begin to understand it. Knowing Joe’s bias then helps us try to counteract it in the way we analyze the book.