At first glance, “Enduring Love” may seem a simple title for a novel, not one that invokes serious thought for the reader. Although we expect a story of love, we are presented with a much more complicated array of events revolving around three people, all with their own version of “Enduring Love”. Ultimately the story revolves around the somewhat content relationship between Joe Rose, an accomplished and well-respected science writer and his partner Clarissa Mellon, a Keats scholar and university lecturer that is until the intrusion by Jed Parry.
Brought together by a ballooning accident, Joe and Jed momentarily exchange words, but this moment is the catalyst for a fixation by the younger man, Jed Parry, for the protagonist of the story, Joe Rose. Clarissa also witnesses the accident but she, like Joe, misses the moment that spawns the obsession, which rips their lives apart and in due course, breaks apart their relationship. There are two types of love themes running through this novel, one of obsession and one of pure love.
The one of obsession is obviously the love Jed feels for Joe and the pure love is that of Clarissa and Joe. As Jed becomes more and more fixated on Joe, Joes relationship with Clarissa increasingly dwindles until the point where they call it a day and end their relationship. Early on in the novel Joe says “Lately I’d had the idea that Clarissa’s interest in these hypothetical letters [of Keats] had something to do with our own situation, and with her conviction that love that did not find its expression in a letter was not perfect. Every word of this comes true but not in a way Joe had first believed.
The title and the events throughout the novel rouse questions on love itself, how to define love, the nature of love, obsession, sanity and insanity. It is very difficult to decipher between love and obsession. If we look at the love Jed feels for Joe, its zealous, crazy and passionate but we could also argue that the love between Joe and Clarissa is all of these things too. So, where do you draw the line? Enduring Love tells the story of a love that is endured and of a story that endures (Joe and Clarissa).
It challenges what is defined as a normal relationship and a love that is pathological. We later find out that indeed Joe and Clarissa relationship did endure the intense strain and disturbing fascination of Jed Parry as they are later reunited and go on to adopt a child, so in this sense the title is very appropriate to the novel. There are also a number of other occurrences of love to be endured throughout the novel. There is the story of Jean Logan and her frustration and also obsession at her attempts to uncover her dead husbands secret affair.
She turns to Joe for help to find this mystery woman who has caused her so much pain. In this modest sub plot of the novel, it is later proven that John Logan was in fact not having an affair, that is was all an innocent mistake. So all along Jean had been cursing her dead husband, whom she had loved so much. This is another love that needs to endure as Jean seeks forgiveness but she will never truly get that forgiveness as her only hope lies in a grave. Will their love be strong enough to endure this doubting on Jeans part, even if one partner is beyond the grave?
It is important to note that seeing Jeans agony and grief over her dead husband, made Joe realise just how much he really loved Clarissa. Joe says, “It was urgent that I return to London and save our love”. He also realises “when it’s gone you’ll know what a gift love was”. A relationship that did not endure their love was that of Clarissa’s brother Luke and his wife. Joe calls Luke the “adulterous brother” and we learn that they are going through a divorce. After this meeting with her brother, Clarissa is evidently anxious as the first thing she says to Joe “I love you and I’ve had such a terrible evening with Luke.
We discover that Luke is leaving his beautiful wife and two daughters for an actress whom he had met three months before. Clearly Luke is not prepared to give the commitment pure love requires and sees fit to go live in a room over a hairdressers, with this new woman. This relationship provides a stark contrast to Joe and Clarissa’s love as it highlights just how deeply in love Joe and Clarissa truly are. Now this new love shall be tested, will their love endure? Once again this is relevant to the title of the novel.
The most explicable interpretation of the title of this novel would have to be of Joe enduring Jed’s pathological love. Jed Parry’s strange homo-erotic religious obsession with Joe in turn leads Joe to almost breaking point. So in this sense Joe is enduring Jed’s love, yet this love Jed feels for Joe will never end. We learn that from the appendices, Jed, whilst in a secure mental hospital still writes letters to Joe everyday. The letter we are shown demonstrates that Jed’s love is just as strong and passionate as ever.
I believe that at the conclusion of the novel, Joe has indeed endured Jed’s love as he has survived the bombardment of phone calls, eccentric letters, incessant stalking, an assassination attempt and total intrusion of his private life. The style and techniques implored by Mc Ewan provide us with an engrossing, swift novel, and his unpredictable style further enhances the chilling factor that plays a part in this novel. His style can be deemed as moderately complicated, for example chapter nine when he narrates the chapter from Clarissa’s perspective, yet I believe his style is somewhat simple.
Joe, being the average science writer not overly interesting or riveting, would initially have been a quite boring protagonist until the obsession begins, that is Joes obsession. In watching Joe become obsessed with being obsessed, whilst everyone else doubts him, this is where the entertainment lays. His techniques of writing make us truly question love and how much love a person can really endure. Jed is prepared to endure Joe’s love with his continuity of writing letters and constant thinking and obsessing over Joe.
Yet Joe was not prepared to endure this love and in order to end it, he purchased a gun. Clarissa at first was not prepared to endure the love yet she had to endure both her love for Joe and Jed’s love for Joe. But we later find out Joe and Clarissa are reconciled. In conclusion, I believe the title “Enduring Love” is a very appropriate for this novel, not instantly recognisable as a great title but at the closing stages of the novel, it becomes vividly apparent just how satisfying it truly is.
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