Enduring Love

Enduring Love Summary and Analysis of Chapters Nine and Ten


Chapter Nine opens with Joe’s reconstruction of Clarissa’s story from her point of view. Clarissa comes back to the apartment after having a bad day: one of her students has called her crying, her class went poorly, her appointment diary was missing, and she had a bad performance review meeting. As she walked up the stairs, all she wants is for Joe to take care of her. When she opens the door, however, Joe is feverishly babbling about Parry’s harassment and a possible academic job.

Clarissa ignores Joe and goes to take a bath, but Joe follows and keeps ranting. Clarissa dismisses Joe’s desire to return to academia as being a safety net. Clarissa believes that if Joe really wanted to return to doing original work, he could work on his own. He uses academia’s certain rejection of him as an excuse not to try. Reflecting on her father’s Alzheimer’s, she begins to worry that Joe is going crazy. He claims that Parry left thirty-three messages on the machine but currently there are none. She suggests Joe invite Parry in for a cup of tea to try to understand him.

Clarissa tells Joe that Parry may be a symptom of his agitation about work, which Joe takes frigidly, sensing Clarissa’s underlying fear of his insanity. They start to fight openly, and Clarissa leaves her bath, afraid that with every word she utters, she moves further away from love. They continue fighting, making up imaginary grievances in order to wound the other one. Finally, Clarissa storms out of their bedroom. Joe, bitter and hurt, flies out of the house, passing Parry on his way down the path.

Joe dashes into the pouring rain, glowing with anger towards Parry and towards Clarissa, for not protecting him from Parry. As he walks, Joe muses on Parry’s word "curtain," which engages with a memory involving a newspaper photo of a grand house. He treads through the rain, pitying himself, trying unsuccessfully to flesh out the memory. Parry rushes up behind him, sobbing. Trapped in the middle of traffic, Parry shouts to Joe, asking why he keeps leading him on and sending him signals. Parry curses at him, again referencing Joe’s secret signals, while Joe stands transfixed by the madman.

Pitying Parry’s distorted frame of reality, Joe watches Parry threaten him. Suddenly, Parry’s harping on “signals” reminds Joe of the “curtain” memory again. He vaguely remembers an important house where the curtains were used as signals, but is unable to recall more than that. Frustrated, Joe remembers Clarissa’s love for him and, vindicated by Parry’s crazy behavior, Joe rushes back to the warm house and the woman who loves him.


Joe starts Chapter Nine by claiming, “It would make more sense of Clarissa’s return to tell it from her point of view” (pg. 79). This references Enduring Love as a story with multiple points of views, understandings, and even narratives, which is a classic postmodern approach. Again, Joe defines the point of narratives as “making sense.” Running through Enduring Love is a struggle between chaos and structure, with the balloon accident and Parry’s inexplicable love working as chaotic agents and Joe and Clarissa’s narrative impulses trying to bring order and sense to them. On an external level, the book itself brings narrative order to chaotic questions of love, knowledge, and belief.

Why does it make sense to tell this section from Clarissa’s point of view? Joe has momentarily lost his rational point of view and, from his self-centered viewpoint, we don’t get any understanding of Clarissa’s actions. The explanation of Clarissa’s bad day humanizes her, and the shift between each character’s viewpoint gives a more coherent narrative to their argument. Unlike Parry and Joe’s imaginary quarrel, the reader fully understands how Joe and Clarissa end up upset and alone.

Clarissa’s reference to her father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s underscores the novels’ themes. Alzheimer’s, discovered in the early 1900s, afflicts its victims with confusion, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss. Joe and Clarissa are both professional writers so for them, language loss is deeply frightening. Even more frightening is memory loss, which has the potential to destroy their love. Joe and Clarissa are not married; instead of legal contracts, their love and their memories of their love bind them together. This “loss of memory” that Clarissa fears does, in fact, end up hurting their love. As Joe sinks further into his obsession with Parry, Clarissa and Joe both forgot what their love was like and only see the negative parts of each other.

Joe’s efforts at remembering the “curtain” house also invoke the dread of memory loss. We soon discover that this photo is a key clue in understanding Parry’s obsession with Joe. Joe’s inability to remember the photo puts him in greater danger from Parry. Remembering the photo will give Joe the key he needs to narrativize Parry, undoing his chaotic potential.