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How does McEwan tell the story in Chapter 12 of Enduring Love

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  • Category: Love

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Chapter 12 gives us immense insight into the characters, especially Joe Rose. The chapter opens with Joe reflecting on his “sense of failure”. He reflects upon the fact that he no longer finds comfort in work nor what he did before. He states that “twenty years ago, I may have hired a professional listener” – it is presumed that he is talking about a psychologist or a councilor of some sort. This provides insight to his character and shows that he feels bad enough (or doubtful enough in himself) to deem himself necessary of going to a psychologist for help.

It could also be argued that this implies that he has sought this type of help before. Not only does this confirm to the reader his current state of mind, we are shown that he has a track record of mental instability. This possibly puts us off because we are led to once again question his competency as a narrator. The the fact that he has “lost faith” in such work shows us that it may not have helped him in the past, or that he has become more skeptical of it, perhaps due to his scientific nature. Another insight into Joe’s character is given in the line “…close to doubling the speed limit”.

Here, McEwan is creating a sense of distress and as an author gives the reader a glimpse into Joe’s current emotions, but also perhaps a sense of recklessness despite Joe’s scientific and rational claims. This is supported by the state of paranoia and guilt that we repeatedly see Joe in. We his state of mind primarily from the reason why he is in the car in the first place – he is going to see Jean Logan. Regardless of his feelings, this would cause a feeling of guilt in anyone. Going to see the widow of a man you watched die must feel very traumatic, let alone if you were involved or even partly responsible for the death.

This is supported by Joe constantly diverting some of his attention to his rear view mirror, on the look out “for police, for Parry”. It is somewhat ludicrous to expect to see Parry on the motorway yet he is still worried, and he knows that he is illegally speeding but is too distressed to drive slower, so feels the need to watch out for the police (he is obviously still a little rational because he is still aware of consequences, but he seemingly just selfishly disregards these consequences). This idea of his irrationality is also shown later on in the chapter when he states that he “cared less by the second that I was behaving badly”.

This is the beginning of Joe’s transition from rational scientist to unstable man. Later, McEwan divulges a little into Joe and Clarissa’s relationships, and shows the reader that cracks are beginning to emerge. Joe, speaking in first person and again trying to interpret for himself the feelings of his partner (reminiscent of Chapter 9), states that Clarissa “seemed to agree” that Parry was mad. He says himself that ‘seemed’ meant he thought she “was not quite whole-hearted”. This is evidently the beginning of a fracture in the couple’s relationship.

It is also another example of Joe trying to assume he knows what Clarissa is thinking. What is more solid, however, is Clarissa’s skepticism of Joe’s belief and disbelief in him. She thinks that Parry’s “writing’s rather like” Joe’s. Here McEwan is blatantly displaying a piece of evidence that makes both Clarissa and the reader highly doubtful of Joe’s claims that Parry exists and is following him (and mental state too). The reader is allowed to further understand Clarissa’s suspicion when she answers Joes attempt to build his argument with a one worded answer- “Yes. ”

In Joe’s narration, the word ‘seemed’ is repeated, which emphasizes both the uncertainty and the disconnection in the relationship. This is highlighted further by Clarissa’s exit. After embracing in the kitchen saying “loving things” (perhaps again not whole-heartedly? ) Clarissa “broke away, snatched her coat and was gone”. McEwan uses imagery here to allow the reader the abruptness of her exit. The blunt yet plosive ‘b’ sound in broke is antithetical to the warm ‘w’ sound which is repeated at the beginning of the previous sentence, and emphasizes the sudden parting of the embrace as well as being symbolic for the breaking relationship.

Throughout the novel, Joe’s insecurity is purposefully shown by McEwan and in Chapter 12 this is highlighted in a number of ways. Again, McEwan informs the reader of Joe’s habit of role-playing, pretending he is somebody different. Joe gives both himself and Clarissa a different persona briefly, actually calling them “our roles” and describing the role he wanted to play as “the indignant secret lover”. Not only does this show immaturity, it is a way for McEwan to tell us the story of his insecurity by showing us he is always paranoid for example about Clarissa having an affair with a ‘secret lover’.

This happens again when he describes his actions as a “performance”, only this time it is as if he feels he has an audience – perhaps paranoid about being watched? Joe described himself as “an oversized average-looking lump”, once again being self-loathing and self-pitying, perhaps attempting to create sympathy for himself to make him feel better about the situation. The end of the chapter is a pivotal point in the novel. The audience really sees Joe’s complete arrogance. We learn for the first time Joe’s true motives for visiting Jean Logan.

He had previously perhaps deceived himself and the reader by giving other reasons but here we see his real intention – “to establish my guiltlessness, my innocence of his death”. He is being completely selfish here and from this point on the reader treats him differently as they are almost disgusted at his being wrapped up in his own needs, especially as he is dealing with a mourning widow. What are your views on Joe Rose in Enduring Love as a whole? In the beginning of the novel, we initially warm to Joe as a narrator.

His scientific nature seems to give him an air of objectivity as the reader believes that his deductive and all-seeing attitude to life would improve his reliability as a narrator. Joe describes himself as possibly inadequate in his relationship with Clarissa and is seen to be keen to please her, buying her an expensive lunch and welcome-home gift. He makes it clear that he is completely in love with Clarissa and the reader is almost touched by Joe’s surprise that his love is returned. Being a scientist, the reader stereotypes Joe as hardworking and intelligent, which shows him in a good light.

He analyses everything which means initially he is very rational, winning the reader over as an analytical, rational man will be aware of consequences and will think things through before doing them to achieve the best possible outcome, an enviable trait. He finds ways round problems to get a job done and is resourceful- researching and studying hard. However, we soon learn that his intelligence (and career) leads to a superiority complex- he thinks he is unconditionally right. This is often not the case as he is seen to be very narrow-minded.

In an argument with Clarissa he claims that he was “so obviously, incontrovertibly right. ” He is unwilling to shift on his judgement and believes that he is right all of the time. As a reader this makes us like Joe less. We soon see Joe’s true arrogance come out. He feels partly responsible for the death of John Logan but he is constantly seeking for a way to ‘wash his hands’ of this guilt and this climaxes at the end of Chapter 12 when he blatantly states that he is going to see Logan’s widow for his own selfish reasons- to “establish my guiltlessness”.

This is the first point where I truly felt contempt towards Joe. He is going to see Jean Logan, who will be feeling terribly distressed and in a state of mourning for her late husband, but he is not going to tell her that her husband was brave (which he does but only as an addition), he is going so he can lie to her and tell her he is totally innocent. Which, of course, he isn’t.

He has already stated many a time in the novel that it will be forever impossible to rule any one of the men involved in the accident from guilt because none of them would ever be able to know who let go of the rope of the balloon first. Therefore, he is lying to Jean Logan, a quality which as a reader of a narrator, we almost loathe. Primarily we view Joe as a reliable narrator due to his analytical thinking. However, when his narrow-mindedness and selfishness are made apparent by the author (McEwan) we are made to trust him less and less.

The addition of Clarrisa’s doubt that he is right (and sane) means we are led to distrust him a lot. I think the character of Joe is initially meant to come across as a hardworking and scientific but it is this scientific nature that is his downfall. He believes he is “incontrovertibly right” and this narrow-mindedness is not a pleasant trait. He is also unwilling to put any belief into love or religion because he deems his simple rational outlook to be the only way forward. And as readers, we do not want our narrator to be like him.

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