From the very beginning of the novel of Enduring Love, the readers are guided by Joe, the narrator who is also the main character in the book. His character is revealed by the reader through the way he acts and speaks. Now we are going to explore chapter one in detail to see what features there are in Joe’s character.
Joe is a scientist who lives in London with his fiance Clarissa. As they were having a picnic in Oxford, a cry came to their ears and there was a Hydrogen balloon going up and down the ground, a child was inside the balloon basket, Joe and other four men were trying to rescue this child but as the wind got stronger, it blew the balloon higher and further, suddenly one man amongst them gave the rope away, the balloon rose higher and John Logan, another man amongst them was still clinging to the rope. John Logan flew with the balloon and all the other men were shocked by this terrible sight.
First of all, Joe’s character is revealed by the way he tells us the story. It is obvious that Joe is a scientist as he uses some very professional and scientific words to describe things he sees. The way he thinks is very logical and analytical. For example, when Joe talks about the balloon that they were running toward as “filled with helium, the elemental gas formed from Hydrogen in the nuclear furnace if stars…” He also uses words such as “direction of the force”, “angles of collision”, “relative distances and compass point” these phrases all show that he can’t resist being related to science. Because of the fact that the narrator is a scientist, he must always find a reason or explanation of why things are like that. He is a rather cynical person and always analyse things from an outsider’s view. For example while he was at the airport waiting to meet Clarissa – his fiance, he uses Darwin’s theory to conclude people’s feeling when they meet each other at the airport. He says, “If one ever wanted proof of Darwin’s contention that the many expressions of emotion in humans are universal, genetically inscribed, then a few minutes by the arrivals gate in Heathrow’s Terminal Four should suffice.”
He then analyses that people usually use a down tone voice when they try to call out each other’s names, but when it comes to old people calling their long time no see grandchildren, it often becomes a rising note. He also says that as he sees more and more happy endings, he feels that “each one with the appearance of being slightly less well acted than the one before.” This shows that Joe often steps back from things and analyse it to make things understandable. He is not very comfortable with emotions. When people greet to each other, it seems to him that they are rather like acting than doing it from their hearts. This makes him feel that he has to act in the same way like other people around him.
We can also see that Joe is good at analysing things from the way he tells us about the whole accident. Although he was totally involved in the accident but he was still able to stand back and being conscious enough to analyse during it. He seems to be very calm and can remember everything he observes in detail. He even described the accident from a bird sight’s respective. This can be shown as he writes, “” He also remembers clearly what each individual person who was running toward the balloon was doing during rescue as he says, “I got there before them. Jed Perry was on a rope seconds after me, two farm workers, caught hold just after him. The pilot was shouting instructions to us, and no one was listening.” Although the situation was nerve racking but he can still remember what everyone’s action was. In another paragraph he says, “Those one or two ungrounded seconds occupy as much space in memory as might a long journey up an uncharted river.” All these examples do not only show his logical side but also show how deep the accident has become in his memory.
From the first chapter of the book, we also see that Joe is not a simultaneously emotional man which is totally opposite to Clarissa’s personality. He is a scientist, who is used to approach life in a scientific way. Sometimes he even analyses his own feelings in the way like solving his scientific equations. His emotions are not sincere when he tells us that he had to act “like the rest of the people” when he saw Clarissa at the airport. He is almost standing out of his body and looking from another person’s view as he analyses his actions at the airport. His profession is also a contradictory with Clarissa’s. Clarissa is an English lecturer, she likes to express all her feelings and she does some research on one of the greatest romantic poet Keats, who died young. In Keats’ poems, he praises the beauty of nature, rather than trying to define it because he thinks that it is disappointing to let every mystery be defined, which is completely contradicting what Joe is doing. We see the difference between Joe and Clarissa as he says, “She had written me some beauties, passionately abstract in their exploration of the ways our love was different from and superior to any that had ever existed.
Perhaps that’s the essence of a love letter, to celebrate the unique. I had tried to match hers, but all that sincerity would permit me were the facts, and they seemed miraculous enough to me…” We see that he is not used that way of expressing his feelings like Clarissa does, and only facts and logic thinking seem to satisfy his character. There is also a contradiction between what Joe’s real life’s like and the way he tells the reader about his life. He writes “the beginning is simple to mark.” From this sentence, Joe is trying to say that before the accident, everything was perfect and nothing was wrong in his life. However, we learn that there are many problems in Joe and Clarissa’s lives that they have not yet faced at as he constantly moves back to tell us about his life before the accident. The fact that Clarissa can not have children is a good example. And yet, they have not dealt with that problem. He also says there were “money shortage for a year or so, unsubstantiated cancer scare, divorces and illnesses of friends”, so life was not completely perfect. Because of the fact that he always contradicts what he writes, we can not fully trust in what he says.
In the book we can also see that Joe is not a confident man. His insecure feeling and jealousy is shown through the way he describes the relationship between him and Clarissa, “A beautiful woman loved and wanted to be loved by a large, clumsy, balding fellow who could hardly believe his luck”. He is cynical about himself and it also shows that he is not worth Clarissa to love him. “Or, I imagined, I was another man, my own sexual competitor, come to steal her from me.” Here Joe is stepping away from himself and analysing the situation again, and to the readers Joe seems to be a quite strange man in life.
Because the fact that Joe likes to make decisions and analyse things all the time, he is actually feeling guilty and his memory really tortures him of making the decision to let the rope go. Although he has never admitted that it was him who let the rope go first, but he was never sure that it was not him. He says, “I didn’t know who let it go first.” He defended himself by saying “We were never a team.” He thinks that he was not responsible for John Logan’s death and the reason they did not hold on to the rope was because they were not co-operating. Joe was involved in the drama incident. However, he is not an active role in life, therefore it reinforces the reader that he was acting out of his character and playing the role that he doesn’t usually play. He was obviously shocked by the balloon accident, and so were other people, as he says, “I caught the smell of urine” this shows that people were very nervous and someone had even lost their physical control because of the shocking and terrifying sight they saw.
To summarise, the readers reveals about Joe’s character from the way he tells the story. He is very scientific and analytical, but not very comfortable with his feelings and expressions. We learn that not everything he says is necessarily true and we can never fully trust in what he says.