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Ian Mcewans Presentation And Obsession Of Love English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1789 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Ian McEwan in the novel ‘Enduring Love’ depicts the theme of obsession in many diverse forms. McEwan develops the theme of obsession through the characters of Clarissa, Joe and Jed. Clarissa is representing art, Joe, science and Jed, religion. McEwan uses different styles of language to portray the characters and their types of “unhealthy obsession”. By exploring the ways McEwan presents each character, we can clearly observe the extremely obvious obsessions, yet that is not the case, lying below the surface there are yet more delicate and subtle obsessions that each character exhibits.

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The most evident obsession in this work of fiction is Jed Parry’s obsession with Joe Rose. As the reader, we find this most disturbing because of the intensity that McEwan presents that to us within the novel. When looking at Jed Parry’s obsessive personality with Joe Rose we can see the way in which it never changes and under no circumstances weakens. ‘What we could do…is pray together?’ With Jed Parry, it is never the case of ‘… do you want to?’ this single-mindedness towards Joe Rose shows us the way in which McEwan represents obsession to us the reader.

At the opening of the narrative, directly after the misfortune accident, Joe Rose proceeds down the hill to inspect John Logan’s body, closely followed by Jed Parry. McEwan utilizes his use of language with talented effect to get across Jed Parry’s obsession with religious conviction and Parry’s dialogue to show his zeal to pray. ‘I don’t think you understand. You shouldn’t you know, think of this as some kind of duty. It’s like, your own needs are being answered? It’s got nothing to do with me, really, I’m just the messenger. It’s a gift.’ In addition to the first, quote ‘… I mean, you don’t have to believe in anything at all, just let yourself do it and I promise you, I promise…’ Jed’s reiteration within the sentence and the word ‘promise’ shows Jed Parry pleading with Joe Rose and expresses his heartfelt beliefs. There is also a ‘weirdness’ as Joe Rose makes the decision to tell Jed Parry the insensitive truth about his religion ‘Because, my friend, no one’s listening. There’s no one up there’. ‘Parry’s head was cocked, and the most joyous of smiles was spreading across his face.’ This is a significant moment in the novel as we soon uncover, that the source of the story and Jed’s obsession unfold after the fateful meeting following the tragic accident of John Logan.

McEwan uses religious imagery to convey the embarrassment felt by Joe and passion of Jed’s beliefs. ‘…, as I saw it, to deliver me from the radiating power of Jed Parry’s love and pity.’ The use of the verb ‘deliver’ has staunch religious overtones and suggests deliverance in the same Christian sense of Jesus ‘delivered’ mankind. McEwan also makes use of the phrase ‘radiating power’. This is for the most part an effective use of imagery as it conveys the idea of Jed Parry being the source of the obsession, which spreads out and has an effect on those around him. Jed’s obsession with religion and his growing obsession surrounding Joe Rose are interlinked. Jed’s strange behaviour towards Joe intensifies with his religious zeal. McEwan expresses this in their second meeting; we begin to understand Jed’s reasoning and motivation for needing Joe to pray. ‘To bring you to God, through love. You’ll fight this like mad because you’re a long way from your own feeling? But I know that the Christ is within you. At some level you know it too. That’s why you fight it so hard with your education and reason and logic and this detached way you have of talking, as if you’re not part of anything at all? You can pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, perhaps because your want to hurt me and dominate me, but the fact is I come bearing gifts. The purpose is to bring you to the Christ that is in you and that is you’. By placing importance on the word ‘purpose’ this shows Jed’s intent and in due course the motivation behind his pursuit of Joe. In a strange twisted logic, Jed is using his faith as rationalization for his obsession.

McEwan symbolizes Jed’s necessitate for Joe through the quotation ‘He was watching my face with a kind of hunger, as desperation.’ ‘Hunger’ and ‘desperation’ give the reader a sense of the voracious passion that Jed feels for Joe. McEwan also presents Jed’s obsession through the letters that he sends to Joe. The letters act rather like a soliloquy in a theatre would and we are able to see the character of Jed without Joe’s perception as the narrator. The letters are perhaps the most disturbing part of the obsession as McEwan reveals Jed’s raw emotion and obsession with Joe Rose. ‘Joe, Joe, Joe….I’ll confess, I covered five sheets of paper with your name.’ The use of repetition emphasises Joe as the subject of Jed’s obsession and the action of writing his name over sheet of paper is a sign of immaturity. ‘Does it horrify that I can see through you so easily?’ A rhetorical question appeals directly to the reader as we see proceedings through Joe’s eyes and reveal a sinister side to Jed’s personality.

Jed’s obsession with Joe causes another fixation to develop, Joe’s obsession with Jed. McEwan presents this through Clarissa and other minor characters in the novel. Clarissa has serious doubts concerning the reliability of Joe’s paranoia. McEwan uses brief simple statements from Clarissa to cast doubts in our minds about Joe. ‘His writing’s rather like yours.’ This refers back to the letter and suggests that Joe has created Parry. The telephone call to the police also helps to reinforce our suspicion that Joe is obsessed with Jed, as Joe is insistent that the police deal with Jed however the police officer cannot find any grounds on which to charge Parry. We can also deduce that Joe is paranoid by Jed in his science narrative. McEwan’s style often deviates from the plot to a narrative, mostly about science. ‘Self-persuasion was a concept much loved by evolutionary psychologists. I had written a piece about it for an Australian magazine’. McEwan uses this simple narrative to insinuate that Joe has used ‘self- persuasion’ to convince himself that Jed is obsessed with him and his fixation has developed to such an extent, it has flowed over into his work and every thought.

Clarissa’s obsession is with children and John Keats, a poet, who died in February 1821. In the novel, Joe discovers and at the same time assumes that Clarissa is obsessed with Keats. ‘I thought she had spent too much time lately in the company of John Keats’. Clarissa herself says ‘For much of the time…we were talking about …John Keats’. Here we see other kinds of passion that do not directly link to Joe and Jed. ‘Clarissa Mellon was also in love with another man, but with his two hundredth birthday coming up he was little trouble.’ McEwan uses the idea of love to express Clarissa’s obsession with literature, in particular Keats. McEwan exhibits this during the accident. ‘She told me how a scrap of Milton had flashed before her: Hurl’d headlong flaming from th’Ethereal.’ It is bizarre and shows a love of poetry that Clarissa would be able to relate a terrible disaster to literature. McEwan could have presented this obsession to us to show the reader how Clarissa copes with her life, through Keats. There could be a perfectly appropriate explanation for Clarrisa’s in depth interest in John Keats as she does teach literature at a university.

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Mrs. Logan is also another example of how an obsession for someone can drive them to desperate measures or thoughts. Mrs. Logan is convinced that her husband has cheated on her and this is a failure of her love and trust of him on her part. This is partially a coping mechanism to his death, when Joe comes to visitor she says I imagine almost manically, ‘It’s rosewater, can’t you smell it?’ like Joe did earlier in the book she has become so desperate and at her wits end that she has resorted to creating fantasy tales in her mind. McEwan throughout the book does bring out a more aggressive “darker” side of love and shows it is not all roses and happy conclusions, he tells the reader using the characters that love is an overwhelming powerful driving force that can bring people to their knees and make them come upon a state of almost insanity.

Joe’s love of science and rationalising is more evident in the novel as he is the narrator. Joe describes circumstances very analytical and makes use of scientific vocabulary he also relates everyday situations back to science. ‘The ice bucket sat within a rhombus of sunlight’ McEwan selects to describe the light as a ‘rhombus’ as it highlights Joe’s mathematical side. ‘Two bands were entwined in a double helix’…….to suggest the twenty amino acids on to which the three letter codons were mapped’ McEwan uses the brooch as an object to draw out Joe’s analytical characteristics through the word ‘double helix’ and displays his knowledge of science.

The theme of obsession is vital to the novel ‘Enduring Love’ as a whole and permeates every aspect of the narrative. We can conclude that maybe these three very different characters are quite similar in ways due to their obsession. The different obsessions displayed by each character, invoke a response from the reader, particularly in the case of Jed and Joe, as we feel repulsed and disturbed by Jed’s language and feelings. We are also as readers, directly affected by Joe’s love of science. It is evident throughout the novel since often Joe tries to rationalize his problems by making links to science. Finally, it is Jed’s religious passion and how McEwan substantiates this obsession with Joe, who fuels it. They deal with all their hardships by burying themselves in to what the care about the most … science, poetry or religion. In turn, it all gets them to the same place, but just be different routes.


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