Contextually, at the same time wants ‘not to

Contextually, ‘Enduring Love’ is set in a secular age but it could be argued that the historical context is highlighted through different characters. For example, Joe may be McEwan’s representation of the Age of Enlightenment in his rational way of thinking and his occupation as a scientific journalist.

On the other hand, Clarissa is the manifestation of the Romantic era just after the age of enlightenment as people are tired of pure reason. This is outlined by McEwan in chapter eight when Joe recalls her outburst in which she expresses that rationalism is ‘the new fundamentalism’ whereas, Jed depicts a time when dominance of religion is obvious such as Medieval England. The writer first exhibits his spiritual nature when Joe and Jed first cross paths at the ballooning incident in chapter two when both men have a mild argument about prayer. Parry lowers himself to his knees and invites Joe to join him explaining that ‘God has brought us together’. Joe is evidently horrified and ‘speechless’ but at the same time wants ‘not to offend a true believer’. Here, the author conveys both Joe’s opposition to religion and his fundamental decency to the reader. As this progresses Parry attempts ‘a radical change in tone’ asking Joe ‘sharply’ what is preventing him from participating.

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The suddenness of Parry’s change in tone warns the reader of his mental state and foreshadows his erratic behaviour that will mark his character throughout the novel. McEwan continues this trend through Parry’s sinister remarks such as “I can get people to do things for me” which lead up to a man being shot in a restaurant while Clarissa and Joe are eating. Joe quickly realises that this bullet was meant for him but his pleas for help to the police are ignored causing Joe to take matters into his own hands climaxing when Jed holds Clarissa hostage in their own home. Both the relationship between Joe and Jed as well as Stephen and Keith in ‘Spies’ can be compared as both authors present the supporting character as being more powerful than the central protagonist. For example, Frayn shows Stephen is ‘grateful’ to follow Keith, who enjoys being leader.

Keith’s dominance and power over Stephen is made evident, especially as Frayn presents Keith, in Stephen’s eyes, as somewhat of a god: “One single heroic deed, to lay at Keith’s feet in the morning.” This image that is portrayed by the writer is that of a sacrifice, an offering to compensate for what Stephen feels are his inadequacies, and his betrayal of Keith’s trust. However in contrast to this, McEwan presents Jed’s power over Joe is much more discreet and unrecognised by Joe until he realises it is causing problems with his relationship and work. For example, Joe feels Jed’s phone call ‘snatched him from the beginnings of sleep’ and thus indicates the start of Jed’s role as a psychotic menace. The author then conveys Jed to be convinced that Joe is in love with him and decides to wait outside his house and work to speak to him. This confuses not only Joe, but the reader as well because we don’t find out that he is a man who suffers from de Clerambault’s syndrome, which gives a person delusions of love until the appendix of the novel which is in the form of a medical note.

This causes Parry to make random connections that are meaningless such as when Joe brushes the leaves of a bush, Jed describes the ‘burning on my fingers along the edges of those wet leaves’ and was convinced that ‘he had touched them in a certain way’. McEwan does this along with ‘so simple, so clever, so loving’ to portray to the reader how the mysteries of love can cause major problems if the love is unwanted. The repetition displays Jed’s devotion to Joe and the fact that he’s ‘covered five sheets of paper with his name’ leaves Parry confused as to why Joe cannot admit his love.


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