Unreliable Narrating in Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
Enduring Love is infused with McEwan’s didactic ideas and messages. Being the dominant narrative voice of the novel, Joe is the main source of knowledge to the reader. The idea of bias or unreliable narrating is key when analysing the text; It is essential to examine the effect of Joe’s narrating “What I liked here was how the power and attractions of narrative had clouded judgement” This gives the audience the sense of storytelling form Joe and questions his reliability as a narrator. There are some different perspectives of the events that occur during Enduring Love offered however and these need to be considered too
The biased narrating can be shown through Joe’s storytelling of events and he can distort the message to the readers. This is key for readers because if they are fed false information the message the narrator is trying to pass on will be lost. “I suspected that at any moment he would be reaching out to touch me” This is how Joe exaggerates the truth and shows his unreliability as the narrator, as he does not ell the complete truth and covers key information. This false leading of the narrative voice links to D.Lodge statement in the critical anthology “Even a character-narrator cannot be one hundred percent correct” The statement supports the idea of a character narrator being unreliable and dishonest which is Joe as he continues to twist key events and not take responsibility for his actions. “I am not prepared to accept that it was me” illustrates Joe’s denial and refusal to accept the blame for this accident. “’Not prepared to take blame” suggests how he does not want to admit even to himself; Joe is unreliable because he does not face reality himself. This idea of denial is very important because it is highlighted throughout the novel and is huge flaw in Joe’s character, never accepting fault nor being responsible for his mistakes. “I’m holding back, delaying the information. I’m lingering in the prior moment because it was a time when other outcomes were still possible.”
Throughout the novel there are chapters where we get letters from Jed and Clarissa, these are the only other point of views from other characters. This shows how we only ever really get to see the perceptions of events from Joe’s opinion, we never get to see how other characters react with controversial subjects within the novel. As Joe may be seen as an unreliable narrator it can difficult to see who is telling the truth. “It would make more sense of Clarissa’s return to tell it form her point of view” even when the chapter purports to be from another’s point of view it is still spoken through Joe which doesn’t make it wholly from Clarissa’s view because Joe is the one controlling the narrative still. This further supports the idea that Joe is an unreliable narrator and links to D.Lodge; statement in the critical anthology “the point of using an unreliable narrator is indeed to reveal in an interesting way the gap between appearance and reality” As we only get to see Joe’s side of the story it is more difficult to see if he is telling the truth; the other characters opinions or points of view are minimised
Joe refers to his own actions by trying to justify them; “Why did you swipe the message?” asks Clarissa, Joe is embarrassed by Jedd showing his affection, but in response to justify his reasoning for swiping the calls, he claims that the police won’t help. By deleting these call’s he sends mixed messages to all characters and to the reader; he’s very indecisive and does not indicate to Jedd that the feelings are not mutual. The indecisive nature of Joe links to D.Lodge’s statement in the critical anthology “his narrative is kind of a confession, but riddled with self-justification and special pleading and only at the very end does he find an understanding of himself” The anthology suggests characters use the narrative to give a better understanding of themselves, and they are able to justify their actions even if they are wrong. Joe is unable to accept that Clarissa feels he is dealing with the situation in the wrong manner and while this fact helps us to understand Joe we have to look beyond him to get a clear understanding of the novel.
Joe’s identification of “de Clérambault’s syndrome” is a decisive moment in the novel. Joe was the one to diagnose Parry and to Joe he is now easily dealt with, instead of being an unpredictable and erratic force. Joe realises that he has become obsessed with Parry, just as Parry has become obsessed with him “There was research to follow through now and I knew exactly where to start”. This self-awareness illustrates Joe’s larger self-awareness of his position of a narrator with bias. Joe references his continuous career disappointment at the end of the quote, reminding the reader of his bias and motivations. “It was as if I had at last been offered that research post with my old professor’ The reader may understand that he became obsessed because of his scientific background and he felt as if he was pursuing his dream.
On one of the few occurrences when we get to hear Clarissa’s vacant voice, we hear her expressing the same feeling as Joe. While she previously believed that their love was ‘meant to go on and on,’ she is now not sure of her feeling towards Joe. Clarissa is now doubtful of both the enduring power of love and the objective truth of awareness. Her longest sentence describes what their love used to be, an enduring stream of relative happiness. She breaks that sentence off, and finishes her letter with two very short sentences, including one that isn’t even a proper sentence. As an English professor, Clarissa clearly has the ability to express her purposes through writing. She uses her ability to manipulate words to imply this, however she rarely speaks throughout the novel as Joe is the more dominant spokesperson. This could be seen as masculine dominance as Joe controls the novel and he even speaks about Clarissa’s interpretation within chapter nine.
Appendix 1 was a scientific report on De Clerambault; syndrome “British Review of Psychiatry” and this report is able to give facts of the novel that Joe is unable to provide. The report focuses on Jed Parry’s life “intense and lonely child” these are key events during Parry’s life that as a narrator cannot pick up on. The report was able to justify Parry’s illness and shows the reasoning of his homo-erotic obsession. McEwan introduces his view of religious ideology “isolation and religious belief intensified” with this we understand how Jed Parry was trying perceive his dream of “God’s Glory” and by the appendix being wrote by someone other than Joe we can have a better understanding of Jed Parry’s actions.
Joe Rose narrative voice is the key to the readers understanding of the novel and leads the audience through his own view of personal events. However, as Joe does narrate he does bring in a form of an invented character because he is still involved within the story. Joe does control the perception of character by being the narrator he is able to control the readers feeling towards each character because we are only ever given his personal view. Joe’s viewpoint does give us a great understanding towards each character and although it could be bias he speaks mainly of the truth, and this is seen at the end of the novel. The idea of masculine dominance could be picked upon as the character that has fallen in love with Joe, has been male is this McEwan’s subtle way of trying to in force this masculine supremacy. The idea of the affair of Joe and Jed show’s how even in love, the male is chosen before a women.
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