Enduring Love

Enduring Love Summary and Analysis of Chapters Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four


In a departure from previous chapters, Chapter Twenty-three is a letter from Clarissa to Joe. She says she’s sorry for the “row” they had the night before and that she had been scared by their anger. She apologizes for not believing him about Parry and, in Joe’s words, “not having faith in your powers of rationality and deduction and your dedicated research into his condition.” She also claims, however, that Joe’s being right is not a “simple matter.”

She explains that if Joe had behaved differently and hadn't locked her out from the beginning, the outcome might have been different. She explains that he did a lot right, but he forgot “how to confide.” She also posits that perhaps Joe’s manic behavior towards Parry came from trying to drown out the feelings of guilt he felt from Logan’s death. She claims that she still thinks that if they had invited Parry in for tea when he first showed up the whole thing might have been avoided. Instead, Joe denied Parry everything, allowing Parry’s fantasies and hatred to grow. By overacting to Parry the whole way, Joe pushed him towards his violent conclusion. Clarissa ends the letter by telling Joe that she thinks they need time apart; she’s going to move into her brother Luke’s empty house. She expresses that she “always thought [their] love was the kind that was meant to go on and on.”

The final chapter opens with Joe completing Jean Logan’s request. Ten days after the shooting, he goes to Watlington to visit Joseph Lacey. Two days after that he meets Clarissa at her brother’s flat and they drive to Oxford together. They haven’t seen each other since the day Clarissa decided to move out of their apartment, and they awkwardly talk about what they’ve done since. Clarissa found a lead on the rumored Keats letters and Joe is profiling a conference about the possible colonization of Mars. Clarissa bitterly asks what the point is when the Earth is already beautiful and “we’re” still unhappy here.

Joe thinks about their fight, realizing that he’s too stubborn and hardened in his ways to try to see Parry from Clarissa’s point of view. Now, in the car, he dreads bringing up the touchy, personal subject. The two of them arrive at the Logan’s house without really saying anything, waiting while Jean Logan makes Leo get dressed. Clarissa tickles Rachael while Joe asks Jean where the picnic is, explaining that he needs to notify the people he’s invited. Jean tells him and he calls the Euler Professor of Logic. The five of them walk to the field, the two children hanging on Clarissa while Jean and Joe talk. Jean balks at meeting the “mystery” woman, but Joe insists that she go through with it. While Clarissa and Jean talk, Joe explains to Rachel about the river in scientific terms. He explains that it is an infinite number of microscopic molecules moving down a long shallow slide into the sea. Disrupted by Leo, they all settle down for the picnic, and the children eventually leave to go play on their own.

Suddenly, Jean Logan springs up, having seen the girl coming towards them with a much older man. They are Bonny Deedes, a twenty-year-old blonde bombshell, and James Reid, the Professor of Logic at her college. The two of them kneel down at the picnic and Reid apologizes to Jean. He explains that the scarf she found was Bonnie’s, and Jean, full of heated anger, glares at Bonnie and insists that she tell the story. Reid sidesteps her request, explaining that he and Bonnie are “together,” that they are in love, and that they’ve kept quiet until now out of fear of their relationship’s consequences. They were on a picnic the day of the accident when their car broke down. Logan happened to pass them and offered to give them a ride. Along the way, Logan spotted the balloon and swiftly pulled over, jumping out of the car to go help. Reid and Bonny followed eventually, but by the time they did Logan was already high in the air. The two panicked and fled the scene, leaving behind the basket and the scarf.

They walked to Watlington, where they met Joseph Lacey inside a bar. They approached him, telling him that they had also been at the accident and explaining their difficulty in coming forward. He gave them a ride home and told them that he didn’t think they would be needed as witnesses. He offered to call them if something came up. Reid ends his tale by apologizing to Jean and asking her if she can forgive him. Jean is already crying, however, asking who can forgive her of thinking so poorly of her husband. Amid a flurry of confessions, the picnic ends, and Rachael and Leo grab hold of Joe’s hands, asking him to tell them about the river again.


Chapters Twenty-three and Twenty-four constitute the falling action of the novel, or the denouement. After the climax of Parry’s suicide attempt, these two chapters outline the aftermath and reflect on the course of the novel. The first chapter, a letter from Clarissa, offers a possible interpretation of the events of the novel. This chapter is unique in that it gives the reader Clarissa's point of view verbatim. We’ve had Clarissa’s point of view through Joe’s description and Joe’s interpretation of Clarissa’s point of view, but this is the first time we get her unfiltered view. Her retrospective on Parry is very different from Joe’s, and Clarissa brings up points that the reader, immersed in Joe’s manic paranoid point of view, hasn’t considered.

Clarissa tries to explain to Joe her theory that if he had, as she and the police officer suggested, invited Parry in for tea, the situation might not have come to this. She points out the self-fulfilling prophecy of Joe’s foreshadowing paranoia. If Joe hadn’t operated on the forgone conclusion that Parry would do something violent, Parry might not have felt that it was his only option. Clarissa’s letter challenges the superiority of Joe’s way of “reading.” While she admits that she underestimated how dangerous Parry could be, she also points out that, had Joe looked at the situation from her point of view earlier, Parry might not have become dangerous. While Enduring Love refuses to take a stand on an objectively best way to “read” life, it does seem to suggest that some ways are better than others (Joe’s and Clarissa’s are better than Parry’s or Jean Logan’s).

The final chapter departs from the Parry narrative to engage with a different narrative, that of the Logans. Joe puts Jean Logan in touch with the “woman” who was with her husband that day. Unsurprisingly, Jean has “read” the situation incorrectly. Her secret affair narrative is destroyed when she realizes that there were three people in the car that day, and that her husband was a stranger to the other two. The story she created to make “sense” of her husband’s death collapses, and she is forced to face its devastating senselessness. The affair story falls apart, and she finds herself begging forgiveness of those around her. The rest of the picnic joins her, both vocally and silently, in confession and supplication. Joe characterizes the begging of forgiveness, a deeply religious act, as “Mad-Hatterish”, reflecting his typically intolerant view of religion. Nonetheless, the novel recognizes the need to beg forgiveness, even when there is no one who can give it. Perhaps “God” is a narrative meant to give people false assurance and meaning, but it is generally a positive and necessary narrative.

The body of the novel ends with Joe telling Rachael and Leo a story about the river, except, instead of a traditional narrative, it is a scientific imagining of the river. Rachael and Leo feature heavily in the last chapter, hinting at the possibility of redemption for Joe and Clarissa. The one thing that their relationship lacked, children, may be the element that helps them overcome their divide. The “story” that Joe tells also offers insight to the novel. In explaining how molecules work, Joe impresses upon Rachael and Leo how infinitesimal all problems are compared to the vastness of the universe. His description of the water molecules stretching on and on almost to infinity invokes the word “enduring.” This world will endure, even when the people have faded from it.