Enduring Love

by

Ian McEwan

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Enduring Love: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The letter that Parry has pressed into Joe’s hands begins with Parry recalling the student who brought him all of Joe’s published work. Parry writes that reading Joe’s articles was “torture” and that he pities the “innocent readers who had their day polluted by them.” Parry reveals that he felt as though he could hear Joe’s voice speaking as he read the articles. He wonders if Joe wrote them to “test” Parry, and he confesses that he only kept reading because he understood that Joe “needs [Parry] to set [him] free from his little cage of reason.”
The specifically emotive character of Parry’s delusions is on display in his exaggerated language here, which speaks of “torture” and “pollution” rather than mere disagreement. So, too, is Parry’s psychotic belief structure revealed by his need to fit Joe’s older work (which, of course, predates Parry’s intrusion into his life) into a narrative in which Parry is being “tested.”
Themes
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As an example of what he finds so offensive in Joe’s work, Parry mentions a specific article about “the latest technological aids to biblical scholarship,” complaining that no one could lose his or her faith just because any one religious artifact or claim was proven by science to be a fraud. Yet the article that most angers Parry is one in which Joe writes “about God Himself.” Joe has written speculatively about who “invented Yahweh,” and Parry believes that “the best minds would rather die than presume to know” such a thing. Parry wonders how it is possible to love both God and Joe simultaneously, but he declares that he will be able to do so “by faith.”
Parry’s belief in God shares important characteristics with his belief that Joe loves him. Neither supposition can be refuted with evidence to the contrary, and neither can be contradicted without provoking Parry’s wrath. Parry himself, meanwhile, is able to hold entirely contradictory views at once. Because of his delusions, he can simultaneously love both God and Joe, despite the fact that the two are, in Parry’s view, at odds with each other.
Themes
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Continuing on, Parry reveals that, after finishing Joe’s work, he took a taxi to Joe’s apartment, where Joe was presumably still asleep, “unaware of [his] own vulnerability.” He wonders if Joe is properly grateful to God for all of God’s blessings, and he expresses fear about what Joe’s “arrogance” could “bring down on [him].”
Parry’s language is explicitly threatening once again in these paragraphs. Yet even Parry’s vengefulness is filtered through his religiosity here, as Joe’s “vulnerability,” for Parry, is related to Joe’s ignorance of “God’s blessings.”
Themes
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Concerned that Joe will think him uneducated, Parry insists that he doesn’t “hate” science at all. Rather, he believes that the study of the universe should be undertaken in order that God’s children may understand “the intricacies of His creation” more clearly, the better to give God praise. Parry asserts that Joe’s writing about evolution is “a puny rant against an infinite power” and that Joe’s articles are merely “a long cry of loneliness.”
Parry’s attitude toward Joe’s publications says much about his approach to rational thinking, which has clearly been corrupted by his delusions. In Parry’s view, Joe’s work cannot be based on pure reason; it must have an emotional underpinning—“loneliness”—that only Parry can truly understand.
Themes
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Parry tells Joe that his love for Joe is “hard and fierce” and that he “won’t take no for an answer.” He mocks Joe’s earlier threats to call the police and speculates that if Joe is now feeling “uncomfortable,” it’s because “the changes in [him] are already beginning to happen.” He implores Joe not to destroy his letters, regardless of what Joe happens to feel in this particular moment. Presumably, the two of them will want to look back on the letters together at some later date, Parry seems to believe.
Parry’s delusions are arguably at their peak when he asks Joe to save his letters as a memento. So, too, is his threatening language reaching an apex in these paragraphs. More disturbing even than Parry’s refusal to accept Joe’s disinterest is his avowal that Joe is already changing on the inside. Parry’s intuition resists all factual evidence.
Themes
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Parry confesses that he wanted to “hurt” Joe upon going to his apartment building in the early morning, “or perhaps even more than that.” He warns Joe that pride can “destroy” and asks if he can really be blamed for the “hatred” that Joe’s articles inspired in him. Assuring Joe that he is merely anxious for their life together to begin, he recalls a school trip on which a long hike led eventually to a splendid meadow. Joe’s inevitable embrace of his love, Parry declares, will be like reaching that beautiful destination.
Jed Parry’s view of the world rejects the factual and scientific in favor of the lyric and poetic. The “meadow” metaphor created by Parry in these paragraphs is an example of this phenomenon. Parry’s talk of blame, meanwhile, further reveals his commitment to language that is emotional and vague rather than intellectual and precise. 
Themes
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Closing his letter, Parry warns Joe that his life is about to be “upended” and that Joe may soon wish that he had never met Parry. He encourages Joe to show him all of his “fury and bitterness” if he needs to, but he cautions Joe never to “pretend to yourself that I do not exist.”
Parry’s closing warning is highly ironic: he is himself entirely locked within a “pretend” world, while Joe could not ignore Parry’s existence even if he were inclined to do so.
Themes
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