Enduring Love

Enduring Love Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Joe claims paradoxically that "the beginning is simple to mark" and "beginning is an artifice" (pg. 1, 17). Which statement does the novel support, and how does it support it?

    The novel supports the idea that the beginning is an artifice by constantly makes references to the fact that it is a story constructed by someone. Joe shows the reader many examples of different stories created from the same incident, the balloon accident, including Joe's, Clarissa's, Parry's, and Jean Logan's. Each of these stories chooses a different beginning and a different ending, making sense of the events in its own way.

  2. 2

    How does Ian McEwan use intertextuality to enhance Enduring Love's meaning?

    Enduring Love's references to texts like Paradise Lost and Alice in Wonderland give the reader additional lenses through which to view the text. Through Paradise Lost, which Clarissa references in relation to John Logan's fall, the reader can looks at Joe and Clarissa as a modern day Adam and Eve, thrown out of paradise and struggling to survive. Through Alice in Wonderland, the reader can see Parry's love as the "dark, distorting mirror" of love that throws a topsy-turvy light upon Joe's world.

  3. 3

    What purpose does the case study at the end of the novel serve for Enduring Love?

    The fictional case study at the end of the novel blurs the line even further between fiction and reality, a key concern in Enduring Love. Throughout the novel, Joe is concerned with the "reality" of fiction and narrative, and in the first appendix, McEwan tries to bring his fiction even further into reality by creating a plausible case study. By blurring this line, McEwan questions whether there even is a division between truth and fiction, and whether humans can access objective truth.

  4. 4

    How does the novel's title enhance Enduring Love's meaning?

    The ambiguity in the novel's title is between the two major definitions of the word "enduring." It sets the stage for the contrast between Joe's love for Clarissa and Parry's love for Joe. The ambiguity goes further than simply dividing the definitions, though: it questions which love receives which definition. Parry's love is the last love presented in the novel. Is it the love that endures?

  5. 5

    Critics argue that Enduring Love straddles too many genres. With which genres does the novel engage and how does it do that?

    Enduring Love is both a psychological and philosophical exploration and a traditional thriller. McEwan uses Joe's articles to explore human interiority through a scientific point of view as well as to shed light on how humans cope with crises. He also uses Parry's growing threat and Joe's increasing paranoia to draw the reader through the tension. The thriller climaxes when Joe shoots Parry in the arm, but the psychological exploration continues afterward, with Clarissa and Joe's letters and the case study.

  6. 6

    How is Parry's love a parody of Joe and Clarissa's love?

    Parry's love mimics many parts of Joe and Clarissa's love, including the love letters they write, the signals they supposedly send, and its "enduring quality". Parry's name is also linguistically similar to the word parody, and as a somewhat feminine young man, he parodies Clarissa, a woman. Much like Joe and Clarissa's love, Parry's love for Joe "goes on and on".

  7. 7

    Why might McEwan have chosen de Clérambault’s syndrome as the central disease in the novel?

    De Clérambault’s syndrome enables McEwan to play with different ideas of love. It also helps build tension, since many male de Clérambault’s sufferers eventually engage in violence. Thirdly, sufferers of de Clérambault’s syndrome often "read" signals that aren't there, like the messages in the curtains and the bushes. Having Parry suffer from de Clérambault’s syndrome enables McEwan to examine another extreme "reading" lens or point of view.

  8. 8

    What is the climax of Enduring Love? How does this choice of climax affect the novel's structure?

    The novel's climax occurs at the very beginning. The balloon accident is the most exciting and tense moment and from there the novel enters a falling action. However, this falling action eventually morphs into the rising action of Joe's paranoia and Parry's disease that climaxes again when Joe shoots Parry. The metaphor of the rising and falling balloon at the beginning of the novel foreshadows the structure of the novel with its series of rises and falls.

  9. 9

    Joe is defined by traditionally masculine rationality, while Clarissa is defined by traditionally feminine emotionality. Does Enduring Love uphold traditional gender roles, in which masculinity overpowers femininity?

    Superficially, Joe's correct assessment of Parry's potential seems to show the power of Joe's rational researcher's mind over Clarissa's emotional and interpretive one. Clarissa's letter at the end, however, undermines Joe's point of view, offering an equally valid approach to the Parry situation. Additionally, the fake case study at the end of the novel undermines Joe's "comforting" masculine science narrative, and the last voice we hear is not Joe's, but Jed's, assuring Joe of their enduring love.

  10. 10

    As a sufferer of de Clérambault’s syndrome, Jed has an obsession with Joe. Does Joe also have an obsession with Jed? Why?

    As Clarissa points out many times, Joe is constantly thinking about Jed; he even recognizes at several points that his interest can be characterized as an "obsession." His obsession with Jed is misleading, however, as Joe seems to be fixated more on the challenge to his "religion," scientific narrative, presented by John Logan's senseless death. Joe's attempt to master Jed through scientific discourse and his wish to re-enter the scientific academic world emphasize his desire and need to re-affirm his belief in the power of science, which was shattered by Logan's death.