Joe arrives at the Logans' Oxford home and finds a grieving Jean Logan, eyes glazed over, clothes slept-in, necklace rolling between her two fingers. Her house is a typical Oxford house: cream and brown, unstylish, pragmatic, and cold. Joe feels suffocated by the air while Jean Logan asks him why he’s come, claiming she doesn’t want condolences. Joe falters, asking if she wants to know details about Logan’s death, which she roughly rebukes.
Jean angrily lectures him on how she’s been shut out of the investigation and bursts out crying. Joe waits patiently, realizing that this is what the destruction of love looks like, that what he really needs to do is get home to Clarissa and repair their love before anything serious happens. Jean stops crying and thanks Joe for coming and Joe responds politely, realizing how wonderful love is and how awful it is to lose it. As he attempts to leave, Jean admits that there is something she wants to know.
As she speaks, Joe hears her two children enter the house. Jean draws his attention back and asks him whether there was anyone with her husband that day. Joe thinks that there wasn’t but realizes that his car had two doors open. Jean outlines a theory she has been building, that her husband lied to her about his whereabouts and instead was on a picnic with a mistress. She shows Joe the picnic bag she found in the car and a perfumed handkerchief, explaining that she needs to find this woman. Joe expresses reluctance to indulge in Jean’s “fantasy” but tells Jean that he understands while Jean utters death threats against the woman.
Jean’s children come in, and Joe reflects on how he used to pity adults when he was a child for being too serious. Jean’s two children approach Joe, a ten-year old girl named Rachel and an eight-year old boy named Leo. Joe explains to them that their mother’s death threats are an expression of speech, and the three of them have a discussion of moral relativism. Jean Logan calls Joe’s attention back to her and insists that he help her find the mystery woman, perhaps by speaking to others who were at the balloon accident. Joe warily agrees, although he tries to convince Jean of how courageous her husband was. She counters, reminding him that the rest of the men are alive.
Jean explains her theory further, outlining that, although he was a great outdoorsman, her husband was also very cautious—something that he wasn’t the day of the accident. His death doesn’t make sense to her, and so she assumes that the reason he took those stupid chances was because he had a younger woman with him and was showing off for her.
As Joe is absent-mindedly watching her children, the images of curtains that have been dancing around in his mind suddenly clear themselves up. He remembers a story in which a Frenchwoman was convinced that King George the Fifth of England was in love with her. She would wait outside Buckingham Palace everyday, convinced that all of London knew of their affair and that, although the King was embarrassed, he loved her back. She thought that he would send her messages that only she could read in the palace’s curtains. The French psychiatrist who treated her named the syndrome after himself: de Clérambault.
Joe is elated to have identified Parry’s condition, realizing that he now has a place to start researching, which offers to him a “kind of comfort.” He leaves the house, resolved to figure out Parry further.
The character of Jean Logan presents another “reading” of the accident. Like Joe, Clarissa, and Jed, Jean is trying to make sense of the tragic accident. The “reading” she creates is one in which her husband was having an affair and tried to show off for a younger woman, making him forget his cautious nature. Tellingly, while explaining Logan’s adventurous yet cautious personality to Joe, Jean comments, “and that’s why this story doesn’t make sense” (pg. 122). Joe has already explained his theory that humans create narratives to make sense out of chaos. For Jean, the narrative the police have presented her with doesn’t make sense. Her response is to create a different, albeit more hurtful, narrative, giving a new meaning to the senseless tragedy.
The authors on the Logans' wall—Macaulay, Carlyle, Trevelyan, and Ruskin—are all classic British historians and critics who wrote around the Victorian period. Thomas Babbington Macaulay was a Whig politician (the British liberal party) and historian whose most famous work, The History of England, is often criticized for treating history like a drama, painting some historical figures as heroes and some as villains. Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish historian who also emphasized the importance of heroic leadership in his writing. Carlyle’s first major work, Sartor Resartus, ironically comments on its own structure in order to question the origin of truth. Trevelyan was the great nephew of Macaulay and continued his tradition of “Whig history,” the tendency to present history as an endless progressive march towards enlightenment and liberty. Trevelyan’s works are strongly biased and rely heavily on narrative. John Ruskin was a leading Victorian English art critic who emphasized the importance of art depicting vital truths. He also theorized that “beauty of form” reflects perfect functional adaptation. While only mentioned briefly, each of these authors present viewpoints that are somehow echoed within Enduring Love. “Whig history’s” tendency to create a narrative is invoked again and again by McEwan. Carlyle’s quest for truth by referencing structure is a vital, postmodern method used by both Joe and McEwan. Ruskin’s beauty of form appears in Joe’s article on narrative within science. As a British author, Ian McEwan inherits their thought, and it clearly shows.
Also related to “reading” in this chapter is Joe, Rachael, and Leo’s discussion of “moral relativism.” While there are many definitions of moral relativism, it is generally thought of as the idea that morals differ between cultures and, usually, that no one stance is objectively right or wrong. In Joe, Rachael, and Leo’s discussion, they argue over the morality of burping, eating horses, killing goats, patting children on the head, and murder. Aside from murder, their conversation is a relatively lighthearted and silly discussion of a complicated philosophical concept. This discussion of moral relativism is important to Enduring Love in that it reminds the reader that there is no objective “right” or “wrong,” just as there is no objective “truth” in narratives.
Joe’s realization about de Clérambault's syndrome (also known as erotomania) provides a stronger characterization of Parry. It contextualizes his obsession with Joe within a psychiatric history. For Joe, his informal diagnosis of Parry provides a “kind of comfort” (pg. 124). Knowing this about Parry allows him to narrativize him. Like one of his science articles, Joe can research Parry, create a narrative, and make sense of his obsession. This knowledge gives Joe power over Parry, something that Joe desperately needs. Although Parry has accused Joe of having all the power in their relationship, Joe is actually powerless at the hands of Parry’s obsession. Despite Joe’s efforts at invoking the police, Parry has wormed his way into Joe’s life and splintered his relationship with the woman he loves. To Joe, a staunch rationalist, knowledge is power.