Enduring Love

Enduring Love Summary and Analysis of Chapters Nineteen and Twenty


Joe arrives at the restaurant twenty minutes late and sees Clarissa and her godfather, Professor Kale, already sitting there. Clarissa is in an elated mood and she kisses Joe with her tongue, something they haven’t done in a while. The waiters bring them food and Clarissa’s godfather gives her his gift. It is a beautiful double helix brooch that used to be his wife’s. Her godfather has just been appointed to an honorary position on the Human Genome Project.

Joe begins to narrate the lunch in the same manner as the balloon accident. He starts alluding to an upcoming incident and mentions the man sitting at the next table with his father and daughter. Still, in the present, Joe is absorbed in the discussion. The three of them discuss the discovery of DNA, how a man named Miescher identified DNA in 1868, but the science world didn’t respond. Various scientists blocked the research for many years until the 1950s, nearly one hundred years after Miescher identified it. One scientist, after seeing Watson and Crick’s model, said that the molecule was too beautiful not to be true.

Joe then gives Clarissa his present, a first edition of Keats's first collection, Poems of 1817. Clarissa tells the story of a rumored encounter between Keats and Wordsworth where Wordsworth, previously Keats’s hero, dismissed Keats's poetry. While Clarissa speaks, two men in masks walk in and make their way towards the table. They go to the table next to Joe and shoot the man, Colin Tapp. Joe watches, confused, unable to believe his eyes. The men are about to deal the death blow to Tapp when a person sitting alone nearby leaps up and pushing the gun high and away from Tapp’s head. Joe instantly recognizes him as Parry. Although Parry had been sitting there the whole time, Joe hadn’t recognized him because he’d cut his hair.

The three of them go to a police station to give statements. Clarissa asks Joe not to “go on about [his] usual stuff.” Instead, Joe meets with a man named Detective Wallace and explains that the bullet was meant for him. Wallace makes him recount his whole story and despite Joe’s insistence that Parry is out to kill him, Wallace dismisses his story. All of the accounts disagree as to specifics: when the shooting happened, the flavor of the ice cream, whether there was a lone man. Wallace thinks that the attempt on Tapp’s life has to do with his government Middle East connections, and suggests that Joe try anti-depression medication.

Joe goes back to his apartment and, finding Clarissa sleeping, pours himself a drink. He turns to his address book, looking for shady old acquaintances. He cannot find any people who seem truly “bad” in an organized way, only a shoplifting old-sweetheart, a “dodgy” second-hand car salesman, a depressed gambler, and someone who drunkenly “murdered” a cat. He finally finds Johnny B. Well, his former drug dealer. Well was a hippie drug “purveyor” who fell victim to organized crime. He is still an honest man, but now he works for a gang—perfect for Joe’s purposes. Joe calls him up immediately, and after turning down Johnny’s drug pitch, asks him to help him find a gun.


At Clarissa’s birthday lunch, Professor Kale gives her a gold DNA brooch that used to belong to his wife. Besides being a sentimental gift, the brooch emphasizes Joe’s discarded argument on narrative in science. When one researcher saw a DNA model, she gushed that the molecule was too beautiful not to be true. This echoes the science world’s response to Einstein’s theory, and the importance of elegance of form in truth. For Joe’s Neo-Darwinism, evolutionarily perfect form is the beauty ideal that all forms of life strive towards. This replaces Parry’s religion or Clarissa’s emotions as his worldview.

Professor Kale’s story about the discovery of DNA mimics Joe’s situation. Like Miescher, Joe has discovered something; in this case, Parry’s syndrome. Also like Miescher, no one listens to Joe. By the time DNA is recognized, Miescher is already dead. This story sets up a tone of dread within the narrative. By the time that Parry’s intentions are revealed, someone (Joe) might already be dead. Clarissa’s story echoes this warning when she mourns that by the time Wordsworth was out of his “cranky” period, Keats was already dead. Timing is everything.

Clarissa’s remark on the Keats and Wordsworth story that, “It isn’t true, but it tells the truth,” both opens up Enduring Love and problematizes its questions. Clarissa’s statement enables us to look at truth not as a flat fact but as something open to interpretation and variation. Joe’s account may not be completely “true,” but it tells a truth for Joe. Additionally, Clarissa upends Enduring Love’s endless search for truth by positing that truth doesn’t exist. Truth, as an objective concept, gradually emerges as impossible throughout the narrative.

The police interrogation of the incident reiterates one of the crucial themes within the books: the importance of worldviews and narratives. Despite the fact that Joe, Clarissa, and Professor Kale were sitting in the same room and watching the same events, the accounts don't agree. Small details vary, like the flavor of ice cream or when the shots were fired. The eyewitness accounts emphasize the assertion that no narrative is the objective truth and that no narrator can be trusted. Joe even recognizes it himself when he asks, “But exactly what interests of mine were served by my own account of the restaurant lunch?” (pg. 181).

Joe’s attempt to acquire a gun is his way of overpowering Parry. Guns are classic symbols of masculine power—the shape and the firing action of the gun both mimic the penis. Parry has entered into Joe’s life and emasculated him, pulling him into a homosexual relationship and threatening the woman Joe loves. Joe is frustrated by the ridicule of the traditional masculine authority figures, the police. While Joe has previously tried to overpower Parry with the containing power of knowledge, Parry’s stunt in the restaurant ups the stakes. Joe realizes that he must become a more traditional man.