Ian McEwan uses many ways to present the unusual idea of the relationship between Jed and Joe to the reader. The extract raises many issues; love and religion important; how is this “strange adventure” perceived by the different characters of the novel? McEwan employs narrative technique, structure and careful manipulation of the reader to offer the strange relationship to the reader.
Unusually, we hear the story from Joe’s point of view. Throughout the novel the reader has become attached to Joe, relating to his realistic and human instincts, his feelings of awkwardness and hope, and his faith and reliance on science. As a reader, we trust our narrator, but McEwan has subtly encouraged us to doubt Joe. Joe’s life is ultimately completely permeated by Jed Parry. Joe’s mind is constantly reverting back to his situation with Jed, as well as being bombarded with letters and phone calls every day from him. Similar to the chapter written by Joe through Clarissa’s eyes, McEwan uses Jed’s contrasting narrative to alert the reader that there are many ways of viewing the “strange adventure”, that Joe’s narrative is not law. McEwan manipulates the scientific articles studied by Joe to highlight his own lack of evidence and paranoia. Joe’s scientific and analytical approach to the subject and Clarissa’s doubt and disbelief of Joe makes the reader wonder whether Joe has blown it out of proportion. This helps the reader to be more reflective about the relationship of Joe and Jed, and have a more personal reaction. The contrasting elements of the novel are structured in such a way as to ensure that the reader is on a constant emotional journey. As the novel goes on and tension builds, our trust in Joe wavers.
Jed and Joe’s positions in the relationship is often interchangeable. In his letters, Jed makes references to likenesses between God and Joe, himself and the ever-patient Jobe. These roles are often inverted, and now he is powerful and Joe is being tested. Joe himself indirectly mentions similarities between himself and “crazy” Jed. Joe’s typical logical approach leads him to learn that Jed has de Clï¿½rambault’s syndrome, we find out that it explains Jed’s belief that Joe left him a “message” on the bushes. A symptom of the syndrome is to belief that events have happened that have not, and to make things up in favour of the beloved one’s love for themselves. Joe then demonstrates in the library scene that he is unconsciously doing the same thing. From the glimpse of white shoelace he instantly assumes it is Jed Parry following him. With no hard evidence at all, Joe has jumped to a conclusion fitting to his suspicions. The parallels presented between Joe and Jed are a strange aspect of the adventure they both undergo.
For both Jed and Joe, the adventure brings hardships and joys. Joe’s marriage with Clarissa begins to breakdown. This is due to Joe’s initial, understandable mistake of not telling Clarissa, leading to a complete disintegration of communication between them. Jed is described as looking “tortured” because Joe will not openly reciprocate his love. Joe eventually feels everyone is against him, not being able to rely on Clarissa or the police for help;
“I knew that I was on my own”
There is also no one save Joe that understands Jed’s behaviour due to his condition. Jed is constantly frustrated. However, Jed is overjoyed by his love and thanks God for it. Joe and Clarissa’s love ultimately endures and we learn that they got back together, perhaps with a stronger and truer love, to adopt a child, another of Clarissa’s enduring loves.
Part of the adventure to Jed is to “bring (Joe) to God”. Religion and faith plays a very important part in the ‘relationship’. Joe’s complete faith in science and rationality is in conflict with Jed’s religious beliefs. Both scientific and religious indications are made in reference to the “strange adventure”. Parry often likens the patience of Jobe, who was tested by God to himself and Joe. The Fall of Man may be a symbol of the balloon incident, linking also to man’s arrogance. Even Joe uses religious reference;
“It was our own complexity that had expelled us from the Garden” explaining human nature. Joe often describes himself or his problems in a presumptuous way, in league with the whole universe!
Part of Joe’s adventure is clear in the changes that take place in him as a person. When first introduced, the reader may find him slightly arrogant and paranoid. A very recognisable characteristic is his rational nature and dependency on science. Even descriptions of the scene are given in a way that indicates Joe’s character;
“an enormous balloon filled with helium, that elemental gas forged from hydrogen in the nuclear furnace of the stars, first step along the way in the generation of multiplicity and variety of matter in the universe, including our selves and all our thoughts.”
Changes occur in Joe’s nature when the “adventure” with Jed begins. Not usual for himself, Joe has “sensed” Jed behind him, and without sufficient evidence wonders why Parry wants to murder him. When using the gun for the first time, the reader may notice that Joe gives no more “elaborate…evolutionary perspective”. He is no longer predictable and quantifying. This stresses how the experiences have altered him.
McEwan makes the novel feel like a real adventure, with an unusual and interesting plot. Suspense is created throughout the novel. McEwan has a digressive style of giving away a little and then making the reader wait to hear the conclusion. Chapters nearly always end on a surprising note, Jed’s phone call and Clarissa’s admittance that “it’s over”. Joe’s narrative is sometime vague and we do not trust him completely. It is all told with a slightly regretting and inevitable hindsight;
“knowing what I know now…”
The plot eventually leads to Joe getting a gun and we wonder;
“You’re going to kill him. Is that what you want?”
We are intrigued to see how it will all end and become part of Joe and Jed’s adventure.
There are many ways in which McEwan presents the “strange adventure” making full use of narrative and the ever-questioning human mind. He gains mastery over the reader simply through his unique and clever use of structure and descriptive techniques. McEwan is very successful in presenting the aspects of his novel “Enduring Love”.