McEwan introduces the character of Parry in Chapter 1 in the midst of a tragic event. Despite the seriousness of what happens in the balloon, the narrator provides crucial hints about Jed’s significance, such as “even then he was more interested in me.”? McEwan creates in Jed a character who is opposed to Joe in terms of his background and his beliefs. This helps to add to our interest in Parry as we follow the effects of their interaction on Joe’s life. Our understanding of Parry’s character is limited. We only see the character of Parry through Joe’s eyes. This is a second-hand source but it shows significant changes in his character from fairly harmless to very dangerous. The reader is encouraged to accept Joe’s views about the threat posed by Parry but we are provided with an alternative outlook in the views of Clarissa.
The first time Jed Parry’s name is mentioned is very early on in the first chapter alongside John Logan. This indicates they must be important to be mentioned so early and McEwan gives us a hint that this character is one to be noted of as Joe picks him out, “knowing what I know what I know now, it is odd to evoke the figure of Jed Parry”. “As for Jed Parry my view of him was blocked by the balloon”, this is intriguing as you look back after reading on, as Joe is always watching him and seems to be weary of him at this early stage when the balloon incident occurs. Also it gives an underlying message to me now but not at the time I was reading that his view of Jed Parry was “blocked” and that he underestimated him.
The obsession really progressed in chapter two which was the aftermath and Joe meets with Jed Parry in the field next to John Logan’s body. Ian McEwan really emphasises the mystery around Jed Parry and by using negative adjectives in describing him, “long bony face” and “he looked wretched” it creates a sinister effect. “I noticed Jed Parry watching me”, this is when Joe acknowledges Jed and his initial reaction was positive towards Jed, “He wants me to help him”, “I honoured Parry with a friendly nod”, so Joe was not aware of his intrusiveness or obsessive attributes at this point. The most significant insight into Joe being disturbed and aware of Jed Parry’s intense interest or early beginnings of obsession was, “Everything, every gesture, every word I spoke was being stored away, gathered and piled, fuel for his obsession.” All the little observations and thought of Joe’s progressed and piled up, “He stood resting on his hips staring not at Logan, but at me. Even then, he was more interested in me.” This was before Joe had even had a whole conversation with Jed Parry so you could say that Joe already had an idea and feeling that Jed was too interested and close to him especially in the situation they were in it is unexpected.
The conversation between the two shows how Jed’s obsession progressed further and Joe’s awareness of this decreased. The description by Joe made you feel as if Joe was aware of Jed and felt uneasy but, “the voice gave it all away. It was feebly hesitant”, “All I heard was a whine of powerlessness and I relaxed.”
But this just encouraged Jed more and he felt as Joe liked him and so Jed has a false sense of friendship and so he uses Joe’s first name, this shows how Jed has progressed his obsession from a passive point by just watching to interacting and talking to Joe and also Clarissa. Jed Parry shows his obsession by persisting to try top make Joe pray with him, “Parry was not giving up.” But this drives Joe to be more direct and basically insult Jed.
However after the incident Joe thinks nothing of it and continues and even laughs at by telling it as a “comedy” and it is ironic as he says, “with Jed Parry we felt on safer ground”. The obsession of Jed’s progresses further with the phone call even though his name is not mentioned we the readers know but Ian McEwan may have wanted that air of mystery. “I love you” is the words spoken but Joe’s reaction can be interpreted as that he is still unaware of the extent and importance of the phone call or he may be trying to protect Clarissa and is fully aware of the significance and possible implications of this event. But Joe is much more uneasy and seems to be affected immensely by the events and Jed’s obsession has become a very serious and sinister entanglement.
Suspense and tension is used to great effect in showing Joe’s emotions and especially when he meets Jed Parry, the way in which McEwan employs a first person narrator who is very much in control of the narrative and withholds information from the reader. “I’m holding back, delaying the information.” The way in which the stalking storyline develops is crucial and McEwan employs techniques of writing which are commonly found in thrillers. In Chapter 4, suspense is built up in the library and then McEwan presents an anti-climax as no one is there. This also contributes to our emerging doubts about Joe’s reliability as a narrator.
The real danger, so it turns out to be is not the accident with the balloon which lands safely. At that moment the story is set for the breakdown of Joe’s life. At the rope opposite him was a man named Jed Parry, a lonely, fanatic religious man, living off an inheritance. Jed Parry conceives a passion for him and penetrates into Joe’s life with the telephone call at the end of chapter three. They are very contrasting as Joe has his rationality and science, Parry his faith.